The White House has just released its proposed budget for 2009 and there are a few surprises.
Image by Diliff
For the past couple of weeks, scientists have voiced concern over the lack of funding for science by the government. So it seems a bit a shock to see a 19% boost in funding for the sciences.
Much can be gleaned from where federal money has been allocated. The big funding winners this year are energy researchers. Scientists in the fields of nuclear physics, basic energy science, and high energy physics will see government funding for their specialties increase by almost 20% to more than $1.5 billion. The Energy Department will receive $25 billion in discretionary funds, up 5% from last year’s budget.
Some of the budget increases were unsurprising. $9.1 billion will go towards making sure the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles are secure. In fact, nuclear scientists in general will receive a large budget increase, with nuclear energy projects getting much more funding. A huge chunk of that funding will go towards Yucca Mountain, the infamous and long delayed nuclear waste storage facility. The budget allocates almost $500 million for that project, which the Energy Department will apply for a licence for later this year.
Along with nuclear energy, the White House seems to be gung ho about “clean coal”. There is more than $600 million in the annual budget for carbon sequestration research and demo projects. Work on biomass and biorefineries was also given extra funding after Bush announced a commitment to ethanol earlier this year.
There were several losers in the battle for funding, including several renewable energy projects. There were cuts in funding for hydrogen fuel research and weatherization. Also, a low income energy assistance program had its funding cut by more than 20%.
With the new budget, the administration is making a statement in its last year in office. They clearly see nuclear energy and “clean coal” as the way forward, with biofuels the only renewable energy getting increases in funding. With all the problems associated with biofuels at the moment, I can hardly think that the government’s plan is in our best interest.
Info from Reuters