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US DOE Releases Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan

Technologies for strategic goal #1: Reducing Emissions from End Use and Infrastructure. Technologies shown are representations of larger suites. Transportation sector outlined in red. Click to enlarge. Source: DOE

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released the Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) Strategic Plan, which details measures to accelerate the development and reduce the cost of new and advanced technologies that avoid, reduce, or capture and store greenhouse gas emissions.

The CCTP Strategic Plan organizes roughly $3 billion in federal spending for climate technology research, development, demonstration, and deployment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase economic growth. Technologies emphasized for development are hydrogen, biorefining, renewable power generation, clean coal and carbon sequestration, nuclear fission and fusion.

The Plan sets six complementary goals:

  1. Reducing emissions from energy use and infrastructure;

  2. Reducing emissions from energy supply;

  3. Capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide;

  4. Reducing emissions of other greenhouse gases;

  5. Measuring and monitoring emissions; and

  6. Bolstering the contributions of basic science to climate change.

These six CCTP strategic goals focus primarily on mitigating GHG emissions to make progress toward stabilizing atmospheric GHG concentrations. They are not intended to encompass the broad array of technical challenges and opportunities that may arise from climate change. These may include such research areas as: mitigating vulnerabilities and adaptation of natural and human systems to climate change; addressing effects of acidification of the oceans; geoengineering to reduce radiative forcing through modification of the Earth’s surface albedo or stratospheric sunlight scattering; and others. Such topics are important, but they are beyond the scope of this Plan.

—CCTP Strategic Plan

The Plan notes that transportation worldwide accounts for a significant share of global energy demand and is among the fastest growing sources of emissions of GHGs, mainly CO2.

In the near term, advanced highway vehicle technologies, such as electric-fuel engine hybrids (“hybrid-electric” vehicles) and clean diesel engines, could improve vehicle efficiency and, hence, lower CO2 emissions. Other reductions might result from modal shifts (e.g., from cars to light rail), higher load factors, improved overall system-level efficiency, or reduced transportation demand.

In the long term, technologies such as cars and trucks powered by hydrogen, bio-based fuels, and electricity show promise for transportation with either no highway CO2 emissions or no net-CO2 emissions.

The current portfolio of Federally-funded technology development programs underway in the transportation arena addresses the “highest priority current investment opportunities” in the transportation arena, according to the Plan.

CCTP outlines several suggestions for future research, including:

  • Freight Transport. Strategies and technologies to address congestion in urban areas and freight gateways by increasing freight transfer and movement efficiency among ships, trucks and rail in anticipation of large growth in freight volumes.

  • Advanced Urban Concepts. Studies of advanced urban-engineering concepts for cities to evaluate alternatives to urban sprawl. Such engineering analysis would consider the co-location of activities with complementary needs for energy, water, and other resources and would enable evaluation of alternative configurations that could significantly reduce vehicle-miles traveled and GHG emissions.

  • Integrated Urban Planning. Concept and engineering studies for large-scale institutional and infrastructure changes required to manage CO2, electricity, and hydrogen systems reliably and securely. Analysis of the infrastructure requirements for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is needed. By being plugged into the power grid at night, when electricity is cheapest and most available, and by operating solely on battery power for the first 10-60 miles, this technology could significantly reduce oil consumption.

  • Large-Scale Hydrogen Storage. Technologies for large-scale hydrogen storage and transportation and low-cost, lightweight electricity storage including advanced batteries and ultracapacitors.

  • Advanced Thermoelectric Concepts. Advanced thermoelectric concepts to convert temperature differentials into electricity, made more affordable through nanoscale manufacturing.

  • Battery and Fuel Cell Systems. Basic electrochemistry to produce safe, reliable battery and fuel cell systems with acceptable energy and power density, cycle life, and performance under temperature extremes.

