Trump Budget Proposals Undercut U.S. Energy Innovation and Global Leadership, ITIF Says

February 12, 2018

WASHINGTON—The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy, today released the following statement from David Hart, ITIF senior fellow, on the Trump administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019:

The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to energy innovation activities supported by the Department of Energy would undercut progress toward cheaper, cleaner energy in the United States and damage the nation’s prospects for global leadership in key growth industries of the 21st century.

Sustained federal investment in research, development, demonstration, and early deployment of promising technologies is essential to drive down the cost of clean energy. Such investment strengthens the competitiveness of U.S. technology developers and manufacturers, as well.

The administration’s budget proposal, if enacted, would raise the odds of costly and heavy-handed regulatory and tax responses to future economic and environmental challenges. ITIF calls on Congress to reject the administration’s proposals and support a federal innovation budget that is appropriate to the great opportunity and challenge of the global transition to clean energy.

ITIF has highlighted several key programs within DOE that would be particularly damaging to cut as the administration has proposed:

ARPA-E: Modeled after the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARPA-E supports energy innovators who are developing technologies that will solve critical real-world problems in transportation, electricity, buildings, and other sectors. It fills an essential role in the energy innovation system: funding start-ups to the point that private investors can take their ideas to scale. Since the agency’s founding in 2009, ARPA-E project teams have formed 56 new companies and raised more than $1.8 billion in private follow-on funding.

Energy Storage: Energy storage is an increasingly vital function for electricity systems in the 21st century. Variable renewable generation and increasingly flexible demand are already raising the value of storage, and it may rise further as baseload-power generation declines and transportation end uses expand. While lithium-ion batteries are coming down quickly in price, they have limited functionality for grid applications. New storage options, based on advances in materials, chemistry, system integration, and other disciplines, could yield more versatile storage technologies and strengthen the competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturing. DOE funding for energy storage RD&D is vital to sustain progress in this field.

National Laboratories: DOE’s national laboratory system was founded to support the Manhattan Project during World War II and includes such iconic institutions as Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. These labs are unique concentrations of technical capabilities that support multidisciplinary research on national problems and maintain large-scale scientific facilities used by researchers throughout academia and industry. The administration’s proposal would harm this system.

Clean Energy Manufacturing Institutes: Advanced manufacturing is a vital economic activity for the United States, driving innovation and exports. The Manufacturing USA institutes fill a key gap in the innovation ecosystem, linking academic research to industry needs and fostering workforce development in support of regional economic growth. DOE supports five of these industry-led institutes, among them the  Institute for Advanced Composite Materials in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Power America in Raleigh, North Carolina. DOE’s investments in them have been more than matched by private and state investments.

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