Investment in climate science and clean energy technologies made it to the top of President Joe Biden’s priorities in his budget plan for fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1. Basic scientific research, environmental justice, and agricultural innovation also got big nods.
The proposal, released March 9, has little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But it serves as a starting point for a deeply divided Congress to negotiate spending priorities and cuts over the next several months.
Biden’s plan allocates $25 billion, an increase of about $6.5 billion from 2023, for activities authorized by the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act. That legislation aims to boost the global competitiveness of US research by allowing major increases in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Of the $25 billion, the NSF would get $11.3 billion, an increase of 19% compared with 2023. The DOE’s Office of Science would get $8.8 billion, an increase of 9%. About $5 billion of the $25 billion would support climate science and clean energy innovation. Some of the money would also support research in artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, microelectronics, and isotope production.
NIST would receive about $1 billion for CHIPS and Science Act activities. It would also get $375 million to support advanced manufacturing and $277 million to support public-private manufacturing partnerships.
In addition to those three agencies authorized to get money under the CHIPS and Science Act, the Environmental Protection Agency is also a big winner in Biden’s proposal. The agency would get $12 billion, an increase of 19% from 2023. Of that money, $1.8 billion would support communities most impacted by pollution and climate change. In addition, $219 million would go to remediate lead contamination in water, $170 million to curb pollution from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, $130 million to ensure the safety of chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and $64 million to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, which are potent greenhouse gases.
Funding for innovative medical treatments and early detection of disease also gets a boost under the budget proposal. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) would get $2.5 billion, an increase of $1.0 billion, for such efforts. ARPA-H is separate from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH would see its budget increase to $48.9 billion, a modest 3% gain compared with 2023. The proposal dedicates $1.7 billion across the Department of Health and Human Services for activities related to the cancer moonshot, an effort to reduce cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years.
Biden’s plan also invests heavily in agricultural research, noting that China has surpassed the US and the European Union in funding agricultural R&D. The proposal would provide the Department of Agriculture with more than $4 billion, an increase of $299 million compared with 2023, for agricultural research, education, and outreach. The money includes $612 million for climate-related R&D and $370 million to support “historically underrepresented populations”, according to the budget plan..
Republicans are likely to oppose most of the proposed increases. The US is quickly approaching the limit on how much the Treasury Department can borrow, a source of contention in this year’s budget battle. Congress increased the debt ceiling three times under the administration of Donald J. Trump, and it is likely to do so again this summer. But first, Republicans want an agreement to reduce the $31 trillion debt.
Biden’s proposal would increase government spending by $2 trillion over 10 years. But it would offset those costs and reduce the deficit by $2.9 trillion over the decade by increasing taxes on the wealthy and large corporations. Republicans are pushing for cuts to healthcare and domestic programs instead of new taxes.
Environmental groups welcome the president’s proposal and urge Congress to follow through with the request. “To more than halve climate pollution by the end of this decade and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to seize every available opportunity to build a zero-carbon electric grid, accelerate technology innovation, spark private investment, and win the global race to lead the clean energy economy,” Nathaniel Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, says in a statement.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), which represents the public university community, also applauds the President’s proposal for boosting investment in research. “With global competition continuing to grow, particularly in the scientific arena, it’s critical that Congress back proposed research investments in the CHIPS and Science Act with real dollars that drive American innovation,” APLU president Mark Becker says in a statement.