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Proposed Department of Energy Budget for 2009 Boosts Coal, Nuclear, Science and Biomass Programs; Reduces H2, Solar and Vehicle Technology Funding

The proposed budget for the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the President’s 2009 Budget outlines discretionary program spending of about $26 billion, up 3.2% from the estimated spending for FY 2008.

The proposed budget significantly boosts spending on coal and nuclear technologies and the DOE Science program, with a smaller increase for biomass and biorefinery R&D. However, funding within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program is cut by 28%, down to $1.256 billion, with the reductions coming mainly from funding for hydrogen technology, solar energy, vehicle technologies, facilities and infrastructure, and the weatherization program.

Coal and carbon capture. Overall, the Fossil Energy Research and Development program’s funding jumps 25% to $997 million, the bulk of that coming from the President’s coal research initiative, which increases is funding by 41% to $818 million.

The budget allocates $400 million to research and $241 million to demonstrate technologies for cost-effective carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power plants through a restructured carbon capture and storage program. This is the “restructured” lower-cost FutureGen program. (Earlier post.)

Nuclear. The budget promotes licensing of new nuclear plants and researches an advanced nuclear fuel cycle. $242 million is allocated for Nuclear Power 2010, an industry cost-shared effort to bring new nuclear plant technologies to market and demonstrate streamlined regulatory processes. $302 million focuses the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative on innovative transmutation and separations research and development.

Science. The overall Science budget increases 18% to $4.7 billion, with increases in all major program activities. The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program within the Science budget funding increases 13.6% to $568 million.

BER funds research in global climate change; environmental remediation; molecular, cellular, and systemic studies on the biological effects of radiation; structural biology; radiochemisty and instrumentation; and DNA sequencing. The program also supports science related to carbon sequestration.

The program works in conjunction with the advanced scientific computing research program to accelerate progress in coupled general circulation model development through use of enhanced computer simulation and modeling.

This program also includes the Genomics: GTL activity that is developing the science, technology, and knowledge base to harness microbial and plant systems for cost-effective renewable energy production, carbon sequestration, and environmental remediation. The request includes $75 million for Genomics: GTL Bioenergy Research Centers. Research at the Centers will focus on developing the science underpinning biofuel production.

Biomass and Biorefinery Systems R&D. Funding for this program which is part of the EERE activities, increases 8% to $225 million. This program funds research, development, and technology validation on advanced technologies that could enable future biorefineries to sustainably and economically convert cellulosic biomass to fuels, chemical, heat, and power. The program’s goal is to help make cellulosic ethanol cost competitive by 2012 using a wide array of regionally available biomass sources.

Hydrogen technology. Funding for the EERE hydrogen technology program drops 31% in the 09 Budget to $146 million. The hydrogen technology program is tasked with developing hydrogen production, storage, and delivery and fuel cell technologies. Current research aims to enable industry to commercialize a hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Solar. Funding for the Solar America Initiative via EERE is cut 7.1% to $156 million in the 09 Budget.

Vehicle Technologies. Funding for the EERE Vehicle Technologies program is cut a slight 0.9% to $221 million. The Vehicle Technologies program supports the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership and the 21st Century Truck Partnership with industry. Program activities encompass a suite of technologies needed for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles, including lightweight materials, electronic power control and electric drive motors, and advanced energy storage devices.

This program also supports research to improve the efficiency of advanced combustion engines, using fuels with formulations developed for such engines, and incorporating non-petroleum based components.

The program also includes community-based outreach via Clean Cities coalitions, competitive awards, and other activities to facilitate the market adoption of alternative fuels and highly efficient automotive technologies.

Resources

Comments

JMartin

Bush's last shot at destroying the environment to benefit the military industrial giants. For those who believe consistency equals leadership, it looks good. I believe the saying that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

K

I haven't looked at the details. Offhand it would seem to confirm the worst thoughts about Bush, Cheney, and company.

A few random thoughts and inflamatory ideas.

1) Technology can be encouraged by "push" or by "pull."

"Push" is basically funding research. "Pull" is basically offering consumption benefits.

2) Pulls: Distributed (home) solar, conservation, and fuel efficient vehicles are probably better spread by tax rebates. The technologies are still improving but are also good enough for wide use now.

3) Pushing: Nuclear research is a push. No one buys their own reactor. The government should abundantly fund research and seriously simplify licensing.

