In the quest to find spending reductions in the federal budget, it is appropriate to place all programs on the table. It is equally appropriate to spare those items that are essential investments in the countrys future, as well as important economic drivers today. There is no shortage of such items, hence the current budgeting impasse under way in Washington, D.C., but targeting research into renewable energy as an item ripe for cutting is the wrong place to start.
That, however, is just what nine Republican lawmakers, including Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, did when they urged a House subcommittee to end funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. The request was made in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who targeted NREL for failing to live up to its potential. But McClintock and his co-signers did not stop there. The group based its bid for funding withdrawal on a need to, not follow the presidents poor planning in increasing the funding for these anti-energy boondoggles.
The NREL is the action arm of the U.S. push to innovate in renewable energy technology, as well as energy efficiency means. The facility is a research and development megaplex that takes the concept of moving beyond a petroleum-based energy economy and transforms it into pragmatics. Since 1977, the facility has been busily generating new techonology in the solar, wind, biofuels and other renewable energy resources, as well as researching efficiency measures. It is dedicated to both the science of renewable energy, and the mechanics of helping bring that technology to markets. The work that the lab does is nothing short of essential to keeping the United States at the head of the push to develop new energy sources, and an effort to eliminate its funding is a bold statement for the status quo or worse. Sending the letter was a mistake; Lamborns signature on it was even more disappointing.
In addition to serving a crucial role in keeping the United States at the forefront of innovation in an area that has global implications, NREL is a significant economic driver for Colorado. The lab and its projects generates upwards of 5,000 jobs and pumps more $710 million into the states economy each year. That is the present payoff. The future, though, holds far greater riches if we continue to invest in the effort. The level of investment is certainly worth discussing in 2009 the lab received $521 million but an outright elimination of funding is the wrong move.
It is not likely to be successful, but it is worth taking note of the statements implications. It is difficult to take seriously some lawmakers commitments to crafting an all of the above energy policy when some of the above is being billed as anti-energy. As ludicrous as that label is, it reveals much about the true energy agenda of those who sent the letter. The country cannot afford to be so short-sighted.