Nuclear, Fossil Fuels Have Dominated Federal Energy R&D Spending

Nuclear energy has been the recipient of almost half of the federal government's energy research and development spending since 1948, according to a new assessment from the Congressional Research Service.
Fossil fuels come in second at half that amount—24 percent. The little more than a quarter of federal spending that remains has been divided between renewables, energy efficiency and electric systems like the grid.
"From FY1948 through FY1977, the majority of federal government support for energy R&D focused on fossil energy and nuclear power technologies," writes energy-policy analyst Corrie E. Clark in a report that was released to members of Congress on June 18. Retired specialist Fred Sissine also contributed to the report.
That early funding included the Atoms for Peace effort to harness nuclear technologies for peaceful uses, and the post-war effort to harness fossil and nuclear energies for economic growth.
In 1977, energy R&D programs were consolidated under the new Department of Energy, and the energy crisis prompted the government to begin investing in renewables and energy efficiency, the report states.
Under DOE, electric systems also enjoyed modest funding. CRS considers electric systems, including energy storage and electricity delivery. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act infused the agency with $13 billion and directed the largest share to electric systems.
In total, the U.S. government has spent just over $229 billion (in 2016 dollars) on energy R&D, with:
$109.59 billion going to nuclear
$54.96 billion to fossil fuels
$29.35 to renewables
$25.14 to energy efficiency, and
$10.31 to electric systems.
The Department of Defense and other agencies have expended some energy R&D funding not covered in the CRS report, but the authors note it occurred "on a much smaller scale."

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