Clean coal is also a push. We aren't sure it will work and should continue to find out. That is not advocating a blank check or a free hand to big coal.

4) Biomass. etc. Ethanol is a political phenomena. The subsidies and lavish research aren't going away. This may change in a few years depending upon experience and the progress of competitive energy technologies.

But for this budget forget biomass. It will be funded and won't be stopped.

5) Hydrogen technology cuts. I can't judge. H2 and fuel cells are progressing more than I expected but nothing is settled.

Cutting is probably the worst item in the proposal.

6) Other Science. Too big to evaluate. Budget is going up 18%. Half will disappear into inflation. The overall increase level is probably adequate.

It is more important to recognize deadends and identify the better bets than to just spend more. It is also less likely.

Healthy Breeze

Reducing funding for solar bothers me. Solar has more long-term potential than any other approach to replace fossil fuel sources. Solar has to be huge. There are many aspects of solar that deserve intense focus. Quantum dots. Solar thermal manufacturing techniques. Grants and loans for rapid ramp up. This funding seems somewhat backwards to me.

Rafael Seidl

@ K -

"3) Pushing: Nuclear research is a push. No one buys their own reactor. The government should abundantly fund research and seriously simplify licensing."

That's debatable. In the absence of a permanent repository for whatever highly radioactive waste remains after reprocessing steps, it's highly questionable if any money at all should be spent on a new generation of nuclear power plants - at least until after there has been adequate public debate about the pros and cons of modern nuclear technology and, Congress decides the costs and risks are preferable to those posed by alternative solutions.

After Sellafield, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, any attempt to more-or-less fly under the general public's radar wrt the licensing process could easily backfire very, very badly. I don't see how that would be in the interest of the nuclear industry in the US.

K

re Rafael: yes, I realized it is debatable. But so are Elvis sightings.

My inclination is to go with nuclear. Experience seems clear. Hundreds of reactors operating over fifty years (exact statistics lacking) appear to have killed fewer people than oil did in January.

IMO the Yucca Mountain repository is a good solution to storage and should be used. And reprocessing of fuel should be increased and improved.

As for adequate public debate. There has been public debate, a lot, since the 1950s. It will never, never, never be adequate.

I never promoted deceptive licensing. Generalizations are dangerous but nothing ever seems to happen on any US license for a decade. One big reason (I suspect) is that the agency doesn't want to face the attacks that follow an approval. On the other hand, rejection may not be good either. The solution? Study the matter.

Anyway. Prompt action from an agency is rare when inaction can be substituted.

David

@K

Nuclear is potentially clean energy if the waste issues can be addressed, but in the long term it does nothing for us. Just like coal/natural gas/oil there is only a limited supply of the fuel source: Uranium.

Unless the Suns disappears, the Earth stops moving, the moon decides it's tired of us, or the Earth cools down, solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal or the only clean renewable forms of energy. (I know hydro cleans to but I feel like we tapped most of that already)

mahonj

Gen 4 breeder reactors will extend the fuel supply more or less indefinitely.

The "plutonium economy" gives a lot of people the creeps, but if we want to think 1000 years out, rather than 50 or 100, we better start thinking about it.

Ideally, we will find a way of storing huge amounts of electricity and will be able to deploy wind or solar to cover our needs, but this is not certain, and we had better have some alternatives.

Hence fund nuclear (as well as solar, wind, wave and storage) [ Especially storage ]

There is lots of harvestable energy out there, it is just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Massive energy storage could solve all that, but if this is not possible (or economic) better have another source, such as Nukes.

The Scoot

Well, in truth, the idea of "nuclear waste" is about twenty years out of date. Yucca mountain is a phenomenally idiotic idea. Just because the fuel cannot work in the reactor designs of the 1980s certainly does not mean that it cannot be used.

Now, I am not a fan of nuclear energy, to be sure. However, you simply cannot discount the fact that compared to coal or oil or natural gas, nuclear energy is cleaner and safer by leaps and bounds.

It always amused me to listen to an Australian rail against nuclear power, screaming that it would destroy the environment... when eighty per cent of the electricity of Australia is from coal...

sjc

"hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles, including lightweight materials, electronic power control and electric drive motors, and advanced energy storage devices."

It is good to see that the Freedom Car program is not just hydrogen.

aym

One word ... ughhh.