  • New Combustion Regimes. Advanced combustion research on new combustion regimes in conventional vehicle propulsion technologies, using conventional fuels as well as alternatives such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel where near-zero regulated emissions and lowered carbon emissions can be achieved.



Rafael Seidl

While $3 billion is a sizeable chunk of change, most of what is being proposed here will be spent on a very wide gamut of R&D projects. Nothing wrong with that as such, or with government spending to encourage private investment in high-risk projects that yield clear benefits to the community if they are successful.

Unfortunately, the present US energy policy is a poorly co-ordinated and hence inefficient patchwork of federal, state and local initiatives by politicians eager to outdo each other in terms of green credentials.

What is missing is a genuine national energy strategy committing government agencies at all levels to actually and preferentially buy reasonably priced products incorporating these low-GHG technologies once they hit the market and, giving private industry financial incentives to do the same. Having goals is not a strategy for achieving them. Nor is developing new technologies a substitute for putting them to work.

For example, note that the above strategic goals summarized int the above graphic do not explicitly include increasing the share of electrical and thermal power produced using renewable sources. The fine print does call for distributed generation but in the context of preventing overloading the grid (which was designed in the 1950s for emergency use only).

It specifically does not call for enhanced photovoltaics nor for the co-generation of heat and cold (via absorption chillers). Both are obvious and available options for large-scale green field construction projects.

It also omits all references to taxes, fines and other sticks to match the carrots on offer. Ostensibly, that is because the plan is strictly a technology roadmap. More likely, it reflects the pork-barrel nature of US policymaking and, the cowardice of its elected representatives.


very nice, especially "wireless transmission of electricity" in the long-term

hampden wireless

Sorry, I dont want wireless transmision of electricty. Superconducting power lines are good enough thank you!

On the mid term for cars:
cellulosic ethanol vehicles - Sorry, you dont dump the corn stalks INTO the vehicle so its still just an ethonol vehicle. The cellulosic part is at the ethonol refining plant.

The article talks a bit about batteries but the chart just has fuel cells for the future. Why do they hate battery electric vehicles so much?


US is a federal state with widely distributed among 50 states legislative power. Abilities of every level of government are strictly limited by constitution and existed laws, which is probably the best way to manage country of continental scale. Moreover, role of government is traditionally severely limited too, with emphasis to private enterprise to move forward economy and technical progress. This is the way American society works, and it is naïve to expect then energy policy will be different. DOE by its mandate can not impose new taxes or regulate energy policy. It is prerogative of US Congress (look for example to recent Energy Bill). If you want to change this situation, you have to change US constitution first, but I believe some American citizens will be eager to welcome another Austrian passionate reformator on its soil.


Technology R&D is nice, but what is most needed in the short term is *conservation* as the cheapest, most effective available alternative for reducing energy use, GHG emissions and pollution.

Longer term we need to change the development paradigm so that we build more sustainable communities with shorter commutes (enabling walking/bicycling), energy-efficient housing, attractive public transportation, etc. We need to promote a vision for our future which includes a much lower energy and GHG footprint while improving living standards (e.g. less time spent in cars). Energy, transportation and land development policies need to be aligned with such a vision.

Just MHO.


Nick: The plan does include "Advanced Urban Concepts" and "Integrated Urban Planning" (LOL ... big fancy names for the way towns used to be layed out in the days of the horse and buggy.) I live in a 140 year old town. I can walk or bike almost everywhere I need to get. Nice to see PHEV at the top of the list.

fyi CO2

Good stuff Nick! We have to prove to the masses that overconsumption is bad.


And the next day, Richard Branson commits all his earnings to fight global warming.

Interestingly, papers estimate that Branson's commitment will be $3 billion over 10 years.

So Richard Branson is spending as much as the United States of America!

People. We need to spend heavily on solar cell & advanced battery research. Just those two things. And we should spend at least 10 billion a year on them. With those two things.. we'd have our problem solved.


