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House Panel Ups Renewables Spending, Cuts Oil, Gas R&D

The House Appropriations Committee last Tuesday voted out a $33.3 billion spending bill promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and electricity grid modernization programs in fiscal year (FY) 2010. Oil and natural gas were given short shrift.

The energy and water appropriations bill, which passed by voice vote, allocates $1.1 billion less than what President Obama requested for Department of Energy (DOE) and some Interior Department programs for FY 2010. But it is $100 million more than what the agencies received in FY 2009. The full House is expected to take up the spending bill this week.

The bulk of the funding will go to DOE -- $26.9 billion, or $1.5 billion less than what Obama requested -- for development and demonstration projects to make solar energy more affordable ($259 million); grants to improve production of alternative fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel ($235 million); to improve vehicle fuel efficiency ($373 million); research conservation technologies for buildings and industry to reduce energy demand ($210 million); technologies to help business improve energy efficiency ($100 million); new ways to generate power from flowing water ($30 million); and weatherization grants ($220 million).

An estimated $208 million is earmarked for DOE programs to modernize and secure the nation's electricity grid, including $63 million for smart grid research and development (R&D); $15 million for R&D of grid-connected energy storage technologies; $47 million for energy delivery cyber security; and $42 million on transmission of domestic renewable energy.

The spending bill allocates $812 to support ongoing R&D for projects involving nuclear energy. Noting that the Obama administration has terminated the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository, the bill sets aside $197 million to continue the licensing process and to establish a blue ribbon commission to evaluate alternatives for nuclear waste disposal.

The House appropriations panel terminated the DOE's oil and natural gas R&D program, saying it was an unnecessary subsidy to industry. The program had been funded at a level of $5 million in FY 2009.

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