January 21, 2008

FY ’08 Budget Harms U.S. Plan to Solve Energy Crisis

Nearly 700 New Energy Research Proposals Fall Victim on Chopping Block

WASHINGTON, D.C.—At a time when crude oil is trading at about $100 per barrel and motorists are grappling with sticker-shock at the gas pump, Congress and the White House turned their backs on the ideas of enthusiastic researchers who wanted to improve the nation’s energy security.

Last month, acquiescing to President Bush’s demand that domestic spending be constrained, legislators hurriedly approved a $555 billion fiscal year 2008 omnibus budget before the Christmas holiday that slashed science funding, effectively killing nearly 700 proposals slated to help solve our long-term energy problem, according to a recently released impact statement by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

To break the addiction to foreign oil, the Energy Department encouraged the scientists to submit proposals focused on solar, hydrogen and nuclear research. However, the omnibus spending bill failed to provide the Energy Department’s science budget with even enough money to keep up with inflation. As a result, at a time when motorists are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for gasoline to drive to work and the grocery store, scientists were told, thank you for your wonderful ideas, but we have no money!

"I was very excited about doing something to contribute to research that had the possibility of helping with the energy problem, and now I won’t work on that problem," said Jim Freericks, a physics professor at Georgetown University, who submitted a proposal to research converting solar energy into electricity using thermoelectric materials.

Michael Lubell, APS director of public affairs, noted that this is the not the first time the federal government has put energy research on hold. " But," he said, “this time the climate clock is ticking, and we cannot afford to sit back and wait."

US Capitol viewed through trees

About APS

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.