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Clean Energy RD&D Investments Make Us Stronger

A new report from the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC) concludes that “public investments in energy RD&D are crucial.” We couldn’t agree more.

The American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), a bipartisan collection of business leaders focused on creating economic growth through public and private investment in new energy technology, recently issued a report calling for a boost in investment in energy research, development, and deployment (RD&D). The report reinforces the fact that investments are critical to America’s ability “to sustain its international competitiveness, reinforce its economic security and resiliency, and protect the environment.” The report concludes that “public investments in energy RD&D are crucial.” We couldn’t agree more.

The 2016 Budget vigorously advances the President’s commitment to strengthen the middle class and make America a magnet for jobs in the 21st century global economy by investing in manufacturing and innovation. The Budget supports clean energy technology programs that position America as a global clean energy leader with a strong and modern energy infrastructure. Specifically, the Budget proposes approximately $7.4 billion for clean energy RD&D across the Federal government, a nearly $1 billion increase over the current enacted level.

Clean energy RD&D investments – and research and development investments more generally – help illustrate an important principle reflected in the President’s proposal: A Budget that locks in sequestration going forward would be bad for our security and bad for our growth. 

As OMB Director Shaun Donovan said in his budget testimony: “Our long-term economic competitiveness depends upon continued robust investment” in research and development; these sorts of investments have “helped lead to new products, capabilities, and industries, resulting in economic growth and the creation of highly-skilled jobs and products that benefit every American.” That is why the President’s Budget proposes $146 billion in research and development investment – and calls on Congress to reverse sequestration. 

The alternative is bleak: If sequestration is continued in Fiscal Year 2016, research and development would be approximately $136 billion – a reduction of about 7 percent. And the story gets worse. In terms of real buying power (constant dollars), the sequester in Fiscal Year 2013 brought research and development funding back to the level of 2002, and continuing the sequester in Fiscal Year 2016 would bring us back to the 2002 level again.

The research and development investments called for in the President’s Budget also reflect the vital link between our national security and our economic security. And clean energy RD&D investments provide a specific example of how investments in national security and economic security go hand in hand. 

For example, part of the $7.4 billion in funding is provided to the Department of Defense (DOD) for clean energy RD&D includes $291 million for more fuel-efficient jet turbine engines through the Adaptive Engine Development Program (AEDP) and the follow-on Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), $22 million for more energy-efficient facilities through the Installation Energy Test Bed Initiative, and $15 million for more fuel-efficient ground vehicles through the National Automotive Center. These investments will help boost our national security, making our warfighters more effective and nimble and our facilities more efficient and resilient.

The link to national security extends to programs outside DOD too. For example, the Budget proposes an increase for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E). In just the last few years, ARPA-E has helped support a number of projects that could have direct benefits to national security. For example, ARPA-E developed the Advanced Management and Protection of Energy-storage Devices (AMPED) program to increase the performance of energy storage systems in conjunction with DOD. AMPED aims to maximize performance, safety, and lifetime of existing and future battery chemistries. If successful, AMPED technology could reduce the cost, volume, and weight of electrified vehicle battery systems by as much as 20-50 percent – which, in turn, could potentially improve access to energy for the U.S. military at forward operating bases in remote areas.

The AEIC’s report urges that “the provision of safe, clean, affordable, and sustainable energy is one of the most important missions for the United States.” To meet that mission, we need to make strong investments in clean energy RD&D. That is why bipartisan business leaders are calling for those investments. That is why foundations and mission-driven non-profits are stepping up to do their part. And that is why the President’s Budget makes these investments a priority. Doing so will strengthen our economy, help us tackle the threat of climate change, and make us a safer, stronger Nation.