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Government shutdown crimps US energy innovation

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Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

(Read caption) The sun rises behind the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, amid a continuing government shutdown.

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As of 12 o’clock midnight on the 30th September 2013, the US federal government has officially shutdown due to Congress’s failure to pass a new budget for the coming fiscal year. Since 2012 the government has been running on a Continue Resolution, an extension of the previous budget, but this time a new decision was needed; and it wasn’t made.

Most people will concentrate on the political implications that this shutdown will lead to, but the fact is that it’s directly impacting on America’s overall capacity to drive global energy innovation. The short-term lack of a federal government means that many of the nation’s top energy innovation institutions and laboratories must scale down their operations, or be completely shutdown.

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Basically, the longer this continues, the less the US will be able to carry out cutting edge research, and produce next generation energy technologies. Given time this will threaten the country’s ability to remain internationally competitive and its progress to a low-carbon economy. (Related article: Only Energy Isolation Equates to Energy Security

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As a result of the shutdown:

•    The Interior Department has had to halt all permits and permit reviews for onshore and offshore oil and gas leases.
•    The Bureau of Land Management has stopped developing rules for hydraulic fracturing operations on federal lands.
•    The Environmental Protection Agency has had to halt its work on the recently announced regulations for controlling the greenhouse gas emissions for coal power plants.
•    The Department of Energy has had to cut-back on its review of LNG export applications, and may even have to stop altogether.
•    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has stopped approving new offshore wind permits.
•    The ARPA-E program, responsible for some of the greatest breakthroughs in clean energy technology, has been completely shutdown.
•    Research at NIST and NOAA, such as climate and weather research, nano-science, and energy science have all been put on hold.
•    And possibly the biggest threat, is that the Patent and Trademark Office may have to be closed after another month, preventing innovation of all kind.

Many believe that the current shutdown will only be short-term and that the impacts will be minor, but the truth is that the federal government is vital to energy innovation and this shutdown is already causing lots of damage.

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