Senate Rejects Obama’s Energy Education Program

July 30, 2009 | Breakthrough Fellow,

By Yael Borofsky, Breakthrough Fellow

Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3183) appropriating $34.3 billion in energy spending for FY2010. The bill supports Barack Obama's campaign promise to shut down Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility and funds numerous water initiatives set-forth by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Notably absent, however, is any funding for RE-ENERGYSE (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge), Obama's proposed initiative to close the energy education gap by preparing young Americans to compete in the race for clean energy. From Obama's initial proposal of $115 million, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees rejected the program by cutting funding to $7 million and $0, respectively. The bill that passed through the Senate, by an 85-9 vote, contained no mention of the forward-thinking and much-needed education program.

By rejecting RE-ENERGYSE, Congress has ignored this critical component of President Obama's call for global competitiveness in clean energy technology. This decision is especially disappointing in light of the expression of "strong" opposition to defunding RE-ENERGYSE" voiced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the day before the Senate bill passed.

Recent advocacy initiated by the Breakthrough Institute in support of RE-ENERGYSE, however, is reason to believe that there is still a future for this crucial education program. The signatures of over 100 universities, youth and student groups and other organizations on a letter to Congress urging the full funding of RE-ENERGYSE, demonstrate the widespread and growing constituency committed to training America's youth for leadership in the growing clean energy economy.

In an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, Breakthrough's Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins advocated for an aggressive commitment to bolstering energy education and innovation funding in order to bring a new generation into the clean energy workforce. Neglecting this obligation, they cautioned, could cause America to fall far behind its Asian competitors in the gathering clean-energy race.

Despite the disappointing lack of foresight displayed by Congress' rejection of Obama's RE-ENERGYSE program, the Breakthrough Institute will continue to lead advocacy efforts to garner support for this critical clean-energy initiative. If you are interested in supporting these ongoing efforts, contact Jesse Jenkins, Breakthrough Institute Director of Energy and Climate Policy at jesse[at]thebreakthrough[dot]org.