Seeking Diversity

The Energy Department wants to increase the number and type of power sources available to Americans.

The Bush administration's energy policy can be summarized in a single word: more. More sources, more suppliers, more means of delivery and more investment to meet growing global demand for energy. As Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman put it after touring a liquid natural gas regasification facility in Louisiana earlier this year: "The world needs more energy."

The International Energy Agency estimates the global demand for energy will grow by 55 percent by 2030. "Because that will make the global energy market just that much more competitive, America has an energy policy that centers on the idea that we need to diversify our energy sources, our energy suppliers and our energy supply routes," Bodman said in April at the opening of the Cheniere Energy Inc. Sabine Pass facility in Cameron Parish, La.

Given that energy is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, it's no surprise that much of the department's spending is aimed at meeting a growing demand for energy that is clean, safe, affordable and reliable. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal all have received increased attention and investment during the last year. Not surprisingly, Energy is the single largest federal investor in basic research in the physical sciences. While Congress was still debating Energy's 2009 budget request at the time of this publication, the administration requested $4.7 billion-a 20 percent increase from 2008's request and $1 billion more than the department's 2008 appropriation-for the Office of Science. Most of that money would support research into new energy technologies and high-energy physics.

Energy also wants to increase its investment in the American Competitiveness Initiative to $4.7 billion ($749 million more than this year's appropriation). The program aims to boost basic research in the physical sciences that will have a broad impact on future energy technologies and environmental solutions.

An area of particular interest to Energy officials is further development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. In June the department an-nounced its support for three demonstration projects under development by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Electric Co. The three projects advance efforts to develop electric vehicles capable of traveling up to 40 miles without recharging. Energy wants to make such vehicles cost-competitive by 2014 and ready for commercialization by 2016.

Investment in emissions-free nuclear power is also on the rise as demand for electricity across the country continues to multiply. Energy is taking a two-pronged approach to the demand by supporting industry with near-term technology development and demonstration projects as well as the long-term research and development program known as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project. The department also is investing in research focused on reducing the volume and toxicity of high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel through recycling.

While Energy responds to pressure to promote alternative fuel sources and reduce the environmental damage that results from existing sources, the demands of nuclear weapons management continue to absorb a large share of the department's budget. The National Nuclear Security Administration commands more than one-third of the department's $25 billion annual budget to maintain the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons, dispose of nuclear materials and promote nonproliferation and better security measures internationally.

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