Bill Young


I agree with battery and solar research but we need a good dose of nuclear in the mix. It will be a long time, if at all, before solar/battery will be able to join baseload power to replace coal.

PV today is approximately 10X the cost per kwh of nuclear and coal. Solar thermal is perhaps 5X the cost.


Roger Pham

Rafael's comment has hit the nail on the head. Just setting vague goals and developing technologies alone will not ensure desirable outcome. Many existing viable technologies have existed unapplied (on the shelf) for decades until favorable incentives came along. There must be tax and economic incentives to reward ecologically favorable behaviors, and to discourage otherwise. There must be a common roadmap, strategy, and cooperation between all levels of government, local, state and federal as well as all governmental agencies. In fact, some have suggested that the 911 disaster of 2001 has illustrated the lack of such vital cooperation between different US intelligence and law enforcement agencies.


I generally agree that US policy lacks coordination and agressiviness necessary to reduce/improve efficiency of energy consumption and to move to renewably energy sources. However, as a person spent most of my life in society with 100% planned economy (USSR), I can tell you that this approach just sucks.


DOE spending is only a tip of the iceberg of governmental spending on energy research, and private enterprises spends 50 times more then all government agencies, federal or state, universities, etc., combined. See foe example list of about 50 alternative energy publicly traded companies – on NASDAQ only – with market capitalization of about 60 billion: http://www.cleanedge.com/CEindex.php

Take a look also at another list of publicly traded companies of so called Alt. Energy index: http://www.altenergystocks.com/stocks.html

Note that these are only publicly traded companies with main investments in clean energy. Private enterprises, and alt. energy divisions of diversified corporations effectively triples these numbers.


By the time this program is implemented , we will already have reached the tipping point. We need to radically decrease energy use now with existing technology. Technology can't and won't save us if we are unable to make the hard choices necessary.

Technology should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Bush touts technology because it is a low cost way to do virtually nothing and requires no sacrifice. This program will be about as successful as the Iraq war.

As Gore says, we need to freeze carbon emissions now and then proceed from there.

Comments about the necessity to change the constitution are total nonsense. We have all the legal tools we need to effect the necessary changes.


Interesting... The DOE, especially in the Bush era, will not be able to lead or re-apportion the load of players within the energy industry. The DOE is a regulator of existing industries and cannot be seen to be playing favorites. A truly independent DOE would of necessity be suggesting that electricity will be the primary energy carrier of the future, thereby putting it in enormous conflict with most oil and automobile companies.

About reform minded Austrians...though the Austrian that we have via Hollywood is not too bad on these issues.


Hi Bill --

You are right. Solar energy is currently 5-10x the level of nuclear.

One trouble with nuclear, however, is that we must create a solution for the whole planet. We don't want the whole planet having nuclear technology now do we?

Second trouble with nuclear power is terrorism. We don't want crazies blowing up nuke plants, do we?

Third problem with nuclear is of course, where does all the waste go? Less of an issue than global warming, granted. But when you've got all those plants.. that crap really starts to pile up.

Fourth... and I've read this from Nate Lewis of Caltech. There may not be enough Uranium in the world to fuel that many nuclear plants.

Fifth... accidents. Chernobyl. Recently there was a Swedish power plant that nearly had a severe accident. More plants you increase the odds.

But lets hedge our bets. Lets build nuclear power plants now. Also, lets make sure that we build out massive amounts of wind power -- wind is cost competative with nuclear. In the US, we can build out floating massive wind farms off the coasts of highly populated cities: NYC, Boston, DC, LA, SF.

In the short term, building out wind may seem expensive, compared with coal / nuke.

That is until we start driving battery electric cars. Once cars are electric, powered by batteries.. the cost of the electric fuel will be much less than that of ever increasing in price oil. This is due to the 3x efficiency of the electric motor vs. the engine, combined with the cost of oil vs. electricity.

At that point our investment in wind power will really start to save money.

