Wednesday, February 16, 2011

McClintock Amendments Threaten Biological and Environmental Research program in the DOE

Funding for the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program in the DOE Office of Science is in serious jeopardy if the recently proposed McClintock Amendments (#304 and #305) to H.R. 1, proposed by House Republicans on February 11, come to pass. H.R. 1 cuts the DOE Office of Science funding by $886 million from its FY10 funding level and caps funding for the BER program at $302 million (roughly half of the $604 million appropriated for BER in FY10). Therefore, about $302 million of the $886 million cut from FY10 funding levels for the Office of Science must come from BER. This will half the BER budget, crippling the program having an undoubted effect on the research BER supports related to bioenergy and bio-based chemicals, the bioremediation of contaminated soil and water, and research to improve our understanding of the climate system.

The BER’s mission is to advance world-class biological and environmental research programs and scientific user facilities to support DOE’s energy, environment, and basic research missions. According to its priorities, the BER program supports research to develop biofuels, understand relationships between climate change and Earth’s ecosystems, assess options for carbon sequestration, predict fate and transport of subsurface contaminants, and develop tools to explore the interface of biological and physical sciences.

Specifically, the McClintock Amendments will eliminate:

- Approximately $184 million in university-based fundamental research and technology development on genome-based systems biology involving plant and microbial systems for bioenergy, carbon cycling, and environmental biogeochemistry as well as basic climate research in the areas of cloud and aerosol science, climate modeling, and soil and terrestrial ecosystem science.

- Basic research concerning the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels by terminating DOE’s 3 Bioenergy Research Centers (BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) at Oak Ridge National Lab, the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the Great Lakes BioEnergy Research Center (GLBRC) at the University of Wisconsin).

- The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, displacing over 700 users from 35 states and around the world who research molecular science as a part of DOE environmental remediation and energy research programs.

- Unique scientific instrumentation at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) research facility, ending operation of three fixed and two mobile sties that collect invaluable climate change science data on atmospheric radiation that is shared with over 1300 researchers globally working to better our understanding of the climate system.

- The Joint Genome Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (operated in partnership with ORNL, PPPL, LLNL, and LANL). This institute is the sole facility in the world committed to non-health related genomic sequencing for energy and other research disciplines, whose 2000 users characterize organisms in the areas of bioenergy, global carbon cycling, and biogeochemistry, and has generated extraordinary DNA sequence data (in FY10 alone, over five trillion nucleotides).