The Trump administration's latest budget proposal would radically reduce new spending on federal programs for advancing clean energy.
One of the deepest cuts would slash funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) by 87 percent—from $2.3 billion last year to $343 million in new spending next year.
The EERE cuts appear less extensive at first glance because the administration's fiscal year 2020 plan, released Monday, counts some past funding that has been delayed. But even with the rolled over funds, the total of $696 million for the office would cripple support for novel and promising technologies for advanced wind turbines, high-tech materials, green buildings and more.
The White House also proposes eliminating tax credits for electric vehicles and an array of other incentives for reducing carbon emissions. And it makes a third attempt to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, an incubator for cutting-edge energy research and development.
These programs proposed for the chopping block have long enjoyed broad support in Congress and the cuts seem unlikely to be adopted, especially now that the House is led by a Democratic majority. Even under the Republicans, lawmakers rebuffed Trump's two previous proposals to slash this part of the energy budget.
But the new budget proposal shows that the Trump administration is doubling down on its resolve to retreat from a federal role in advancing a clean energy economy and maintaining global leadership in the technology.
EPA Would Be Cut 31%, Deficit Would Rise
Energy and the environment would take a far larger hit than other non-military spending. Across-the-board, non-military discretionary spending would be cut 5 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency would get a 31 percent cut, to $6.1 billion, and the Department of Energy's budget would be cut 11 percent, to $31.7 billion.
The White House, meanwhile, is proposing a 12 percent increase for the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development, to $562 million. The office administers the Energy Department's research into carbon capture and other technologies to advance use of fossil fuel. There is also more money for nuclear power.
In the context of a $4.75 trillion federal budget, the EERE office is a small line item. But studies have shown that it has been effective in its mission. The Energy Department website boasts that $12 billion in investments by EERE has translated into $230 billion in net economic benefit to the United States—an annual return on investment of more than 20 percent.
A senior administration official who gave a background briefing to reporters said the budget includes "more reduction in spending than any president in history has ever proposed."
It also would result in a projected budget deficit of about $1.1 trillion, thanks largely to the 2017 enacted tax cuts. The Trump administration maintains that over the long term the tax cuts will stimulate growth and increased revenue. The deficit is "a real problem that is not a result of our economic policies," the administration official said. "We don't think the tax cuts are going to lead to anything but economic growth over 10 years."
The full details of the budget, justifying the White House's proposals program by program, have not yet been published. But some elements were released in a series of fact sheets, summaries and briefings.
Budget Proposal 'Ignores the Climate Crisis'
Democrats reacted dismissively to the budget draft.
Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida who chairs a newly created climate committee in the House, said it "ignores the climate crisis."
In a statement, she said that "the climate crisis must be addressed through virtually all areas of American life, and as a result, virtually all areas of the President's budget should address this."
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, wrote on Twitter: "You know what, Mr. President, keep your budget. We'll take it from here."