Congress is giving verbal support for energy research, and a recent House of Representatives bill adds a token $50 million in funding for one research agency. But at a time when we need better energy technology more than ever, the funding is much too small–a tenth of what Obama asked for.
The government should be investing in energy research aggressively. Obama, with his proposed multi-billion dollar increases for renewable energy research has the right idea, although this could go further (more research into cleaner hydrofracking technology for natural gas, for example, would likely prove a wise investment). Cheap, clean energy that doesn’t come from oppressive dictators and enemies of the United States should have strong bipartisan support.
Today’s technology simply isn’t good enough to end, or even substantially reduce, the need to send hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country to buy oil. We need cheaper batteries for hybrids and electric cars and radically improved engines. If we don’t want electric vehicles to increase pollution from coal plants, we need cheaper sources of clean electricity. Some of the necessary research can be done by companies who will profit from it. But much of it is too risky for companies to justify to investors, and the benefits will be felt widely by taxpayers, so it makes sense for the government to spend money on it.
Not spending the money now will hurt later, as we continue to depend on imported oil that will only get more expensive as demand continues to grow abroad.