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bill Progress


  • EnactedSeptember 28th, 2018
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The senate Passed July 23rd, 2018
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • The house Passed January 24th, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
    IntroducedJanuary 20th, 2017

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What is it?

This bill — the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act — would combines seven previously-passed science bills to reauthorize the Dept. of Energy (DOE) as a whole and provide policy direction to the department on basic science research, research coordination and review of existing programs, and important reforms to streamline national laboratory management. A breakdown of its major provisions can be found below:

Laboratory Modernization & Technology Transfer

This part of the bill would provide flexibility to modernize the national laboratory system, promote the transfer of federal research to the private sector, and improve public-private partnerships to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace. It’d authorize a pilot program for agreements to facilitate cooperative research between the national labs and third-party entities, and prioritize activities to improve access for private companies and universities to lab resources.

DOE Research Coordination

This part of the bill would implement the DOE research coordination provisions from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. It’d instruct the DOE to use existing capabilities to identify strategic opportunities for collaborative research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of innovative science and technologies.

It’d also reauthorize the Strategic Portfolio Review, which would instruct DOE to review all activities to ensure they meet DOE’s core mission of discovery science. This review would also identifies areas of subpar performance or duplicative programs, as well as work that could be better accomplished by the states and private sector. Finally, this part of the bill would provide for the protection for proprietary information collected by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and authorize a program to manage and establish accountability for energy innovation hubs.

DOE Office of Science Policy

This part of the bill would provide statutory direction for the basic research programs in the DOE Office of Science, including research in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, high performance computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy. Similar direction for DOE basic research was included in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015.

This part of the bill would also specifically authorize the DOE to undertake a basic research initiative in chemistry and material sciences for the purpose of eventually developing solar fuel systems and advancing electricity storage systems. It also would direct the DOE to leverage existing resources in the DOE Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and provide guidance regarding how to execute the basic research initiative.

This section of the bill would also amend the DOE High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to require the DOE to develop technologies in an effort to demonstrate an exascale supercomputer system.

This part of the bill would also require the Director of the DOE’s Office of Science to carry out a research program on low-dose radiation, with the purpose of enhancing the scientific understanding of low-dose radiation and reducing uncertainties associated with human exposure to low-dose radiation.  

Impact

Scientific research; universities; private sector science research; national labs; and the DOE.

Cost

$83.00 Million
The CBO estimates that implementing this bill would cost $83 million over the 2019-2023 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has called his legislation essential for efforts to “advance basic research and set clear science priorities for the DOE”. Smith said that the Office of Science’s six basic research programs, which include the basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, advanced scientific computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy, are “the core mission of [DOE] and lead to scientific discovery that can provide benefits across the economy.”

Writing about this legislation in the Washington Times, Rep. Smith added:

“The DOE Research and Innovation Act, approved by the Science Committee and passed by the House earlier this year, prioritizes basic and fundamental energy research at DOE. This legislation empowers private-sector innovators to partner with DOE to develop first-of-its-kind, groundbreaking energy technology. It is my hope that as we look at the future of DOE, we will prioritize basic energy research and development that only the federal government has the resources to pursue. This, in turn, will help the private sector build on basic research discoveries, commercialize innovative energy technology and create jobs. Throughout American history, we have cultivated innovative energy technologies that have unlocked new possibilities. Today, the energy industry is incorporating more innovation than ever before. It is groundbreaking technology — not government regulations — that will protect the environment, lower energy costs for consumers and ensure that America remains a world energy and technology leader. By prioritizing basic research and letting technology lead the way, the American people will benefit in many ways for years to come.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) underscored the value of DOE’s basic research programs to the U.S.’s international competitiveness and economic future, calling the 10 national labs the Office of Science oversees the “crown jewels of our national research infrastructure.

In June 2013, the Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation produced a report supporting policy changes to update the National Labs. They wrote:

“While the pace of innovation and the complexity of national challenges have accelerated, the labs have not kept stride. Although private-sector innovation will remain the cornerstone of economic growth, lab scientists and engineers do important work that can be of significant future use to private enterprise.”

This legislation promotes a number of programs that President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal targeted for dramatic reductions, including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and ARPA-E. In the administration’s budget proposal for FY 2018, which started October 1, 2017, the Trump administration called for a 70% cut to sustainable transportation and renewable energy research, an 80% cut to energy efficiency research, and a 17% cut to the Office of Science.

However, at the ARPA-E Annual Summit on March 14, 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry hailed ARPA-E innovation as “impressive” and “one of the reasons DOE is having a profound impact on American lives.” The following day, at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water budget hearing, Secretary Peery indicated that he would follow ‘the will of the committee” with respect to appropriations.

This legislation passed the House of Representatives, with the support of 20 cosponsors, including 12 Republicans and eight Democrats. It then passed the Senate with an amendment by a voice vote.

The original House version of this bill included a fourth section which would have directed the DOE to increase support for nuclear energy research. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced an amendment to strike that section, and it passed the Senate by unanimous consent.


