In his inauguration speech, Trump promised that every decision "will be made to benefit American workers and American families."
In energy, the reality is very different.
Since the president took office, the Trump administration has attempted to systematically dismantle nearly every energy program with direct benefits to American consumers, from efficiency standards to weatherization programs for low-income families. (This doesn't include the billions in cuts to advanced energy programs designed to make America an energy technology leader.)
This could have wide-reaching economic consequences. A tally of top programs on the chopping block, such as Energy Star and appliance standards, shows that consumers will lose out on hundreds of billions of dollars in cost savings under Trump administration proposals.
Energy Star is a certification program for energy-efficient appliances, materials, homes and buildings. Since its inception in 1992, the government says the Energy Star program has saved a whopping $430 billion on consumer utility bills. The program returns much more than it spends, with an annual budget around $50 million.
Trump’s budget would eliminate the voluntary program entirely. The proposal solicited blowback from companies, environmental organizations, and lawmakers alike who pointed to the low-hanging economic benefits.
“Whether or not you care about greenhouse gas emissions, this is a great program that people love,” Lowell Ungar, a senior policy adviser at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy told the Washington Post after the skinny budget’s release.
Appliance energy-efficiency rules
The Obama administration finalized rules for several high-energy appliances, including air compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, portable air conditioners, commercial packaged boilers, and uninterruptible power supplies, before handing off the reins. Since taking office, the Trump administration has avoided making the rules official by not publishing them in the Federal Register. That delay has prompted lawsuits from 11 states, including California and New York.
In total, the net present value of consumer cost savings from these efficiency measures comes in at a minimum of $8.6 billion. That doesn’t include the positives associated with decreased carbon dioxide emissions, which equal a minimum of $1.95 billion in pure economic benefits. Together, the programs would cost industry about $1 billion to implement.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The Trump administration proposed a complete elimination of the LIHEAP program, which offers $3.4 billion to 6 million U.S. households that need assistance paying their energy bills. Funds go to all 50 states, D.C., 150 tribes and tribal organizations, and five U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico.
Though the direct economic benefits of the program are difficult to measure, a 2014 study found that eliminating the program would cause more than a 17 percent drop in low-income "energy secure" households. Without adequate heat or air conditioning, economically vulnerable people are more likely to experience health problems, impacting their ability to work.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards
In March, Trump used a trip to Detroit to announce that his administration would undertake a review of Obama-mandated fuel efficiency standards. Under the Obama rules, which were announced as final just days before the inauguration, new cars and light trucks would have to meet standards of 36 miles per gallon in 2018. The program would cost the automotive industry between $34 billion and $38 billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The savings for consumers would be significant. According to the Consumer’s Union, customers would see a complete return in three years on the increased price for vehicles adhering to 2017-2025 standards. Net benefits to consumers in saved fuel costs sit between $326 billion and $451 billion. That sum increases if gas prices exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s assumption of $3.87 per gallon by 2025.
Weatherization Assistance Program
Trump’s budget entirely cuts the government’s weatherization program. The 2016 budget, which amounts to $215 million, provides weatherization for over 35,000 homes and supports 8,500 jobs. According to the Department of Energy, the program brings yearly economic benefits of $1.2 billion.
State Energy Program
Department of Energy money allocated to the State Energy Program offers financial and technical support to states investing in efficiency and renewable projects. For every dollar invested by the federal government the program saves $4.50 in reduced energy bill costs. That adds up to a lifetime energy cost savings of $95 million. Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the $50 million program.