As the Congressional fight begins over "sequestered" budget cuts that have been delayed until March as part of the fiscal cliff deal, clean energy will be on the cutting block.
Rather than allowing across-the-board cuts to take place, lawmakers will try to save important programs from the ax, and Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on where clean energy falls on that continuum.
The Department of Energy faces an 8.2% cut if sequestration takes effect and Democrats are vowing to protect clean energy research and programs like its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
"The air we breathe, the water we drink, the energy we generate and the environment in which we live should not be compromised by funding cuts now, or ever," Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) told The Hill. "There is bloated government spending that must be cut, but this is not the place for it, not when the sustainability of our people and our planet is at stake."
Republicans counter that many of those programs are examples of wasteful spending, especially loans and grants that help move clean technology to market faster. They object to picking winners and losers and "meddling" in the market.
If that’s true, says the 46-member House Democratic Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, then Congress should end fossil fuel subsidies as part of the drive for spending cuts.
"As members dedicated to clean energy and environmental protection, we will work to make sure that Congress develops a balanced approach that doesn’t just focus on cutting these vital programs. One solution includes repealing subsidies for big oil and gas, which would raise an estimated $41 billion over 10 years," says the caucus.
Other likely targets for spending cuts are programs that govern building energy codes, weatherization assistance and federal energy management.
"These programs have demonstrated significant value over many years and we would like to see investment to these programs maintained. But we recognize, with the ongoing push for austerity measures, it will be a challenge," Rob Mosher, legislative director for the Alliance to Save Energy, told The Hill.