Report of Yergin Task Force on DOE's Energy R&D Programs

Share This

Publication date: 
27 June 1995

" research and development (R&D) remains vitally important
for the future of our Nation and...private-sector investments...are
no substitute for a continued, significant role by the Federal
     --Task Force on Strategic Energy Research and Development

With the Department of Energy under the threat of elimination by
some House Republicans, both supporters and foes have awaited the
results of reviews examining various DOE functions.  The most
recent report, on the Department's energy R&D programs, was
transmitted to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board on June 13.
Entitled "Energy R&D: Shaping our Nation's Future in a Competitive
World," the three-volume document is informally known as the Yergin
Report for Task Force chairman Daniel Yergin.  Like the Galvin
Report on the national laboratories that was released in February,
the Yergin report primarily reaffirms DOE's role in the area it
examined, while suggesting that some money could be saved by
management improvements.

The report, which runs nearly 500 pages, begins by looking at the
global context for energy R&D investment: the predominance of
economic competition in the post-Cold War era, the declining
investment in long-term R&D by private industry, and the importance
of energy to national security.  Stating that "innovation and
technological creativity cannot be summoned into service on short
notice," the Task Force calls on the federal government to ensure
continuity in energy research.  It suggests that the government
should invest in research that is in the public interest but that
the market will not perform because of its long-term, high-risk,
precompetitive nature.

While concurring with DOE's critics that the big energy
demonstration projects of the 1970s were too ambitious, the report
claims that DOE's energy R&D programs have improved steadily over
the past two decades.  DOE now uses more peer-review, has a more
diverse portfolio, includes academia and industry in the early
planning stages, leverages its funding with partnerships, and uses
outside reviews of performance.  Annex 3 to the report lists a
number of market successes nurtured by DOE investment. 

While recognizing the need to cut budgets, the report points out
that the federal investment in energy R&D has declined by 75
percent over the past 17 years.  Although finding that "further
reductions are possible," the Task Force states that "deep cuts
in...R&D support would damage our Nation's R&D prospects."  The
report recommends that DOE set a target of cutting costs by 15
percent over the next year by reforming management and
administration of the energy research programs.

The Task Force provides the following additional recommendations
for DOE: that it adopt, as far as possible, business practices for
procurement, contracting, financial control, and benchmarking;
develop an integrated strategic plan for a balanced portfolio of
energy R&D; establish a single position with responsibility for the
portfolio; reactivate a standing energy R&D advisory board; explore
a two-year budget cycle; and consider alternative methods of
financing R&D, such as user fees and royalty payments.

A copy of the three-volume report can be obtained by contacting DOE
Public Affairs at 202-586-5575.

Explore FYI topics: