But President Obama vows to "end the tyranny of oil in our time." To that end, the recently-passed stimulus package:
contains about $40 billion in funding for [energy] research and capital improvements.And the Department of Energy has promised to expedite "dispersal of direct loans, loan guarantees and funding contained in the new recovery legislation . . . [for] investments that will put Americans back to work, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment."
That's a staggering amount. The Energy Department's entire budget is just $25 billion, most of which goes to maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up former weapons plants.
Its total research budget now is about $3 billion. The stimulus bill provides about $2 billion just for research on advanced vehicle batteries.
One problem--according to the Chicago Tribune's Jim Tankersley, alternative energy won't work without fundamental technological breakthroughs:
[O]ver the last three decades, the U.S. has spent many times that much on energy research and development -- with nothing like a transistor to show for it. . .The Washington Post hailed the stimulus bill as government's "chance to prove it can work." Certainly not in the short term. And who knew big government was hanging on a "rewrite [of] the second law of thermodynamics"?
A recent Energy Department task force report details the sort of breakthroughs crucial to fulfilling Obama's vision of a "clean energy economy" that could slash dependence on foreign oil, combat climate change and ignite the next great domestic job boom.
The wish list includes cells that convert sunlight to electricity with double or triple the efficiency of today's solar panels; batteries that store 10 times more energy than current models; a process for capturing and storing the carbon dioxide emissions from coal; and advanced materials that allow coal and nuclear power plants to operate at hotter temperatures and higher efficiency.
Researchers are working on all of them. But what's required is more than incremental advances in technology. It is advances in understanding basic physics and chemistry that are "beyond our present reach," the report said.
(via The Corner)