The congressional supercommittee failed to come up with a budget for the United States, so dramatic cuts will hit every sector — including government-funded science, which has already taken a budget hit two years in a row. Congress has said not to worry because when government money for endeavors like space exploration and environmental science are cut, private companies will step up to fund them.
Unfortunately, one of the main sources of private funding for environmental science just dropped out of the game. Google, which just completed a three-year "green energy" initiative that included massive investments in alternative energy development, has announced that it's getting out of clean energy. According to a report on MSNBC:
Google said that it believed other institutions were better positioned to take its renewable energy efforts "to the next level."
Unfortunately those other institutions, like the Department of Energy labs devoted to developing biofuels, are facing steep cuts in 2013 when the depleted budget kicks in.
Google's announcement is just one more data point that suggests private industry can't be relied on to pick up the slack when government stops investing in science.