Holdren's Old Shop: Energy R&D Boost Strong But Not Enough

Harvard University's Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has crunched the numbers on the Obama Administration's 2011 budget request for the Department of Energy and concluded that it gives short shrift to applied work. While lauding the proposed 12% boost to basic work in DOE's Office of Science, which concentrates on basic research, the report says:

The modest 7% proposed increase in applied energy RD&D spending is certainly needed, but remains well short of the large and sustained investment likely to be required to transform U.S. and global energy use and production and to meet the climate, energy availability, and energy security demands of the twenty-first century. In real terms, the support for basic and applied energy RD&D would remain 30% below the 1978 level, the peak of government funding for energy RD&D in the United States.

The report, from the center that John Holdren directed before becoming the president's science adviser, also calls for national labs to become more independent returning to the so-called government-owned, contractor-operated model (known as "GOCO") that it says worked well in the past. Labs may still legally be GOCO's by name, but the report laments what it calls "excessive micromanagement from DOE headquarters."