It is far more of a backwards than forwards looking budget thats for sure. It is more designed to support the past capital investments of the military/industrial complex rather than looking into supporting alternative technologies.

Looking into the budget support of everything below R&D of the science headline shows how little funding there is in alternative technology. God knows whats being hidden in the general 4.7 billion R&D science budget. It looks more like biotech funding then energy funding.

As for nuclear reactor technology, I'm not too sure they want to do anything with the waste. That waste is around 1.5-1.8% fissionable uranium and plutonium and if they wanted to use it in a heavy water plant then it would be fine due to the increased neutron efficiency. This can be done with the DUPIC process (which is physical reprocessing) and guess what? Nobody in the US even wants to even try it.

Breeder reactors magnify the amount of energy that can be taken out by 60 but the costs are huge. I think it takes focus away from conservation and renewables which have better long term prospects than nuclear.

We will need a wide range of technologies to shore up the weaknesses of the different technologies. And we shouldn't let the novelty of any technology tech blind us to the limitations of each.

There was a blog post on the US, France and Japan coordinating Sodium cooled fast reactors.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/02/us-france-and-j.html#comments

Tom Street

Historically, funding research into clean coal is just a way to let the utilities stall and ensure that we increase our reliance on coal. We have been talking and funding so called clean coal for decades now but utilities continue to play games to avoid using what technology we do have, much less new technology we might have -- some day. All, funding research is a total crock. The coal companies are living off the fat of the land; let them fund it themselves.

We don't need funding; we need policy that kills coal unless it can actually build power plants that will in reality sequester their coal. If their survival is at stake, they will find a way. The profits in coal are just too big to expect the companies to just walk away.

While I would love to see more funding for more helpful research into solar, I believe that some companies are making progress without any signficant research subsidies as it is. If we were to withdraw all subsidies from coal and nuclear, and if we were to require that all external costs of these industries be borne by those industries, that would be a great tradeoff for ending any research subsidies for renewable energy as well.

Our problem is not research , or the lack thereof. Our problem is implementation and getting the new renewable technologies implemented at both the consumer and utility scale level. Without a program similar to Germany's, this research is just a way to put off what we need to do to the distant future.

K

sym and Scoot et al.

Supporting nuclear does not indicate a dislike for other technologies. Solar, wind, water, etc. are fine with me. I don't see them even close to meeting our power needs within a decade.

Fusion? You tell me! Care to bet it w/b useful within two decades?

Biomass is the wild card. Who is sure how much it can do and/or the environmental effects.

The big hitters are oil, gas, coal (i.e. fossil) and nuclear. Sure, improve them all. But coal and nuclear are certain to last this century. And I vote nuclear.

Every energy source is finite. Only writers go on forever.

There is no reason to worry about fission exhaustion. Plutonium and thorium will stretch the supply far beyond pure uranium.

The reason I see Yucca Mountain as a good solution? I would have been more accurate to say it is better than nothing.

First, a great deal of YM has been built and the logistics tested. Second, what is stored there can be retrieved and useful material or fuel reprocessed. YM doesn't exclude reprocessing.

YM is stopped mostly because Nevada politicans want it stopped. Harry Reid in particular leads the Senate right now.

Permitting such obstruction seems like a poor way to run a country to me. But to others it seems like a splendid example of democracy. Take your choice.

If I understand the reprocessing situation correctly it will be a long time before existing reactor waste gets handled. Dealing with surplus warheads takes priority; they are richer in fuel, simpler to handle, cheaper to process, and it is politically popular.

I figure all other backlog - mostly from reactors - is better at YM than at dozens or hundreds of sites, stored various ways, each with a different local environment, and each guarded separately.

swen

Toshiba's building a "Micro Nuclear" reactor for your garage?

Posted Dec 19th 2007 11:40AM
Alright, details are slim, and we really have no idea if Toshiba has any plans whatsoever to sell these nuclear reactors to consumers -- in fact, we hope it doesn't -- but it does seem like the company is well on its way to commercializing the design. Toshiba's Micro Nuclear reactors are designed to power a single apartment building or city block, and measure a mere 20-feet by 6-feet. The 200 kilowatt reactor is fully automatic and fail-safe, and is completely self-sustaining. It uses special liquid lithium-6 reservoirs instead of traditional control rods, and can last up to 40 years, making energy for about 5 cents per kilowatt hour. Toshiba has been testing the reactors since 2005, and hopes to install its first reactor in Japan in 2008, with marketing to Europe and America in 2009. Oh, and we lied: we totally want one of these in our garage.

aym

@Swen,

This sounds like a variation of the Toshiba 4s reactor. The 4S uses a neutron reflector to control the reaction automatically.

