Undercutting an argument made by the Bush administration, a study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has found that federal research and development efforts to improve energy conservation and efficiency have produced big environmental and economic gains. The academy released a report yesterday detailing how a $13 billion federal investment since 1978 has returned $40 billion. About three-quarters of the economic benefits came from three programs that led to more efficient refrigerator and freezer compressors, fluorescent light ballasts, and heat-resistant window glass; the programs together cost only $11 million. The Bush administration has argued that such R&D doesn’t get much bang for the buck, and its proposed fiscal year 2002 budget would cut spending in energy conservation and efficiency.