US House Would Take Hacksaw to Energy Efficiency Budget

If the US House of Representatives gets its way, 2018 funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency will get cut by 45% while it would preserve the allocations given to fossil fuel energy research. It would be a $9 billion energy budget, which would still need approval from the US Senate.

The move is yet another indication that the Republican Congress is shifting away from the trends set by the Obama administration and closer to those of the Trump administration, which would cut the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 68%.

But the House deviated from Trump’s proposed budget for the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development by keeping it intact; Trump would slice it by 55% — odd because the president has said he wants to promote this country’s fossil fuels. Proponents of coal and natural gas note that together they currently make up about 70% of this country’s electric generation portfolio while globally, it is more than that.

We now know after (six) months of the Trump administration, no one person, not even a president, can stop the climate movement,” former Vice President Al Gore said at a news conference, as referenced in Reuters

“The courts have blocked parts of what President Trump has attempted and the Congress has refused to act on other parts of his agenda. The American people are determined to continue making progress and will do so,” he added.

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. 

But the Democrats do not control either chamber. In the House, they failed to maintain funding for clean energy and advanced technologies. The House bill, for example, cut the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s budget by nearly half: from $2.1 billion to $1.12 billion. Meantime, it would eliminate funding for the Advanced Research Programs Agency—Energy.

Those types of cuts, though, will have a harder time in the US Senate. That’s because some Republican senators want to see wind and solar projects continue where they live because they are creating jobs. At the same time, the Democrats could filibuster any draconian cuts and force compromise.

All this is on top of the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Agency more than 31% in the 2018 budget. The White House rationalizes that the cuts would reduce the regulatory burden, allowing businesses to expand and to invest in modern pollution controls. For example, Trump’s budget would get rid of 50 programs at the EPA and most notably its climate change initiatives.

If the 2017 budget is any indication, it will be a tough sell. 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.

Local environmental officials worry that they will end up carrying the burden of proposed cuts for environmental regulation. They would be less able to protect the environment and public health.

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