250 General Science, Space & Technology:Eliminate the Biological and Environmental Research Program

Savings in Millions of Dollars
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022
  • 2023
  • 2024
  • 2025
  • 2016-2020
  • 2016-2025


Savings are expressed as budget authority and were calculated by using the FY 2014 enacted spending levels as found on page 164 of House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 2nd Session, “Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, 2015.” The FY 2014 enacted spending was increased at the same rate as discretionary spending for 2016–2025, according to CBO’s most recent August 2014 baseline spending projections.


Technical Notes on Scoring

CBO Baseline

Unless otherwise noted, calculations for savings for each recommendation relies on the most recent Congressional Budget Office baseline, as found in “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024,” published August 27, 2014, has been used.

Savings “Totals”

While totals for the five and 10 year savings are provided by section and for the complete set of recommendations, there are two reasons they should not be viewed as representing total savings for The Budget Book.

First, as noted in the introduction, The Heritage Foundation would recommend that the savings realized in the Function 050 Defense section would stay within the Department of Defense to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

Second, the numbers cannot be deemed to represent the realized savings if every single recommendation were adopted because policy changes made in one program can impact spending levels in other programs.  Thus, the numbers in the table do not reflect any potential interactions between the various policy changes affecting spending or savings.


Heritage Recommendation:

Eliminate the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program. This proposal saves $619 million in 2016, and $6.6 billion over 10 years.


There’s a hidden green stimulus, but it can be ended by cutting BER

The BER program funds research for a variety of energy-related subjects including biology, radiochemistry, climate science, and subsurface biogeochemistry. At a basic research and development level, the funding for some of the research endeavors is valid, but climate change should not be one of them, because it is not part of the DOE’s mission. Furthermore, the BER program also supports such activities as how plants and microbes “can be manipulated to harness their processes and products that contribute to new strategies for producing new biofuels, cleaning up legacy waste, and sequestering carbon dioxide.” (( Department of Energy, “Fiscal Year 2012 Congressional Budget Request: Science,” February 2011, p. 10, 
(accessed December 15, 2014).))

The entrepreneur who can make a biofuel product that is cost-competitive with oil does not need government funding. The need to capture and sequester CO2 is questionable because the policy goal of reducing carbon dioxide itself is questionable. Even so, carbon capture and sequestration is a technological hurdle that the private sector should overcome without the government’s help. Many BER programs should be cut drastically or entirely because they are private-sector activities, duplicative of other research, or do not align with the DOE’s mission. Cuts should be made to the:

  • The Climate and Environmental Science program
  • Biological Systems Facilities and Infrastructure program
  • Bioenergy Research Centers program
  • The Foundational Genomics Research program
  • The Genomics Analysis and Validation program
  • The Metabolic Synthesis and Conversion program
  • The Computational Biosciences program
There’s a hidden green stimulus, but it can be ended by cutting BER

Contributing Expert

Nicolas (Nick) Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

See publications by Nicolas Loris

Nicolas (Nick) LorisHerbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow

Heritage Experts

Jack Spencer oversees Heritage Foundation research on a wide range of domestic economic issues as director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. Those topics include federal spending, taxes, energy and environment, regulation and retirement savings.

See publications by Jack Spencer

Jack SpencerVice President for the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Katie Tubb is a Research Associate and Coordinator in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

See publications by Katie Tubb

Katie TubbResearch Associate and Coordinator

Additional Reading