Bush Administration FY07 Budget?Highlights and Lowlights

By: Union of Concerned Scientists

President George W. Bush recently released his comprehensive budget request for fiscal year 2007 (FY07). The FY07 request takes advantage of the budget deficit to cut a number of important environmental programs including several initiatives that would actually save taxpayers money. While there are a few positive developments, overall the budget fails to provide America with the means to build a cleaner, more secure future.

While the administration’s budget for solar energy resources, biomass research, hybrid technology and cleaner school buses address some of the nation’s energy and transportation requirements, the budget fails to provide the long-term solutions America needs. The Bush administration’s budget also contains a number of anti-environmental requests. A backdoor attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and funding cuts for agricultural programs and endangered species are just a few examples.

Also included in the budget request is funding to begin a costly and dangerous program to reprocess nuclear fuel from power reactors. This program would make it easier for terrorists to acquire the material needed to build a nuclear weapon. President Bush has also announced funding increases for federal research and development and math/science education under the American Competitiveness Initiative. UCS is concerned about the lack of emphasis the president has placed on the importance of independent science and we are currently analyzing the effect this will have on the health of U.S. science programs. Without a healthy respect for the scientific process and scientific integrity, the benefits of increased funding will be significantly limited.

The president’s proposed budget now goes to the House and Senate where legislation will be passed to authorize the funding of various programs. UCS and our activists will work to oppose cuts to many of these programs and will support policies for a cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world.

Clean Energy and Climate

Renewable Energy

Although the proposed budget boosts funding for solar power by 77 percent to $148 million and doubles biomass research programs to $150 million, research and development funding for geothermal and hydropower has been eliminated. The FY07 budget request for research and development for wind?the fastest growing energy source in the country?is $44 million. This is a $930,000 (2 percent) cut from last year’s request.

The 2007 budget also proposes cutting almost two-thirds of the $23 million designated for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the 2002 Farm Bill (HR 2646, Sec.9006). This cut would be harmful to farmers, ranchers, and small rural businesses. These people rely upon grant and loan programs to support energy efficiency improvements and the purchase of renewable energy systems including wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy sources. At a time when America’s rural communities are facing economic challenges, funding renewable energy and energy efficiency projects would help establish an additional income source for landowners, create jobs, and lower energy costs for rural consumers. The Bush administration also attempted to slash this program in the 2005 and 2006 budget proposals. In both cases, UCS worked with coalition partners to successfully restore full funding during the congressional appropriations process. We will push for full funding of the program again this year.

Energy Efficiency

The cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to reduce our reliance on foreign and polluting energy sources is to increase energy efficiency. The administration’s FY07 budget, however, proposes an appalling decrease of $78 million (13 percent) in funding for federal energy efficiency programs. These programs not only reduce pollution, but also save consumers and businesses money. The proposed budget decreases funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program by $85 million (27 percent). Any cut to this program, which enables low and limited income residents to weatherize their homes, is unwise in this time of high energy prices. The weatherization program pays for itself by reducing winter heating bills by an average of 31 percent, or $274 per year. This money could be used to purchase food, medicine and other essentials. According to the National Community Action Foundation, 28,650 low-income families would be denied weatherization services in 2007 as a result of the proposed cut.

The budget proposal would also provide the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) two million dollars less than last year’s version (a 12 percent decrease). This program reduces energy use in federal buildings through energy efficiency. The cut to this program is puzzling because it helped cut federal building energy waste by 24 percent from 1985-2001?a reduction that now saves federal taxpayers roughly one billion dollars each year in reduced energy costs. At a time of rising budget deficits, the administration should not decrease support for a program that helps save taxpayers money.

Climate Change

In addition, the Bush administration has reduced support for several important climate change research programs. The proposed budget provides $1.7 billion for the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which coordinates federal research on climate change across 13 federal agencies. This represents a decrease of $200 million compared with last year’s budget request. The administration’s FY06 budget proposed a 40 percent ($118 million) reduction in funding for NASA’s Earth Systematic Missions to study climate change. Although this year’s proposal includes a $47 million increase over last year’s proposed budget, it would restore only part of that money. UCS will work to fully restore funding for these programs.

Clean Vehicles

“Oil addiction” and budgetary realities

While we applaud President Bush’s call to reduce U.S. oil dependence, the proposed budget will do virtually nothing to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. There are no incentives in the proposed budget for improving the fuel economy of today’s cars and trucks. This is the best way to reduce oil dependence over the next 20 years. The relatively small increase in research dollars for hybrid technology ($6.7 million according to the White House) is positive, but is paltry in comparison with the size of the problem?the United States sends more than that overseas to pay for oil every 15 minutes.

Conventional & Advanced Passenger Vehicle Technologies

U.S. taxpayers have already made significant investments in improving conventional and hybrid vehicle technology. However, since the government has not pushed the industry, either through regulation or tax incentives, to create a more efficient fleet, the technology is increasingly being used by manufacturers to boost the power and performance of vehicles and not to reduce oil usage. This budget continues to make that mistake as there are budget cuts for conventional fuel-saving technologies and no incentives for their integration into automakers’ fleets.

The small increase for hybrid technology research comes at the expense of other oil-saving technologies in the Vehicle Technologies program. This program is cut by $17 million to $166 million, a 9 percent cut. The increases for hydrogen research (up 26 percent or $41 million to $196 million) and biomass and biofuels research (up 65 percent or $65 million to $120 million) are also good steps. However, they are long-term research projects and there is no guarantee that the technology will be used to reduce emissions and oil use. The government needs to provide an effective suite of better incentives and stronger standards to ensure that research dollars will result in real progress.

Diesel Emissions Reduction

The enactment of both the National Clean School Bus Grant Program and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) last year led to a significant increase in the administration’s budget request for diesel cleanup ($49.5 million). These funds will be dedicated to retrofitting and replacing school buses (funded last year at seven million dollars) as well as retrofitting construction equipment, locomotives, and other diesel equipment. Unfortunately, the administration cut $35 million from a fund for state and local air quality agencies, whose programs are essential to meeting clean air standards. In order for the goals of both DERA and the Clean School Bus Grant Program to be met, state and local air quality agencies need to be fully funded.

Arctic Wildlife Refuge

For the second consecutive year, the Bush administration’s proposed budget includes revenues from leasing the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling. This approach is an attempt to block a full debate on the merits of drilling for oil in the pristine refuge. In accordance with Senate rules, the budget bills cannot be filibustered. Thus, it can pass with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. If a budget resolution including proposed revenues from the refuge is passed, then language that will remove ANWR’s protection from drilling will be included in an overall budget reconciliation bill. Thanks to pressure from UCS, our activists, and other environmental organizations, a similar effort failed in 2005 after the House leadership removed the drilling provision from its reconciliation budget bill.

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