The Trump administration released its proposed 2019 budget on Monday. The energy portion focuses on an “all-of-the-above” strategy and proposes cuts to several clean energy programs.
Under the blueprint, the Department of Energy would see a slight bump in funding to $30.6 billion over the current $30.1 billion, but that extra cash would go to administration priorities such as modernizing the nuclear arsenal and fossil energy research and development. Other programs, like the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), would receive far less than current funding levels.
According to numbers released by DOE, energy and related programs would receive $2.5 billion under the proposed 2019 budget, a drop of $1.9 billion from the 2017 budget. EERE receives $696 million, a cut of $1.3 billion below the 2017 budget. A program to increase electrification on tribal lands would lose out on $6 million. Greentech Media is confirming that the numbers released by DOE take into account the budget addendum from the White House added after Congress passed budget legislation and will update this story as necessary.
Energy Star would be converted to a fee-based program under Trump's plan, where companies pay to use the label. The administration proposed eliminating ARPA-E altogether.
The EPA's 2019 budget would see a 34 percent cut from 2017 -- to $5.4 billion -- and would reduce spending at the National Science Foundation by 30 percent. The cuts are even deeper than those Trump sought last year when he requested a 31 percent cut to EPA's $8.2 billion budget and an 11 percent cut to NSF's $7.5 billion budget.
State and local clean air agencies would see a $75 million funding reduction, falling 34 percent to $152 million.
While slashing clean energy and environmental programs, the White House's $4.4 trillion budget would increase the deficit by more than $7 trillion over time -- contrary to traditional Republican views on balancing the budget.
At the same time, the Trump administration released a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that aims to streamline permitting and revitalize the country’s aging infrastructure.
Clean energy and environmental advocates met both the budget and the infrastructure plan with sharp criticism, saying they did not adequately consider climate change and the changing tides of the energy industry.
“Trump’s 2019 budget and infrastructure proposal continue this administration’s dangerous trend of prioritizing corporate polluters over safeguards for our environment and public health," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. "This year Trump once again recommends gutting the agencies that protect our clean air, water, lands and wildlife, while adding an extreme rollback of our bedrock environmental laws disguised as an infrastructure plan."
The Sierra Club said that cuts to the EPA budget would undermine "lifesaving" programs, including the Climate Change Research and Partnership Programs, the Indoor Air and Radon Programs, and the Marine Pollution and National Estuary Programs.
“Congress must act to protect the critical programs Trump wants to cut by unequivocally rejecting this rigged budget," said Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune, in a statement. "Any member of Congress that backs Draconian cuts like these is failing to represent the American people, and may find they need to start updating their resume very soon.”
A leaked version of the president's budget circulated earlier this month, revealing deep cuts to DOE clean energy programs. David Hart, senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a science and tech policy think tank, said at the time that the proposed cuts "would represent an enormous lost opportunity for job creation, productivity and economic growth" if enacted.
Hart isn't alone in equating budget cuts to job loss. Grant Carlisle, advocacy director at Environmental Entrepreneurs, said the budget puts "businesses and millions of clean energy workers at risk."
"This budget is cutting costs by refusing to invest in the future," said Carlisle. “America can’t lead in clean energy or vehicle technologies if it ignores the fastest growing energy sources and punishes businesses developing them. U.S. companies can’t invest in new technologies if we don’t fund the research that takes them from demonstration to commercialization."
According to Hart, funding reductions to EERE would be particularly damaging for energy storage, which is widely viewed as a vital technology for modernizing the electricity system. He said the DOE's national laboratories and clean energy manufacturing institutes would also be negatively affected.
Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, noted that Trump's latest budget would not kill ENERGY STAR, as he proposed doing last year. But the plan would eliminate help for low-income families and seniors from the Weatherization Assistance Program and help for states and emergency preparedness from the State Energy Program, according to Ungar. It would also end TIGER grants, which support transportation infrastructure investments, and cut the Federal Energy Management Program.
"If adopted, the budget would attack programs that accomplish the administration’s own goals: creating jobs, driving economic growth, and ending wasteful spending," Ungar wrote in a blog post.
The president's proposed budget has virtually no chance of being enacted as written. Ultimately, it will be up to Congress to decide what government spending looks like -- including on infrastructure. The budget deal President Trump signed into law last week included support for a variety of “orphan” renewable technologies as well as the nuclear industry, meaning the industry can continue to benefit from those credits. And last year, lawmakers sidestepped many of the drastic cuts asked for by the Trump administration.
The 2019 budget is significant in its depiction of the Trump administration’s priorities. In that sense, Trump’s unfriendly treatment of clean energy programs is status quo.