Basic science is the foundation of innovation and involves “theoretical or experimental investigative research to advance knowledge without a specifically known or immediately practical application. It is the quest for new knowledge and the exploration of the unknown.”1 Such studies fuel the future of research and development (R&D), demonstration, and deployment of new energy technologies. Promotion of early stage exploration activities can unlock the discovery of new materials and processes, contributing to breakthroughs in various industries, including the capture of energy from renewable resources.
The U.S. Department of Energy has long been a sponsor of research to strengthen U.S. competitiveness in innovative energy technologies. In recent years, however, the agency has faced increased competition for funding. Since the mid-1990s, energy investments have accounted for only 1 percent of the government’s R&D budget. By comparison, defense has received almost half of federal research monies nearly every year, and health has consumed 20 to 25 percent.2 If the U.S. is to maintain its leadership role in the clean energy arena, enhanced federal investment in the sector is critical.
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- International Council for Science, “The Value of Basic Scientific Research,” December 2004, http://www.icsu.org/publications/icsu-position-statements/value-scientific-research.
- J.J. Dooley, “U.S. Federal Investments in Energy R&D: 1961-2008,” U.S. Department of Energy, http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2009/08/federal-investment-in-energy-rd-2008.pdf.