ENVIRONMENT
01/31/2018 08:16 pm ET

Proposed Energy Dept. Budget Would Take A Hatchet To Clean Energy Programs: Report

“Now is not the time to slash funding for this promising research," a Democratic senator said.

The Trump administration may ask Congress to slash renewable energy and efficiency programs at the Department of Energy by more than 70 percent in the next fiscal year, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposal, while unlikely to be enacted, would be the White House’s latest assault on the clean energy industry and once again illustrates President Donald Trump’s fondness for fossil fuels rather than wind and solar.

The draft includes recommendations to cut the budget for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, or EERE, from $2.04 billion this fiscal year to $575.5 million in 2019, a reduction of 72 percent. The Post, citing people familiar with the proposal, said the Office of Management and Budget insisted on those heavy cuts despite objections from the Energy Department.

HuffPost has reached out to the White House and Energy Department for comment.

As the Post notes, even if Trump submits the draft budget, Congress will likely restore agency funding. The White House asked to similarly slash the budget last year, but the request was ignored.

The EERE is tasked with leading many of the federal government’s efforts to support clean energy projects, including programs to modernize the power grid and expand the usage of LED lights. The agency says the $12 billion it’s invested in such programs have yielded more than $230 billion in economic benefit to the U.S. economy.

Wednesday’s report sparked an immediate backlash from environmental groups and lawmakers.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, called investment in solar energy “one of the biggest job-creators over the past decade” and denounced the proposal.

“Investment in these critical technologies are driving down energy costs to businesses and consumers,” she said in a statement. “Now is not the time to slash funding for this promising research.”

Bob Keefe, executive director of the green group E2, said the move amounted to an organized effort to cut “innovation and competitiveness in America’s fastest-growing jobs sector.”

“Tuesday night President Trump failed to even mention a single clean energy industry,” Keefe said in a statement, referencing the president’s State of the Union address this week. “Now he is not just ignoring clean energy, it is looking like he wants to wipe out its future.”

Last week, the White House imposed steep tariffs on solar panel imports, which analysts predict will cause the prices of solar energy to surge and prompt a hiring freeze within the industry. Prices of solar panels have fallen dramatically in recent years, thanks in large part to cheap, imported panels, and the industry has grown 17 times faster than the U.S. economy. The industry also created 1 in 50 new jobs across the country in 2016.

For full details of the draft budget, head to The Washington Post.

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