Democratic News

The Department of Energy’s startling decision to terminate all research and development activities relating to oil and natural gas drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "There are a lot of disappointments in this budget request," Bingaman said, "but the Administration’s decision to cut off all technology support to our domestic oil and gas industry is completely wrong-headed. Our domestic production is declining, and the geologic formations containing petroleum that are left are increasingly unconventional. We need enhanced technology in order to access them. "Independent producers make up the overwhelming majority of the industry operating onshore in the United States, and they are too small to carry out research and development," Bingaman continued. "This budget zeroes out research and technology transfer activities that help independents and are highly regarded across the country." Bingaman pointed out that the President’s budget would terminate research by the Department of Energy (DOE) on natural gas hydrates, an untapped resource estimated to account for as much as 390,000 trillion cubic feet of gas in the United States, or more than a 40-year domestic supply at current consumption rates. DOE’s program received good marks from the National Academy of Sciences in a review mandated by Congress this past summer. In the current fiscal year, DOE’s oil and gas R&D programs were funded by Congress at $78.7 million. The new budget request provides only $20 million for close-out activities. The termination of DOE’s oil and gas program was one of several major cutbacks in energy programs contained in the President’s budget. · The Office of Science, DOE’s basic research arm, is receiving a $137 million budget cut, which will result in greatly decreased availability of DOE facilities for nuclear physics and fusion energy research, and significant cuts in supercomputing research, chemical sciences, geosciences, energy biosciences, and nuclear medicine. · Existing energy-efficiency technology programs with specific energy-intensive industries (chemicals, steel, aluminum, metal casting, glass, forest products and mining) will be brought to completion, resulting in an immediate cut of $18.3 million (or 25 percent) in DOE’s industrial technologies program under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. · Building energy efficiency R&D programs will be cut by $7.5 million, or nearly 12 percent. · Biomass R&D programs are being reorganized and cut back, with an overall cut of $16 million, or 18 percent. · Funding for the U.S-China Energy and Environment Center is being terminated. "We need more basic research on energy, not less," Bingaman said. "We need to preserve manufacturing jobs in industries such as the chemical industry and steel, which are already reeling under high natural gas prices. We need to reach out and engage China on energy and environmental issues, or its energy consumption will drive up prices worldwide and lead to faster global warming. Cutting back and terminating programs like these make no sense."

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