A major study modeled after goal-setting reports from the Departments of Defense and State, the first Quadrennial Technology Review by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), called for a shift in energy research and development priorities to reduce America’s dependence on oil.
“Reliance on oil is the greatest immediate threat to U.S. economic and national security and also contributes to the long-term threat of climate change,” the report said.
The DOE spends about $3 billion annually on research and development, with about three-quarters of that going toward “stationary energy” technologies — such as power plants and buildings — and one-quarter allotted for transportation. The report’s release could shift the funding balance more toward transportation, in particular more efficient cars and electric cars.
It will likely shape the 2013 fiscal year budget request from the Obama administration, due to be sent to Congress in February 2012.
But a longer-term view isn’t synonymous with funding blue-sky ideas, as in the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which Time dubbed “the Department of Big Dreams.” The Quadrennial Technology Review criticized the DOE for placing too much emphasis on technologies “multiple generations away from practical use.”
Instead, the report called for greater focus on integrated energy systems and deployment over the medium to long term. The Obama administration has no choice but to focus on the longer term, argued Jeff Tollefson of Nature, because the weak economy and political stalemates have stymied progress in the shorter term.
The report sticks close to President Obama’s goals: getting one million electric cars on the road by 2015 and cutting oil imports by one-third by 2025. It also focuses on modernizing the electric grid and deploying clean energy, in line with Obama’s goal for 80 percent for America’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035.
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