Of Note: The DOE conducts over $9 billion in basic science and applied energy research. The DOE Office of Science partners with national labs and universities to conduct research in the physical sciences. DOE is the largest federal contributor to basic research in the physical sciences, and over 30,000 researchers conduct research in the major science facilities at the national labs each year.

DOE’s national laboratory complex provides the facilities and expertise to conduct R&D development for military and civilian applications of nuclear energy. However, the U.S. regulatory system, managed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is unable to process licenses in a timely manner which suppresses private investment and technology development.

The ARPA-E program’s future has been a source of political debate for over a year. In two straight budget requests, the Trump administration has proposed terminating the agency, which supports risky but potentially transformative R&D, while supporters have rallied to protect it. In the FY 2018 spending bill, House appropriators agreed to zero out ARPA-E’s budget, purportedly at the Science Committee’s request. Ultimately, strong bipartisan support in the Senate led to ARPA-E receiving $353 million — the largest annual appropriation in ARPA-E’s history. Now, the previous pockets of congressional support for terminating the agency seem have disappeared. In their FY 2019 spending legislation, House appropriators joined their Senate colleagues in recommending robust funding for ARPA–E.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vm)

AKA

Department of Energy Office of Science Policy Act'.

Official Title

To establish Department of Energy policy for science and energy research and development programs, and reform National Laboratory management and technology transfer programs, and for other purposes.

    For those wanting the full text, go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/589. I'm an environmental scientist with research expertise in a few of the areas covered by this bill. I've read the whole legislation, and it appears to simply be authorization to DOE to enact a very balanced research and infrastructure agenda that includes explicit support for initiatives in solar energy and climate change (carbon capture and storage) among other things.
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    Is there a way to read the whole bill on the app? This description is quite vague.
    Like (130)
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    This bill stands to discredit climate change science and the overall world consensus to switch to cleaner energies. The fossil fuel industry is dirty in every sense of the term, down to the greed that drives it. A ten-year old could deduce that oil spills have killed millions of animals and polluted the oceans, that coal burning and refining pollutes the air and water. Fracking causes man-made earthquakes and pollutants from the fracking process have already contaminated water sources. Fossil fuels will not be able to sustain the future populations without dire consequences that threaten our most basic needs for life on Earth to survive. This is true, no matter how Big Oil spins it. It is a travesty that we are not harnessing the power of the sun and our garbage for solar and thermal power. Shame on any politician who thinks otherwise. Corporate lobbying for this continued obsession is a sickness upon the civil liberties of not just American citizens, but of all that share the lands and oceans of this planet.
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    Don't let them destroy our planet with the fossil fuel industry! Tell Putin to shove his $500 Billion worth of oil up his Russian butt along with our new Secretary of State.
    Like (33)
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    Sec 206 under Title II is where I believe the other commenters are referring to. This bill seeks to implement "innovative" technology research which, by the bill's definition, "innovative" also includes domestic expansion on production of coal, oil or gas. That is where I disagree on the bill fundamentally.
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    No summary available for this bill, so I googled it. It's confusing. So I looked up the bill's author (R-TX) I believe his stance on climate change tells me more than enough to make a reasonably informed decision. On that note, don't weigh in based solely on a bill's title. Get more information - a good clue is to find out who introduced the bill. For instance, the "Polar bear conservation and fairness act" and the "African elephant conservation and legal ivory possession act" by Don Young (R-AK) are not about protecting either species. They are about supporting trophy hunting.
    Like (15)
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    Climate change is real! Our planet doesn't have 4 years to "see what happens" WAKE UP!
    Like (10)
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    Science based climate policies, please.
    Like (8)
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    Yes.
    Like (6)
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    Now, more than ever, we must stand up for science in public policy. This bill would be a terrible step backwards.
    Like (6)
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    We need our policy-making to be based on real science. As long as no one is trying to buy (or bury) specific results, there should be ample funding for research
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    If we don't protect the earth we all die. It's as simple as that.
    Like (6)
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    If you are going to make a decision of whether you are for or against this bill, please read the actual bill. I read it over and I see nothing about denying climate change. There are actually sections of this bill that call for accelerated research on clean energy resources. It seems everything is okay right now.
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    Climate change is real and human caused! We cannot waste anymore time squabbling over this when the planet is in turmoil. We already have global warming caused earthquakes, droughts, and hurricanes. We need decisive action on climate change!
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    It's above freezing in Chicago right now. In January. It's been this way all month. Climate change is real. Anybody who denies it denies all of us the safety and protection of our home, planet Earth, for generations to come.
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    This bill threatens to unwind years of progress on renewable energy.
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    Climate change is real, we must not discourage scientific investigation for possible solutions.
    Like (4)
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    Science is real. All the oil and gas money in the world won't change that.
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    Congress should spend it's time proactively dealing with the real effects of climate change, not reinforcing the status quo, which has clearly got us nowhere with regards to dependence on fossil fuel and other issues related to climate change.
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    Climate change is real. If we continue to use fossil fuels and halt research on renewable energy, we are only speeding up this process. Please look at the trends for weather just in the US this year.
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