Administration Seeking Half-Trillion Dollar ‘Investment’ in ‘Transformative Research,’ White House Memo Says

By Fred Lucas | October 19, 2011 | 12:25 PM EDT

President Obama is given a tour of the Solyndra plant by executive vice-president Ben Bierman, right, and CEO Chris Gronet in May 2010. (AP Photo)

( – The Obama administration, as a long-term goal, sought to spend three percent of the economy – or about $450 billion – on research and development of “transformational solutions to Nation’s challenges,” and it planned to prioritize spending on “solar energy, next-generation biofuels, and sustainable green buildings and building retrofit technologies.”

A July 21, 2010 White House memo by John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), and then Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag said the three percent of Gross Domestic Product would be from public and private investment for research and development.

Currently, the administration is under fire for a $535 million loan to the solar panel firm Solyndra, a company that President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu touted as the future of America’s economic growth.

In September, the company filed for bankruptcy and is now under investigation by the FBI and by Congress. The July 2010 memo makes no mention of Solyndra or any other company, only broad reference to green energy spending.

The memo, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by, is directed to the heads of all executive branch departments and agencies about budgeting priorities.

It calls for making global warming a key priority in budgeting. Federal departments and agencies are also expected to target priorities at “understanding, adapting to and mitigating the impacts of global climate change,” the memo said. This section of the memo also states that the administration should “Prioritize research for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Support, within coordinated interagency investments in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an integrated and continuing National Climate Assessment of climate change science, impacts, vulnerabilities, and response strategies, including mitigation and adaptation,” the memo continues.

The memo states the administration’s long-term goal of more money for green transformative technology.

“The President has a long-term goal that R&D [research and development] investments (both private and federal) in the United States should reach three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” the Holdren-Orszag memo states. “In order to understand the status of the federal share of this goal, agencies are expected to work in close collaboration with OMB and OSTP to accurately classify and report R&D investment activities.”

The current Gross Domestic Product is $15.01 trillion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Activity, of which three percent would be $450.3 billion. That would be more than the recent $447 billion jobs bill that Obama proposed and about half the cost of the $862 billion recovery act passed in February 2009.

While that three percent is supposed to come from “both private and federal” money, one of the administration’s stated goals in the half-billion dollar Solyndra loan was to leverage private funds.

“Agencies should pursue transformational solutions to the Nation’s practical challenges, and budget submission should therefore explain how agencies will support long-term, visionary thinkers proposing high-risk, high-return (or ‘potentially transformative’) research,” the July 2010 memo says.

The memo asserts that executive departments and agencies were expected to, “Prioritize investments in the research and development of clean energy technologies especially solar energy, next generation biofuels, and sustainable green buildings and building retrofit technologies.”

The memo further orders agencies and departments to “Prioritize R&D on advanced vehicle technologies particularly modeling and simulation of lightweight materials and their manufacturing process, batteries, and hybrid power trains; and systems integration and demonstrations of advanced vehicle platforms.”

The memo was sent just days before Orszag’s announced departure from the administration on July 31, 2010.

The controversial Holdren has remained with the administration.

In December 2009, Holdren told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, that scientists are concerned about ‘tipping points’ that could alter the earth.

“Climate scientists worry about ‘tipping points’ in the climate system, including ecosystems, meaning thresholds beyond which a small additional increase in average temperature or some associated climate variable results in major changes to the affected system,” Holdren told the House panel.

“Examples of tipping points of eventual concern include the complete disappearance of Arctic sea ice in the summer, leading to drastic changes in ocean circulation and climate patterns across the whole Northern Hemisphere,” he added. (See Earlier Story)

Holdren co-authored a 1973 book with Paul Ehrlich titled, “Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions,” that proposed to “de-develop the United States.”

“De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation,” Holdren and Ehrlich wrote. “Resources must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries.”

Holdren told in September 2010 that de-development could be done through the free market. (See Earlier Story)