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Obama’s 2014 Science Budget Proposal Revitalizes STEM Education, Reduces Environmental Conservation

The President's plan for next year would give a boost to infrastructure, manufacturing and education in exchange for land conservation and environmental cleanup efforts
President Obama's budget proposal reflects some of the goals he outlined in his 2013 State of the Union address, including an overhaul of the way science and math are taught in American schools



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Among the winners in Pres. Barack Obama’s 2014 federal budget: the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Education and National Science Foundation (NSF). The losers include agribusiness and the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama’s plan, announced April 11, is less a vision for a progressive science agenda than a reflection of political reality—specifically, the fact that he still must work with a conservative Congress. The budget gives a boost to science education and research, long-standing administration priorities. In a nod to fiscal conservatives it trims administrative costs and slashes subsidies for agribusiness. On the matter of fossil fuels, however, it largely maintains the status quo, preserving funding for drilling and fracking. Here’s a quick list of winners, losers and how the new White House budget would affect them.

The winners:

The Department of Education: Prioritizes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning by creating a STEM Master Teaching Corps, an advisory group, as well as gives science research institutions a direct role in influencing curricula in K–12 schools and funneling young people to careers in those subjects. The $71-billion plan includes $7.6 billion for collaboration among the NSF, the Smithsonian Institution and schools from the K–12 through graduate levels.

Infrastructure: Centralizes specialized technical networks like electric power, transportation and water management into a unified $750-million cyber infrastructure system, enabling engineers to identify and address problems in the network instantaneously, and without disrupting other systems.

Manufacturing: Begins transitioning the U.S. to a “new manufacturing economy” that would consist of a $1-billion network of interconnected manufacturing hubs. Hubs would link universities, high-tech manufacturers, service providers and tech start-ups.

The Fossil-Fuel Industry: Sets aside $421 million for carbon-capture-and-storage development in fossil-fuel technologies, an increase of nearly twice last year’s amount.

The U.S. Geological Survey: Dedicates $80 million for renewable energy research and development, including solar and wind projects, and $20 million for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial drilling practice by which natural gas is extracted by shattering thick layers of underground shale with highly pressurized fluid. The allocation for fracking is a nearly 50 percent increase from last year.

The losers:

The Department of Agriculture: Slashes $38 million from Agriculture by eliminating subsidies for corn, soy, wheat and dairy—long considered an industry crutch to maintain consistently rising profit margins—as well as direct payments, allowances introduced with the intent of weaning farmers off traditional subsidies. The cut includes an $800-million reduction in farm bill conservation programs that encourage environmentally sound farming practices.

The Environmental Protection Agency: Cuts $3.7 billion from the EPA’s operating budget, a decrease of nearly 5 percent, and slashes state funds for clean water—reducing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a loan-assistance program for water quality improvement projects, by $1.2 billion. Superfund and brownfield cleanup programs will also be cut, losing $33 million.

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