The agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which has helped nudge down the cost of solar power, faces a 69 percent cut. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program that funds research into long-shot energy technologies, like algae biofuels or advanced batteries, would face elimination. And, despite Mr. Trump’s stated desire to promote “clean coal,” the Office of Fossil Energy, which invests in techniques to scrub carbon dioxide from coal plants and bury it underground, faces an 85 percent cut to its carbon-capture efforts.
Even if members of Congress, who have indicated they will resist many of these changes, shield the agency from cuts, observers worry about the broader effects of an administration skeptical of federal energy research. Political appointees can still thwart approval of new programs internally — and already appear to be doing so. Uncertainty over funding could disrupt plans for research at the national labs. Many career staff members are now contemplating leaving, raising fears of a talent drain.
“Companies need a degree of certainty from the agency,” said Jeff Navin, a former acting chief of staff at the Energy Department. “The worry is that if someone has a game-changing technology and is looking to the government to help them commercialize it, maybe Europe or China starts to look more attractive.”