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The US' Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Climate and Clean Energy Programme analyst Arjun Krishaswami told a House of Congress oversight panel on Wednesday that the Department of Energy (DOE) is flouting the will of Congress by delaying clean energy R&D.

He urged Congress to act quickly to prevent "such ideologically driven efforts that thwart action to combat climate change, according to a release from the environmental non-profit organisation".

In testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittees on Investigations and Oversight, and Energy, Krishnaswami said there have been management and spending anomalies at two DOE offices that President Trump has tried to gut every year through his proposed budgets: the Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  

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Krishnaswami specifically cited the DOE offices’ repeated delays in issuing grants for research and development, cancellation of a $46 million federal funding opportunity for solar research and development, and cuts to staff even though Congress continues to strongly reject the president's proposed spending cuts (and outright elimination in the case of ARPA-E) and instead, increase the budgets of the research and development offices.  

“When considered in the context of the administration’s explicit agenda to squash EERE and ARPA-E, the mismanagement of these programs is doubly concerning and merits strong oversight, clear directive appropriations language, and updated authorisations to ensure that the programmes continue to operate in a way that advances clean energy solutions and brings greater benefits to the American people,” he said.

“Moreover, when DOE delays or fails to distribute funds, the agency is flouting Congressional intent.”

He said Congress should update its mandate to DOE through authorising legislation to modernise the mission of the agency to explicitly include addressing climate change and recalibrate the goals and priorities for each technology office in light of the current challenges and opportunities.

“Any reauthorization must also significantly increase funding for clean energy research and development and create new programs for demonstration and deployment in order to match the scale of the climate crisis,” he said. “With significantly more money in DOE’s budget, it will be even more important to put in place structures and procedures to make sure the agency is spending funds on time, following congressional direction, and maintaining enough staff to spend money shrewdly.”

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