Bush Seeks Funding To Improve U.S. Energy Security, Environment

Washington - Reducing U.S. dependence on petroleum imports and expanding incentives for clean energy technologies are centerpieces of President Bush’s energy budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins October 1.

“Under President Bush’s leadership, this budget builds on our commitment to strengthen our nation’s energy security by diversifying our energy resources and reducing our reliance on foreign sources of energy,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a February 5 news release.

The presentation of the president's budget proposal represents the first phase of a long and complex legislative process; the amount of money actually appropriated by Congress can vary significantly from the president’s request in the end.

As part of $24.3 billion funding request for the U.S. Department of Energy, the president is asking Congress to provide $2.7 billion for his Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI). Announced in 2006, the initiative aims to accelerate research in advanced, clean and safe power-generation technologies based on coal, nuclear energy and renewable sources. AEI also targets the development of efficient vehicles and domestic, renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuels such as biofuels. (See related article.)

Briefing reporters in Washington, Bodman said the administration has decided to fund “those activities that show the greatest promise.”

The president’s proposal also calls for $385 million to fund coal-based clean power generation projects such as FutureGen and large-scale carbon sequestration field tests. This funding would complete - three years ahead of schedule - the president’s commitment to spend $2 billion over 10 years on advanced coal technologies, the administration said. The FutureGen project is a public-private partnership intended to demonstrate commercial viability of a near-zero emission coal power plant that can capture and store carbon dioxide in deep geological formations. (See related article.)

Advanced coal technologies will help the United States tap its huge coal reserves at reasonable cost without adding to greenhouse gas emissions, the administration said.

U.S. officials say all these technologies have great short- or medium-term potential to move the balance of the fuel mix used in the United States toward domestic, cleaner and more efficient alternatives. For example, hydrogen technologies have been advancing “more rapidly then we’ve anticipated,” Bodman said.

The request for the AEI represents a $500 million increase over what the president requested for FY 2007. This increase would help meet the goal of the president’s initiative - reducing annual use of gasoline by 20 percent in the next 10 years from projected volume, according to U.S. officials. (See fact sheet.)

The department also is seeking loan guarantee authority to provide $9 billion in financial backing for projects related to commercialization of more efficient biofuel production, advanced nuclear energy, more efficient electricity transmission and other advanced energy projects.

In addition, about $4.4 billion would go toward basic research in the physical sciences and bioenergy and nanotechnology research programs that carry a longer-term promise of improvements in energy use.

Another component of the energy security portfolio that the administration is aiming to promote with federal funding is nuclear energy.

The president is requesting $114 million to support the planned expansion of the U.S. nuclear power industry and $405 million for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), a U.S.-led international program designed to expand more efficient nuclear power generation worldwide without compromising nonproliferation goals. (See related article.)

In 2006, the administration asked for $250 million for the GNEP but lawmakers expressed doubts about the feasibility, the timeline and other aspects of the program, and it remains unclear how much funding they will eventually provide.

The budget also would fund expansion of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve over 20 years to more than double its current capacity of 727 million barrels.

Democratic Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee Jeff Bingaman welcomed the increases proposed by the administration for biomass and biofuels research and development (R&D) programs but questioned some of its other priorities. He criticized, for example, eliminating all research related to oil and natural gas and a lack of funding for geothermal research.

Bingaman said he is puzzled that the increase sought for spent-fuel reprocessing as part of the GNEP funding is larger than the entire proposed solar energy R&D budget.