The U.S. House of Representatives has reversed course and has now decided to fund the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) five “energy innovation hubs” in fiscal year 2018, which begins 1 October. The House appropriations committee had zeroed out funding for the hubs in the House version of the so-called energy and water bill, which funds DOE. But last night the full House passed a package of amendments to the bill, which the House has now rolled together with three other spending bills into a so-called minibus spending bill. One of the amendments, submitted by Representative Mark Takano (D–CA), restores the hubs, each of which is currently funded at $25 million per year or less.
The White House called for terminating the hubs in its 2018 budget proposal. However, Senate appropriators have balked at that and many other proposed cuts to DOE’s research programs: They have called for full funding of the hubs in the Senate version of the energy and water bill.
The energy innovation hubs are the brainchild of Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who served as Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013. They include:
- the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena;
- the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, headquartered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee;
- the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois;
- the Critical Materials Institute at Ames Laboratory in Iowa; and
- a yet-to-be sited hub on low-energy desalination of sea water, which received its first funds this year.
Chu envisioned the…