Home / World News / White House seeks 72 percent cut to clean energy analysis, underscoring administration’s preference for fossil fuels – The Denver Post

White House seeks 72 percent cut to clean energy analysis, underscoring administration’s preference for fossil fuels – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Many of the sharp cuts would likely be restored by Congress, but President Donald Trump’s budget, due out in February, will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities.

The document underscores the administration’s continued focus on the exploitation of fossil fuel resources – or, as Trump put it in his State of the Union address, “beautiful clean coal” – over newer renewable technologies seen as a central solution to the problem of climate change.

The Energy Department had asked the White House formore modest spending reductions to the renewable and efficiency programs, but people familiar with the process, who asked for anonymity to share unfinished budget information, said that the Office of Management and Budget had insisted on the deeper cuts.

The cuts would also be deeper than those the Trump administration sought for the current fiscal year but was unable to implement because of the budget impasse in Congress. The federal government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions that have maintained existing spending. The current continuing resolution expires Feb. 8.

Spending for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is set at $2.04 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Last year, the administration asked for just $636.1 million, a decline of more than two-thirds, although Congress did not implement the request. For 2019, the administration’s draft proposal would lower that request even further, to $575.5 million.

The document also suggests substantial staff cuts, down from 680 in the enacted 2017 budget to 450 in 2019.

“It shows that we’ve made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped,” said one EERE employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal budget information.

The Energy Department did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. The White House said in a statement: “We don’t comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the official budget.”

It is unclear whether the document represents a final budget proposal or will besubject to last-minute negotiation and revision.

One source familiar with the negotiating process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe what the person had learned, said that the budget request had been lowered after negotiations with the Office of Management and Budget, and may have been lowered further because of a desire to channel more funding toward nuclear energy, a favored subject for Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The funding requests represent a double whammy for renewable energy after the administration last week imposed tariffs on imported solar panels.

The tariff action e is likely to decrease the installation volumes of solar energy in coming years, according to industry analysts.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is perhaps best known for the solar “SunShot” program, which strives to drive down the price of solar energy.

The large bulk of its funding is deployed on research, most frequently at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Co. The vast majority of the laboratory’s $293 million budget in 2017 came from EERE.

But it is far from clear that the cuts would become a reality.

“The president suggests a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., an influential appropriator on energy issues, said in a statement.

The draft document says the administration will once again ask Congress to abolish the weatherization program, which has trained thousands of workers and helped reduce utility bills for thousands of homeowners.The budget proposal would also eliminate state energy grants. The budget would ax research in fuel efficient vehicles by 82 percent, bioenergy technologies by 82 percent, advanced manufacturing by 75 percent and solar energy technology by 78 percent.

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