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Bush administration proposes increase for wind energy research budget

Wind energy research funding received a slight increase in President George W. Bush's proposed fiscal year 2009 budget. Out of a $3.1 trillion national budget, the proposal for wind is $52.5 million, 6% higher than the $49.3 million for the current fiscal year. Much of the focus of the R&D program is to lower the cost of wind energy through improvements in turbine efficiency and to deal with barriers to integrating wind into the transmission system, both areas where the American Wind Energy Association's Jaime Steve believes there is a great need for investment. The increase is welcome, but "not enough, of course," says Steve. He points out, however, that some renewables are slated for cuts. The solar R&D program was reduced 7% to $156 million, while water power research suffered a 70% cut. In contrast, geothermal's budget is increased by a whopping 51% to $30 million and biomass R&D got 13.5% more to bring its proposed budget to $225 million. Altogether, the entire budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs is reduced by 27%. At the same time, the Department of Energy's fossil energy program gets an increase of $223 million, or 24%. It includes $648 million for research into clean coal technology and demonstration of carbon capture and storage, the largest amount requested for coal research in more than 25 years. The nuclear program received a 37% increase to $1.4 billion, but that includes security and weapons programs as well as energy. Steve says he is not discouraged by the emphasis on coal and nuclear. "It is the White House budget. Those are their priorities, but this will all be hashed out on Capitol Hill," he says. "The thing to keep in mind is that the budget of a Republican administration in its last year is of less importance than it used to be."

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