Since the fuel is never really changed the operating costs don't include the cost of uranium but is part of the capital costs.

The 4s is suppose to produce electricity in the 5-13 cent range and is a 10-50 MW reactor design. It uses uranium that is enriched to 20%. It's not something you want lots of floating around.

The fuel is suppose to last 30 years. Given that in the variation you're talking about, it lasts 40 years, you are looking at much higher enrichment rates since that is the simplest way to increase the breeding ratio and extend the time fuel lasts.

Given that the cost of production is 5 cents. I would say that it is the cost of production at the low end of the estimate and should be compared to the cost of production of 1.8 cents/KWh for a large reactor or 2 cents/KWh for todays coal without carbon costs.

Given that the uranium used in the 4S is part of the capital costs, the costs for the uranium for this solution is most likely part of the capital costs too. This makes the capital cost of energy for this solution very high. This increases the levelized cost of energy greatly. The only place that is even thought of to place the 4S reactor is Galena Alaska. A place that totally relies on river transport of cargo for supplies and relies on diesel electricity.

There are so many disadvantages in todays market for this design and idea in a large scale, you could hit them even if you're blind. Only really isolated places need a reactor like this and even then is it really worth it.

Sorry to blow the idea up but. No way.

List of new reactor designs 2006 licences

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analysis/nucenviss2.html

Neil

I almost pity the president. He/She will have such a mess to clean up, and no soap left in the cupboard to clean it up with. Just when we need efficiency and renewables the most, George W(orst president ever) Bush cuts their budget.

Neil

OOPS ... I mean NEXT president!

Jim G.

K.

Nonsense. Solar should be relegated to tax credits while coal and nuclear get federal funding? Your remarks are a beautiful illustration of a double standard. Solar needs no subsidies (not even loan guarantees or competition bounties a la XPrize) ecause solar is mature enough to stand on its own. But nuclear and coal are not, they are entitled to our tax dollars.

gr

As with so many budgets in over-bloated government, an inordinate amount to sustaining status quo and a nod or two to new solutions. Although predictions indicate the present utility capacity adequate to recharge millions of PHEVs - some mix of ccs-coal and nextgen nuke seems inevitable.

The next admin will clearly re-align the fed subsidies for alternatives. The R&D is already financed for big tickets like cellulosic (which was not even near the table three years ago) and electrification of transport is well under way.

Solar still needs lots of help. Triple gap and Q-dot PV technology should be supported along with industry investment. I suspect that since DOE has put solar down the priority list it has been left for the next admin to claim as its champion.

In year 2001 there were virtually NO hybrid cars on American roads. Seven years later 1M Prius have been sold. Never fast enough, never enough, but progress?? Sustainability appears everywhere in government, private and NGO budgets today. I want fed money too - but then again maybe I should do what GreenFuel, Altair, Open Energy and startups do - take proof of concept and go out and raise it.

sjc

They had a program on the Science Channel last night showing a scenario of oil running short in America. Gas lines reminding people of the 70s embargo were shown. I think it is something that most Americans should watch.

Mark A

Just quickly looking over the allotments, and the alloment changes, they seem to be fair. Nothing that I could see was cut out. (Corn ethanol should have been cut in my opinion.) The market should start maintaining and supporting some of these technologies. Coal power plants are not going away anytime soon. So funding to develop carbon capture for coal plants should be emphasized. Also nuclear is still, in my mind, tomorrows powersource, so continued nuclear development should also be emphasized.

As far as cutting down Bush, history may show him as one of our best presidents. That will be determined in the future. He has had to juggle fighting terrorism, while keeping the economy solvent, while also encouraging private enterprise to develop clean technologies, or renewable technologies, (while creating conditions for companies to sustain jobs for perhaps you and me). Alot of (major) "balls" to keep juggling at once, considering the fact that if one ball should fall, the others would follow shortly behind. Granted mistakes have been, but congress also is accountable for alot of what happens. Hindsight is 20/20. Considering how far fuel cell, battery, wind, nuclear, solar and carbon capture technologies have progressed in the last few years, history may show that conditions were decent for adequate developments in these areas. We have a ways to go, but I feel we are headed in the right direction

Tom Street

"As far as cutting down Bush, history may show him as one of our best presidents."

