Image via Nanyang
Update: Obama Announces $2.4 Billion in Grants for Batteries and Electric Cars
New York Times climate writer Andrew Revkin was recently forwarded a rejection letter from a "discouraged scientist" who had his clean energy research proposal declined for funding by the US Department of Energy. Obama's stimulus provides around $150 million for R&D; in the renewable energy sector--money he hopes will spark a clean energy revolution. But the rejection letter notes that only 2% of the 3,500 proposals can be accepted--an amount that may be too small to instigate the breakthroughs in renewable energy technology Obama is hoping for.Revkin hints that such meager funding is inadequate to achieve the clean energy 'moon shot' that the Obama administration is hoping will catapault the US into a position as a world leader in clean energy technology.
One of his previous posts (from which the graph above was taken) compares the amount of funding the space program received in the late '60s (around $30 billion a year in 2006 dollars) which resulted in huge technological payoffs, to the comparatively, consistently limp investment in energy research that continues today. As a result? No breakthroughs in clean energy comparable to putting a man on the moon.
He notes that though Reagan is credited with abandoning energy research, no president or Congress since has stepped up to the plate to increase funds either. And in order to get that 'moon shot', it very well may take billions and billions of dollars more in the budget (reigning in that massively bloated health care spending, as Congress is currently trying to do would likely help), and attracting much more private research and investment.
If clean energy research is truly a top priority, as Obama says it is, there'll likely have to be a massive increase in spending to stimulate innovation. And we just might see this happen, as China gears up its massive clean energy development programs and attempts to become the world leader in the domain. That sort of competition--yes, much like the kind that fueled the US space race with Russia--may be what it takes to get Americans, and their government, serious about investing in clean energy.