1. Not sure how many people are following budget talks in Washington, but I have a hard time seeing anything but huge support for fossil fuel industry in current round of cuts. NEI does a great job following political and industry news, including a response to SOTU, and I’m hoping they get their feet wet on this issue. The budget is up for debate next week, and many clean tech and nuclear programs are on the chopping block.
    On the list of proposed energy cuts are $1.4 billion in the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program; $1.1 billion in the Office of Science, which funds advanced clean energy research; $899 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy; $186 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is leading development of technical standards for smart grid installations and cyber protection, and $169 million for nuclear energy.
    For a closer look at the weeds of these programs, CBO has a breakdown. Office of Science (which provides 40% of funding for basic research in physical sciences in the US) funds programs in fusion energy, high energy physics, nuclear physics, and workforce development for teachers and scientists. Funding for nuclear energy programs, which increased 4.8% from FY 2010 to 2011 (to a total of $824 million), includes nuclear enabling technologies, reactor R&D, fuel cycle research and development, and Pu-238 production restart project. And perhaps near and dear to Rod, prospects don’t look good at Navy Research Laboratory (working on advanced biofuels, making energy from sea water, and much more). “if history’s a guide, what happens there at the Naval Research Laboratory will play a role in the nation’s energy future.”
    So if you care about these programs, write your congressman and let them know. Chairman in charge of appropriations, Hal Rogers (R-Ky), said these cuts won’t be easy: “they will be broad and deep, they will affect every Congressional district.” Rogers is from Kentucky, and in 2010 was named “Coal Miner of the Year.”

    1. I object to these cuts because they’re to research and development, rather than to subsidies (production tax credits, cash grants, and the like). R&D s essential to get a technology to the point where the private sector is ready to deploy it with minimal subsidization.

      1. The ethanol subsidy is $5.4 billion for 2011.Thet subsidy is non necessary because the EPA mandates the production of 12 billion gallons. Why subsidize that which is mandated? The $5.4 Billion is from a 42 cent/gallon of ethanol, The DOE R & D budget is only 5.! billion. Shifting the ethanol subsidy would more than double the DOE R & D. The removal of the subsidy would increase the gasohol price by 4.5 cents. I suppose that regular gas would also go up 4.5 cents in order to insure that the mandated ethanol blend would sell.

        1. The above comment is mine. I will add to it. President Obama wants to increase R & D funds for the DOE. This is needed to develop replacement energy sources for the fading fossil fuels. We need to develop small breeder reactors, closed cycle reactors, electric vehicle technology, mass transit, synthetic liquid fuels to replace petroleum,and funds to make the NRC responsive in a timely way to approving all of these initiatives. Governments need to meet the responsibilities for basic research. Private industry has greatly increased its investment in R & D, which is good, but the private sector can not afford take on a responsibility for basic research that has traditionally been the role for government.
          We have good reason to fear that Chairman Gregory Jaczko is a fox in the hen house as he was appointed to repay a political debt. Specifically he was put in place to kill Yucca Mtn. fuel storage facility. He seems to only be interested in maintaining the status quo. We are losing out to other countries in energy source development.

    2. We don’t need subsidies to build state-of-the-art nuclear plants. All it takes is for the great distraction of “green energy” to come to an end. The UK is already at that point right now, the Arabs didn’t even begin to fall for the scam and are going straight to nuclear.

    3. @EL – you are right that the NRL projects are “near” to me, but wrong in the “dear” part of your description. They were some of the dumbest expenses I saw during 9 years as a budget analyst in DC and were part of the reason that I decided it was time for me to become a civilian again. A few high ranking folks considered themselves “visionaries.” They though that others would recognize their brilliance if they proclaimed a “moonshot” big idea to fuel a Green Fleet demonstration.
      As a result, we were spending tens of millions out of the Navy’s operational fuel budget to buy a few thousand gallons of hydrocarbons manufactured out of organic carbohydrates. The cost per gallon was > $100. Algae based fuel is a dead end – technically doable with a huge effort, but why bother?
      One of the “visionary” advocates was the guy who signed my fitrep. We had a couple of interesting discussions about energy during my tour, but we did not agree much.
      One of my posts got picked up by alert news gathers in the five sided puzzle palace and distributed in the morning early bird. The post was technically accurate and did not reveal any non public information, but I guess it portrayed the Green Fleet project in a negative light. I did not know that he had even noticed that article until during my farewell when the second in command mentioned having deflected a “venting” from the boss for me.

