Critics say budget fails to match energy bill priorities

Bush’s request is 23 percent short of the amount allotted for research and development in measure enacted last August.

President Bush's fiscal 2007 Energy Department budget request drew mixed congressional reaction Monday that might be a prelude to congressional fights to fund priorities outlined in last year's energy bill.

Bush is calling for $2.1 billion, an increase of $381 million, for clean energy research and development, and $4.1 billion, an increase of about $500 million, for DOE's Office of Science.

However, Bush's request for renewable energy, hydrogen, energy efficiency, nuclear energy, electricity reliability, fossil energy and low-income home energy assistance funding all fall short of the levels authorized for fiscal 2007 in last year's energy bill.

Overall, Bush's request is 23 percent short of the energy research and development authorizations contained in the energy legislation, which Bush signed into law last August, according to an analysis by aides for Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

"In a number of key areas, the president's budget represents a retreat from the balanced portfolio of research and development endorsed by a wide bipartisan majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives," Bingaman said in a statement.

Bush is requesting an increase of about $2.5 million overall for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, including nearly $59 million more for biomass and biorefinery systems, $65.3 million more for solar energy, $40.1 million more for hydrogen and nearly $5 million more for wind energy.

But he is also requesting that Congress cut entirely the $23 million given to geothermal technology this year and $495 million for hydropower, while reducing weatherization assistance grants by just over $78 million. He is also requesting that Congress terminate $64.4 million for oil and gas research programs and reduce DOE's Clean Coal Power Initiative from $49.5 million to $5 million.

Bush is also requesting $2.782 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is short of the $5.1 billion authorized next year in the energy bill.

"I believe this budget represents a balanced program," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told reporters Monday. "It's just that we don't feel we should put research dollars there in some areas."

Meeting Bush's goal of cutting domestic programs across the board to reduce the national debt also requires the administration to make "tough choices," Bodman said.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a statement Monday he is "disappointed" with Bush's request to cut the "clean coal" initiative.

"We're going to take a second look at that cut come appropriations time." he said. "I'm not going to short-change that program at this critical juncture."

Some of the funding for that program has been shifted to other priorities, including the department's FutureGen program, which aims to create the first-ever zero emission fossil fuel power plant.

There also will be scrutiny over Bush's request for $250 million in initial funding for his new Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which aims to expand nuclear energy production domestically and globally while expediting the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

The goal is for the United States and other countries -- including Russia, France, China and Great Britain -- to lease reprocessed spent nuclear fuel to countries seeking to expand nuclear energy production. Funding would help run engineering tests on the spent fuel to help ensure countries would not be able to separate plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Federal risk insurance for new U.S. nuclear reactors is also included in the package.

The plan would "dramatically expand" nuclear power here and abroad, while lessening the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation, decreasing greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions and reducing the amount of nuclear waste to go to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell told reporters.

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