Clean Energy Stakeholders Need to Keep Lawmakers Honest on Budget

There’s something unfortunately familiar about the fiscal 2019 budget proposal released by the White House this week: It bears the same draconian cuts to clean energy programs the Trump administration sought last year.

The proposal makes even clearer the Trump administration’s growing focus on fossil energy, like coal, gas and oil, and ever diminishing support for clean energy technologies. His proposal would slash or eliminate programs and services that benefit rural America, including those that promote the production of clean energy from our farms, ranches and forestlands.

Last year, Congress rejected nearly all of the reductions the White House sought in spending on renewable energy like wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower. But that small victory came only after the Senate had to turn back House budget proposals nearly as harsh as those that came from the White House.

Congressional leaders offered either faint praise or outright condemnation of this week’s White House budget proposal. They remind any who ask that, ultimately, it is lawmakers who craft and adopt the annual spending plan, asserting that the suggested cuts will not survive.

But given the chaotic ebbs and flows that have dominated much of the legislative process in Washington over the last several years, stakeholders would do well to continually remind lawmakers that the short-sighted spending cuts sought by the Trump administration would close down critical research and development efforts, and would delay the nation’s inevitable transition to a clean energy future.

Under the White House proposal, overall DOE spending would get a slight bump up over the next fiscal year starting Oct 1, climbing to $30.6 billion from this year’s $30.1 billion. But the new money would go to spending on the nation’s nuclear arsenal, which makes up about half of the DOE budget, and to fossil energy research and development.

As the White House proposal did last year, the 2018 budget blueprint is targeting DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), calling for a cut of some two-thirds of the EERE’s current budget, from nearly $2 billion down to just under $700 million. Such a cut would debilitate the agency’s mission to help support the development of clean, renewable and efficient energy technologies for America, and supporting a global clean energy economy.

The White House wants to kill the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program because of what it says is an overlap of the agency’s ongoing research and development with that being undertaken in the private sector. The administration’s justification runs contrary to ARPA-E’s statutory obligation to focus on high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early and too risky for private-sector investment. Last year, Congress not only rejected the administration’s call to kill ARPA-E, it added $15 million to its budget.

The White House would also eliminate DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO), which was created by Congress in 2005 to help American innovative energy and advanced auto manufacturing projects gain access to financing to help bring new technologies to commercial deployment. The LPO manages a portfolio comprising more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees and conditional commitments covering more than 30 projects, and securing more than $50 billion in total project investment.

Under the heading of “Duplicative, Ineffective or Lower Priority Programs,” the 2018 White House budget for USDA would eliminate all funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which has supported more than 15,000 energy-saving and clean energy-producing projects in rural areas across the country since 2012, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which supports U.S. cellulosic biofuel production.

The severity of these kinds of cuts makes it critical to repeat: Even though members of Congress have said the president’s proposal is just that – a suggested line of spending – 25x’25 calls on partners and renewable energy stakeholders to keep congressional budget writers honest and reject the Trump energy funding plan and any semblance of it. Instead, call on them to develop a fiscal 2018 budget that supports clean energy efforts that help shore up our small towns and farming communities. As always, we stand ready to work with lawmakers to develop a spending plan for the next fiscal year that enables the full potential of clean energy solutions from rural America to be realized.

 

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