Surely you jest.

K

Jim G: you wrote the following.

"K.

Nonsense. Solar should be relegated to tax credits while coal and nuclear get federal funding? Your remarks are a beautiful illustration of a double standard. Solar needs no subsidies (not even loan guarantees or competition bounties a la XPrize) ecause solar is mature enough to stand on its own. But nuclear and coal are not, they are entitled to our tax dollars."

Jim. It is your remarks that are a beautiful illustration of distortion. My exact words were:

"Pulls: Distributed (home) solar, conservation, and fuel efficient vehicles are probably better spread by tax rebates. The technologies are still improving but are also good enough for wide use now."

Where are my words about cutting or stopping solar research funding?

FYI that term "Distributed (home) solar" means solar technology built or being built; it is a robust and booming industry. (Other readers probably figured that out.)

Coal: My remarks explained why I think clean coal research and testing is better driven by direct (Push) funding rather than subsidies. But I will say it again.

It comes down to this. Individual consumers aren't going to reduce the problems with coal use.

Even the utilities - which appear to be huge powerful companies - are regulated in what they can build and the money they can spend. They cannot just switch to technology X instead of Y because they prefer X.

Therefore, IMO, improvements in coal technology are best achieved by "push" i.e. by federal funding and regulation.

Now, as to nuclear. The situation is somewhat like coal. Both industries and the public will benefit from funding to test new technology. Again, a given utility is nearly helpless in the matter due to regulation. And individual consumers cannot influence the matter at all.

So I rate nuclear research and development as a "Push" too.

As far as utilizing nuclear. Simplify licensing and proceed. The industry record is pretty clear. We have had fifty years of power from plants that were built in just a few years. Yet today building one takes decades - or much more likely - nothing gets built at all. FUD prevail.

Nuclear waste handling is a political problem in two major parts.

First: the best storage we can devise is not being used due to political blockage. The ability to obstruct is a quirk of our Congressional mores and can only be addressed there.

Second: Committed anti-nuclear groups do not want any improvement in technology or methods. They also do not want fuel reprocessing. Death from hostility and decay is their wish for the nuclear industry. The same tactic was called Containment during the Cold War.

The fossil fuel industry certainly is no friend of nuclear. And many Green groups either believe coal must never be used at all or that any funding for cleanup is a compromise with evil.

A comment about the fossil fuel industry opposition to nuclear. So what? That isn't news.

And to the Greens. I suspect that if you stop cleaner coal you will live with dirtier coal for a long time.

For anyone interested. My original text is near the top, in the second comment. There is more at 1:57 pm Monday when I wrote to Rafael.

sulleny

"Surely you jest." Let's hope! And if you'RE an 'merican please go out and vote today. Remember the new sustainable watchword:

"Elect Better Actors!"

sjc

One Senator said that putting $1 billion into road and bridge repair creates 40,000 jobs. Considering that we spend more than $100 billion each year in Iraq, that money could create a lot of jobs here by repairing our transportation infrastructure. This would make those investments safer, more valuable and useful, which would bring even greater benefits in years to come.

I would like to see this done soon. I would also like to see a Green Revolution, where our tax dollars go to help wind, solar, biofuels and other industries get started and grow. Imagine all the jobs and expansion we would get with that while we clean up the environment and reduce our oil dependence.

globi

Between 1974 and 2002 nuclear has received 60% of all public energy research funding from all OECD countries.

During the same period Solar, wave, tidal, biomass, hydro and geothermal only received 8% combined.


And what's the result:

* Nuclear delivers less energy than Renewables!

* Uranium reserves last only for a few more decades!

* Breeder reactors are still not commercially available!

* Nuclear only provides 2.1% of the world's energy needs!

* There's still no viable solution to the waste problem!

* There's still no fusion reactor insight!

Why do they keep on throwing tax money on this crippled loser technology - from an industry which keeps on breaking promises for decades?

Give me a break!

We would rather invest in clean technologies, which already DO WORK NOW.

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