NASA expertise being put to use to help the oil and gas industry

Earlier this year I blogged about the Obama administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2012. Among other things, the President proposed that Congress eliminate federal funding for oil and gas research at the Department of Energy that simply helps promote fossil fuel production. The administration said that the oil and gas industry has the incentive and resources to undertake this work without taxpayer subsidies.

NRDC agrees with this proposal. Research should focus on the technologies we need for clean energy--energy efficiency and renewable energy. If there is to be federal funding for oil and gas technologies, it should be for better understanding environmental impacts and developing new technologies to prevent and minimize pollution.

I recently read that NASA is now working to help Chevron search for and produce oil and gas. The information available from NASA does not specify whether the research is being paid for by Chevron, taxpayers, or some other source, but it says the work will "help Chevron develop its energy resources."

Chevron's profits in the first quarter of 2011 were $6.2 billion. I am strongly in favor of government supporting important research where the private sector has left a void and where there is a public benefit, such as improving the environmental performance of oil and gas operations but, as we said in February, it's time to close the cash drawer that's been open to the oil and gas industry.

Update on July 28: I spoke to someone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab who said that agreements will be worked out whereby Chevron would be funding the work. We'll be monitoring the project to see how it proceeds.

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