Meanwhile, we continue the search for that silver bullet. It is our ONLY chance.

The search for a cheap solar cell & cheap battery system. With these two items, we've got climate change solved.
A report from 200 top scientists on state of solar cell development. Bush for whatever reason chose to ignore this & only commit 150 million for 2007. We spend 150 million in about 10 hours in Iraq. Time to rethink priorities.


Nice icing on the cake: The search for stationary hydrogen backup power plants to store backup power. We are well on this route given the massive research dollars being spent on mobile use fuel cells.



Andrey -

Thanks for the green stock index sites.

I realize there is alot of money going into stocks.

However, the nature of the stock market & how VCs typically invest -- they tend to go for quick return, big return sorts of items.

The quest for the ultra cheap solar cell is a bit like people landing on the moon. We CAN do it. Its just going to take a heck of alot of work.

This will be a massive, multi-year venture.


Notice on page 14 where they estimate that solar cells with a price target around 20 cents per installed Watt will be available.

1 dollar per installed Watt equates to about 0.05 cents per kiloWatt for the US.

20 cents per installed watt will mean 0.01 cents per kiloWatt.

Getting there will require a monumental effort. Righ along with solar cell research needs to be battery research / hydrogen research. Either batteries or hydrogen will be the way energy is stored in the future energy world. We should research both. Heavily.

This really is the challenge for humanity for the next 30 years.

We have to let law makers know this. We are willing to spend the money. Lets just do it.

Anyone have any figures on how much Germany & Japan are spending on Solar research?


Bill Young


Some approx. generator comparative numbers as of today:
Nuclear (estimated new build): $1800/Kw
Solar (PV): $5000/Kw
Wind: $1500/Kw

Estimated annual capacity factor:
Nuclear: 90%
Solar : 25%
Wind : 30%

When looking at solar cells it is important to remember that one Kw of solar cells is the maximum that the cell will produce under optimum conditions. Haze and cloud can reduce output. Morning and evening sun are far from optimum (but better than night). One Kw installed in the desert southwest is probably 6 Kwh per day.

Nuclear fuel is not included in the cost numbers above. It is much, much lower than fossil but not negligible. Solar and Wind as renewables have no fuel cost.

Nuclear and solar are generally predictable. Wind is not. During the peak of the recent heat wave in California when generating capacity was strained to the limit, state wind generation was producing approximately 5% of installed capacity. Therefore wind cannot be counted on and must have backup generation (unless you are banking the power, generating hydrogen or some other form of buffering)


The nuclear numbers do not include the insurance (about $10B per year for the whole industry paid for by the government - tax payers), nor the disposal of spent fuel (for 1000s of years) nor decommissioning costs, which can be quite extensive.


Arny appears to be good governor (I do not live in California, but at least we do not hear about California shortages of electricity, water, or catastrophic budget deficit any more). However, just recently we hear a lot of weird staff coming from California. Decision of CARB to regulate CO2 emission oversteps Clean Air Act, under which CARB is working, not to mention US Congress bill 95. Agreement between California and GB about GHG reduction oversteps US constitution. And most ridiculous of all, attorney general of California filed law suit against 6 auto manufacturers to litigate damage caused by GHG emissions from vehicles they produced. I believe these pieces of art are politically motivated, but man, you have to obey the Law of Land you live in, no matter that you have good intentions. The only result of such policy will be erosion of CARB reputation as world leader in “curbing” air pollution, and damage to California image as role model for US (and the world).


Estimated annual capacity factor:
Nuclear: 90%
Solar : 25%
Wind : 30%

this doesn't really tell the complete story. it'a an apple & oranges issue.

the outages for Solar & Wind are unavoidable, but they are PREDICTABLE.
that can't be said for Nuclear.

see "Long Shutdowns Prove Nuclear Power More Dangerous and Expensive than Necessary"


This is for the science project. Some ideas. The bullet ones.

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