Jan 24, 2007 Refocus Weekly
In 2005, the United States derived
6% of its energy from renewables, the same level
as in 1973, according to an analysis by the Government
The Department of Energy needs
more money to find ways to reduce U.S. dependence
on foreign oil and mitigate environmental impacts
from burning fossil fuels, the investigative arm
of Congress says in ‘Key Challenges Remain for Developing
& Deploying Advanced Energy Technologies to Meet
Future Needs.’ Adjusting for inflation, DOE’s research
budget for renewable, fossil and nuclear technologies
fell by 85.6% between 1978 and 2005.
“It is unlikely that DOE's current
level of R&D funding or the nation's current energy
policies will be sufficient to deploy alternative
energy sources in the next 25 years,” it warns.
The challenge of reducing U.S. dependence on oil
and carbon emissions in the next 25 years is similar
to the challenge of putting a man on the moon in
“Without sustained high energy
prices or concerted, high-profile federal government
leadership, U.S. consumers are unlikely to change
their energy-use patterns and the U.S. will continue
to rely upon its current energy portfolio,” it states.
Even with more funding, the challenges to develop
alternative energy include expanding wind technology
into low wind and offshore locations, and developing
cost-effective technologies to produce ethanol using
agricultural residues and other biomass materials,
as well as the infrastructure for distributing ethanol.
Most states and some foreign governments
have successfully established incentives for renewables
to move away from fossil fuel sources, the report
notes. Forty-five of the 50 U.S. states offer tax
credits, grants or loans to deploy renewables.
“Despite periodic price shocks
and related energy crises, the United States is
even more dependent on crude oil and natural gas
than it was almost 30 years ago and, without dramatic
change, the nation will become ever more reliant
on imported oil and natural gas with attendant threats
to national security,” it explains. GAO examined
the R&D funding trends and strategies for developing
advanced energy technologies, key barriers to developing
and deploying advanced energy technologies, and
efforts of the states and six other countries to
develop and deploy advanced energy technologies.
The agency reviewed DOE budget
data and strategic plans, and interviewed DOE officials
and scientists, industry executives, independent
experts, and state and foreign government officials.
DOE's total budget authority for energy research
dropped by 85% in real terms from 1978 to 2005,
peaking in the late 1970s but falling sharply when
oil prices returned to lower levels in the mid-1980s.
Its efforts have resulted in “steady incremental
progress in reducing costs for renewable energy
technologies, reducing harmful emissions of coal-fired
power plants, and improving safety and efficiency
for nuclear power plants.”
GAO suggests that the Congress
consider further stimulating development and deployment
of a diversified energy portfolio by focusing R&D
funding on advanced energy technologies. DOE had
no comment on this recommendation.