Letter to the President

November 4, 1997

President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am pleased to transmit on behalf of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) the final report Federal Energy Research and Developmentfor the Challenges of the 21st Century. This report, approved by PCAST, is in response to your January 14, 1997, letter to John Young requesting a review of the current national energy R&D portfolio. The report expands on the Executive Summary which we delivered to you on September 30, 1997, presenting a definitive strategy on how to ensure that the United States has a program that addresses its energy and environmental needs for the next century.

PCAST endorses the report's findings that this country's economic prosperity, environmental quality, national security, and world leadership in science and technology all require improving our energy technologies, and that an enhanced national R&D effort is needed to provide these improvements. The inadequacy of current energy R&D is especially acute in relation to the challenge of responding responsibly and cost-effectively to the risk of global climatic change from society's greenhouse gas emissions, in particular, carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels.

PCAST recommends focusing the government's energy R&D on projects where high potential payoffs for society as a whole justify bigger R&D investments than industry would be likely to make on the basis of expected private returns and where modest government investments can effectively complement, leverage, or catalyze work in the private sector.

The report recommends an increase, over a five-year period, of $1 billion in the Department of Energy's annual budget for applied energy-technology R&D. The largest shares of such an increase would go to R&D in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, but nuclear fusion and fission would also receive increases. The composition of the R&D supported on advanced fossil-fuel technologies would change in favor of longer-term opportunities, including fuel cells and carbon-sequestration technologies, but the overall spending level for fossil-fuel technologies would stay roughly constant in real terms.

The proposed total for FY 2003 would return the DOE's real level of effort in applied energy-technology R&D in that year to about where it was in FY 1991 and FY 1992. In constant dollars, the average real growth rate would be 8.3 percent per year.

PCAST respectfully urges that you increase your efforts to communicate clearly to the public the importance of energy and energy R&D to the nation's future, and PCAST recommends that you clearly designate the Secretary of Energy as the national leader and coordinator for developing and carrying out the national energy strategy.

The report also makes recommendations for improving the Department of Energy's management of its energy R&D portfolio, including the naming of a single individual with responsibility for the whole portfolio and reporting directly to the Secretary.

PCAST hopes that the recommendations presented in the report will be helpful to you as you consider how the United States can best face major energy related challenges as it enters the 21st century. Of particular importance, prudence requires having in place an adequate energy R&D effort designed to expand the array of technological options to enable significant reductions in greenhouse gases at the lowest possible economic, environmental, and social cost.

The energy R&D portfolio PCAST proposes will be of crucial importance in meeting that challenge. Many of the energy-technologies that will help with the problem of climate change, moreover, will also help address other energy-related challenges, including reducing dependence on imported oil, diversifying the U.S. domestic fuel- and electricity-supply systems, expanding U.S. exports of energy technologies, reducing air and water pollution, and reducing the cost, safety and security risks of nuclear energy systems around the world.


John H. Gibbons
President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology
cc: Vice President Al Gore

Federal Energy R&D for the Challenges of the 21st Century

Energy Research and Development Panel

Letter to the President

President's Committee on Science & Technology

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