A new funding program for American-Israeli joint energy research was created under a bill signed into law by US President George W. Bush on Wednesday. As part of a larger energy package, the grant program will provide opportunities for joint research and development projects involving renewable and alternative energy and energy efficiency. Originally envisioned as providing $20 million a year in grants, the legislation ended up passing without a funding target. Backers of the bill hope that means that even more money will be provided in 2009, the first year the grants would be available. The law also requires greater fuel efficiency in automobiles and promotes ethanol production, as part of a host of steps the White House said would promote energy independence and conservation. "The broad goal of the legislation is to reduce US dependence on imported oil, and this is one element that does that," said American Jewish Congress (AJC) Executive Director Neil Goldstein of the grant program, which his organization pushed for. He said he hoped as much as $30m. would be allocated for the grants next year. Matthew Horn and Jack Halpern, respectively the national policy director and chair of the energy independence task force for the AJC, stressed the importance of these measures to the national security interests of the US and Israel as they aim to reduce the amount of oil profits that end up in the hands of their Middle Eastern adversaries. Halpern also pointed to the practical and psychological boost this program would give to Israeli researchers. He noted European boycott efforts to exclude Israelis from the academic sphere and said, "This is an opportunity [to build] much stronger ties between Israeli and American academics." The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the legislation and its potential benefits for technological breakthroughs and enhanced US-Israel cooperation. Bush should also be presented soon with a massive budget bill, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. The measure, already approved by the House, did not alter across-the-board cuts to foreign aid, which will reduce the $2.4 billion in military aid to Israel by 0.81 percent. The Senate bill also leaves unchanged the House-approved funding for the Palestinians, which falls well-short of the amount requested by the administration. The Senate did, however, increase funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes it more likely that the budget will receive the presidential okay. The House was expected to approve the funding increase later Wednesday, clearing the way for it to be brought to Bush.