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House bills would keep DOE science spending flat, eliminate ARPA-E, and cut farm science

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) science spending would remain flat, and agricultural research budgets would see cuts, under 2018 spending bills released today by the U.S. House of Representatives appropriations panels. The two bills (energy and agriculture) will be taken up tomorrow in the first step of an annual process that could stretch into the next fiscal year, which begins 1 October.

Although details are lacking, the bills appear to reject the deep science cuts proposed by President Donald Trump. However, DOE programs aimed at developing and deploying renewable energy sources would see major reductions under the House proposal, although less than what the White House requested.

DOE’s Office of Science would get $5.39 billion in a bill covering energy and water projects at several agencies. That is the same as this year’s level, and $919 million above the White House’s 2018 request. The bill would also eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, created in 2009 to support high-risk projects with great commercial potential, according to Greenwire.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA's) research arm would get $1.1 billion. That is roughly $100 million less than this year but about $139 million above the president’s request. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which includes programs that fund academic research, would be cut by about 2%, to $830 million, which is $60 million above the president’s request.

Energy cuts

Overall, DOE’s energy and technology development programs would see a cut of $1.7 billion, to $9.6 billion, which is $2.3 billion above the president’s request. DOE’s renewable energy programs would see a 46% cut, or $968 million below the current level of $2.1 billion. Even so, that amount is $468 million above the president’s request for those programs.

Fossil fuel programs would dip by $33 million, to $635 million, whereas nuclear energy programs would shrink by $48 million, to $969 million. Both the fossil fuel and nuclear numbers are well above the president’s request.

The numbers for each of the six line offices within DOE’s Office of Science won’t be released until the full appropriations committee takes up the bills later this summer. Senate appropriators have yet to begin marking up any of the 12 bills that set spending for every federal agency. And many observers predict that Congress will extend 2017 funding levels well into the 2018 fiscal year before legislators reach final agreement on the 2018 budget.