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Calling for More Energy R&D Investment, Secretary Chu says America Faces a "Sputnik Moment" on Energy

30 Nov

To stay competitive in the global clean energy race, Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu says the United States must significantly increase investments in energy research and development.

Other nations around the world, especially China, are outpacing the United States both in progressive federal energy policies and government spending on research, leaving the United States facing a “Sputnik moment” on energy, he said in recent remarks to the press in Washington, D.C.

“America still has the opportunity to lead in a world that will need a new industrial revolution to give us the energy we want inexpensively but also carbon-free.  It’s a way to secure our future prosperity.  But, I think time is running out.”

Secretary Chu’s remarks followed the release of a new report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on how best to “accelerate the pace” of technology development in the U.S..

The report’s primary recommendations include major increases in energy research and development spending and new demonstration projects.  Currently, the U.S. utilizes about 0.14% of the federal budget for energy-related research.  After adding in private sector funding, total research spending in the U.S. is around 0.03% of GDP.  This amount is three times smaller than Japan’s, and far behind many other nations.

Instead of the $5 billion a year we spend today, the Council says annual energy research investments should rise to $16 billion.  The report also advises all energy policies and organizations should come under a quadrennial review, similar to the quadrennial national security review undertaken by the Department of Defense.  In short, the report warns without more federal support, we will not achieve “game changing” technology developments which are needed to make clean energy cost effective and mainstream.

In his concluding remarks, Secretary Chu emphasized the importance of sustained federal support.  “Innovation is the key to prosperity and progress,” he said.  “You’re making an expenditure because, in the long run, it’s the future economic health of the country.  That’s not 20 years in the future; we’re talking one, two, three years.  We’ve got to make these investments.”  Read more…

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