Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mixed Signals & Federal Funding for Alternative Energy Research

There have definitely been some mixed signals on alternative energy research recently. At the same time President Bush's State of the Union address called for a 22 percent increase in federal spending to develop alternative energies, dozens of staffers and contractors for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, were being laid off.

The disconnect was a political embarrassment for the president, so federal officials restored the laboratory's funding, rehiring the workers who had been laid off just in time for President Bush’s scheduled speech at the NREL.

In his speech the President acknowledged the confusion, “I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding," President Bush said.

This comes at a time when a new national public opinion survey demonstrates overwhelming public support in the United States for government policies and investments that will support development of alternative energy sources. The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, VA, for the Energy Future Coalition. The survey’s findings included:

According to the survery there is nearly unanimous support for a national goal of having 25% of the United States domestic energy needs met by alternative energy by the year 2025. Ninety-eight percent of voters see this goal as important for the country, and three out of four (74%) feel that it is "very important." Ninety percent of voters believe this goal is achievable.

Similar majorities support government action to encourage greater use of renewable energy. Eighty-eight percent of voters favor financial incentives, and 92% support minimum government standards for the use of renewable energy by the private sector.

Nearly all voters (98%) say the costs, such as the cost of research and development and the cost of building new renewable energy production facilities, would be worth it to get the United States to the 25% by 2025 goal.

Voters consider energy to be an important issue facing the country, rating it similarly with health care, terrorism and national security, and education, and ahead of taxes and the war in Iraq. Half (50%) of voters believe America is headed for an energy crisis in the future, and 35% believe the country already is facing a crisis.

So just how much is the United States government spending on alternative energy research? After the 22% increase the budget will stand at $771 million. This amounts to less than one percent of the $55,000 million the federal government spends annually on research, nearly half of which is devoted to healthcare.

It’s time for action.

Source for figures on federal funding for alternative energy research

President Bush's speech at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

America's Energy Future

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