      1. I agree with your assessment of algal based fuels. My graduate education was funded by a NASA traineeship. I did basic research on a high temperature strain of algae. NASA was interested algae for food and oxygen production for long duration maned space flight. Maintaining a large batch of unicellular algae is really difficult. Adding light to the culture requirements leads exponentially to complications. I have also dabbled with cellulosic ethanol production. In the 1980s I had a small grant DOE grant to investigate alfalfa as a substrate for ethanol fermentation. The bulkiness of cellulosic matter for ethanol production adds to the inherent cost of production.
        When I began to compare the efficiency of biofuels to the incredibly energy dense nuclear fuels, I concluded that there is no contest. I fear that our government wastes a lot of resource trying to develop inherently inefficient energy sources.

    4. @Rod, @John, as far as liquid fuels, do you see any potential with genetic engineering of bacteria and algae along with the use of concentrated CO2 as a feedstock, or for our liquid fuels needs, do you think we should skip biofuels and use things like Fischer-Tropsch coal and gas to liquids?

      1. @Dave – I will again repeat one of my basic philosophical statements – “A good engineer is a lazy cheapskate.” That needs to be understood in a long term point of view – good engineers never take short cuts that seem like they reduce effort or cost only to have to fix the problems later.
        From that point of view, biofuels are a dead end. Biology is already a perfect fuel source for a very important fuel consumer – humans and animals. It is a lousy source for machinery – doable, but at a high cost that competes with its availability for its primary mission of serving as food.
        On the other hand, I see a bright future for chemical processes that upgrade low hydrogen hydrocarbons like coal, bitumen, and tar into more useful hydrocarbons like diesel fuel. It would be far better to process coal near the source into clean burning fluid fuels that can be transported via pipeline than to continue moving massive quantities of unprocessed coal – which contains a significant portion of stuff that will never burn – via rail in uncovered cars like the trains I saw yesterday.
        In less than an hour, I saw three trains, each with 100+ cars passing through the Appalachian Mountain pass cut by the James River. I was hiking on a portion of the AT that is on the other side of the river. Someday, I might spend a whole day counting and recording the steady stream of material.

      2. Iceland. with help from Japan, is constructing a plant tp synthesize dimethyl ether from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. They plan to have it ooperational in in 2014. They expect the plant will reduce the petrolelum imports by one third. They apparently have an aluminum plant that produces surplus hydrogen.
        Japan has investigated thermochemical splitting of water. High temperature reactors would be an excellent source of energy to produce hydrogen. the efficiency may be as high as 60%. I am not sure if it is necessary to have a concentrated source of carbon dioxide. Some source suggest the atmospheric CO2 is adequate. Los Alamos National Lab has done some work on synfuels from hydrogen and atmospheric CO2.
        NNadir has from time to time touted dimethyl ether as a petroleum substitue. He would be a good resource on this subject.
        As for biofuels, I am not optimist. Photosynthesis gets a quarter of one percent of the incident sun light falling on our planet and C4 photosysthesis is the most efficient. If the whole world used energy at our rate it would take nearly all the energy trapped by photosynthesis.

        1. $150 oil spurred a great deal of interest from aviation industry in biofuels. The industry is likely to expand (China and India in the forefront), and environmental and cost considerations are a major concern. Continental, Virgin, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Royal Dutch (KLM), Air China have all made test flights with biofuels (from algae, jatropha, camellia, and others), and suggests they are 1-3 years away from using them on a commercial basis. The volume of fuel used by industry is staggering, but so is it’s cost and environmental impact. Boeing claims “biofuels could reduce flight-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent

  2. IEC Fusion Research in tandem with NPL Associated, Inc. laboratories located in Virginia at the AVRC research center focuses on joint government and privately funded energy research. In view of science research grant cuts, private special interest transportation energy labs may fill the gap with lower cost facilities. It is a well known fact that special interests in Congress guide energy research in the direction of carbon based fuels. This includes NRL research into bio fuels. I will push for fusion power plants aboard naval vessels even though the science is just beginning to mature.

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