White House Expected to Propose Slashing Funds for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

by | Feb 5, 2018

During President Trump’s State of the Union, he had said the war on American energy production was over — that regulations would be lifted bit-by-bit to allow companies to compete in the market. His sentiments were directed toward coal, oil and gas. But news has leaked that he now plans to propose cutting energy efficiency and renewable energy programs at the Department of Energy by 72%.

Today, and every day, more than three million Americans go to work in the fast-growing clean energy sector. They’re helping us become more efficient so we do more with less waste; building electric, hybrid, and other high-mileage cars; and getting clean, home-grown power from the wind and sun. Compare that with the total of 340,000 who work to produce oil and gas, to mine coal, and to manufacture fuels and other products from coal, gas, and oil,” writes Elizabeth Heyd for the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Right now, the budget for the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy divisions is $2 billion. The president said his administration only needs $575 million for fiscal year 2019. The Washington Post, which broke story on Friday, said that the administration sought a budget of $636 million for the fiscal year 2018.

The administration, of course, did not get such cuts. In fact, the budgets remained relatively close to what it had been in previous years. The implication here is that something similar will happen again, although it could be that the White House is starting off on the high-end of its aspirations and hoping to settle somewhere in the middle. It is also possible that the administration could amend its proposed budget.

The White said it would not comment on leaked documents.

Those offices conduct research important to industry — on things like improving renewable energy technologies and energy efficiencies, and improving fuel efficiency in vehicles and developing alternative sources of transportation. Such research is often necessary because private enterprises can’t afford to allocate that capital and that any leaps in technology happen because of the seed money the federal government has invested. Once technologies advance to the point they are ready to be marketed, the public sector steps back.

To this end, the Washington Post is reporting that there would be 82% cuts in fuel efficient vehicles and bioenergy technologies. And there would be a 78% cut in solar energy research while research and development funds for other sustainable sources would also be slashed. Further, it would cut funds at weatherizing homes and businesses to reduce fuel cost.

The move is in stark contrast to that of the Obama administration, which had put its emphasis on the New Energy Economy, which included renewable energies as well as shale gas that is abundant and that is cleaner than coal. When President Obama was elected he got a budget passed that plowed $1 trillion into that effort — one that he said would lift the nation out of a deep recession.

The Obama stimulus may have triggered an expansion in renewables. But it has been new regulations that have choked off coal production, along with cheap natural gas.

As such, there’s been a clamp down on all types of pollutants, like mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide, which most climate scientists say traps heat in the atmosphere. Coal, in fact, is responsible for a third of all man-made carbon emissions while it releases more pollutants than competing electric generation fuel options.

“Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy,” Obama had said. “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.”

The previous administration sought to reduce CO2 emissions by 32% by 2030. These are efforts that the Trump administration is trying to abandon. And the budget proposal is a reflection of that.

“(A)nyone who questions this Administration’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy approach simply look at our record,” Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told the Washington Post. “(T)hough it may not fit into the narrative of the environmental lobby and their pundits, the truth is that Secretary Perry believes that there is a role for all fuels—including renewables–in our energy mix.”

All this is in the context of solar tariffs just imposed on all solar panel imports. What that does is to increase their cost, which in effect makes American produced panels more competitive in the global market. But what is also does is to jack up the price and reduce the incentive for businesses to install them.

For 2018, the president sought to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 31%, all to help reduce the regulatory burden. Congress did not go along, ultimately cutting that budget by just 1%. He sought smaller cuts to the Energy Department, around 6%.

Congress is the body that must pass the appropriations bills, which are then incorporated into budgets, generally. And lawmakers across the isle are concerned about cuts to such things as Superfund that cleans up despoiled areas in their districts where factories have come and gone. Many lawmakers also have renewable energy projects in their districts and states. 

Once the budget is officially announced, the interest groups will start to weigh in. Business ranging from Microsoft and Intel Corp. to DuPont and General Mills are leading the charge and are favoring clean air and clean waters rules, specifically those global efforts to curb CO2. Their position is that investments in the clean energy economy not only improve the ecology but also create newfound business opportunities. Moreover, it is what their customers want. 


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