July 11 update:
The House voted along party lines to slash renewable energy funding in the 2014 budget as is outlined in this article. The White House says it will veto it.
The House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) says:
"House Republicans pulled the plug on America’s successful clean energy programs. This partisan bill flies in the face of bipartisan efforts to save consumers money, enhance energy independence, improve the reliability of our electrical grid, and expand good-paying, domestic jobs. It also jeopardizes our energy future by threatening the continuation of ARPA-E, which fosters breakthrough innovations in clean energy technologies.
"This approach is the opposite of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy; it’s a continuation of the failed fossil fuels above all else. These backward-looking policies hinder America’s competiveness in the global clean energy economy by dramatically cutting investments in renewable energy technologies that already are helping to break America’s foreign oil dependence."
The House Republicans’ bill proposes to fund the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers at $30.4 billion, $4.1 billion below the President’s FY 14 Budget Request and $2.9 billion, or nearly 10%, below the already lower FY 13 enacted levels. The bill would:
- Cut funding by 50% and combine the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) with the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, undermining the innovative technologies that already are helping to establish America’s energy independence;
- Cut by 50%, assistance for low-income families whose homes receive vital heat efficiency upgrades through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP);
- Cut funding by 81% for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which supports innovative R&D on a wide range of green technologies; and
- Limit the ability of the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water to protect America’s water sources.
Just as Ernest Moniz, new secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), talked up the importance of renewable energy, energy, Republicans are preparing to slash its budget.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee voted Monday to cut renewable energy spending at DOE in half – by $911 million – in fiscal 2014 (not counting 8.7% cuts in the current sequester), ostensibly to cope with a second round of automatic sequestration cuts.
Since they want to raise defense spending $28 billion above the sequester level they are looking for cuts elsewhere.
"In a challenging fiscal environment, we have to prioritize funding, and the Subcommittee chose to address the readiness and safety of the nation’s nuclear stockpile and to invest in critical infrastructure projects to protect lives and property and support economic growth," says Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).
Nuclear security would be funded at $11.3 billion – $661 million above the sequester level – while renewable energy would get less than $1 billion next year.
They also want steep cuts in one of DOE’s flagship programs, ARPA-E, which funds breakthrough energy research.
In a town hall meeting with DOE employees, Dr. Moniz, a nuclear physicist, said he believes this is the "crucial decade" for the U.S. to develop renewable sources of energy and get them to the marketplace.
"I would argue that I believe that the scale and time frame of the impact of solar technology is underestimated," he says, noting, "There are many situations today when solar is in fact competitive."
Moniz says that DOE is "aggressively pursuing" many dimensions of solar technology. "I think it’s an example of something we will look back on in 10 years and be surprised at the scope."
"Costs have dropped dramatically. … This is getting very interesting," he adds. He also expressed optimism about offshore wind, geothermal and hydropower.
And although he credited natural gas for helping lower US carbon emissions, he said the "remarkable revolution" should be viewed as a bridge to a renewable energy-driven economy.
"Buying time is not very useful if you don’t use the time. What does using the time mean? It means pushing hard on the renewable technologies," he said. "This is the time to get those ready for the market place on a big scale. This is the decade, the crucial decade, for us to accomplish that."
More on GOP Cuts
House Republicans are also trying to keep the administration from abandoning plans to store high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) opposes that controversial project in his home state, which was originally scheduled to open in 1998.
The Energy and Water appropriations bill would also prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from expanding waterways regulated under the Clean Water Act. The goal is to prevent any streams and rivers being protected from the fallout associated with mountaintop mining for coal in Appalachia.
Other cuts hit environmental cleanup (4%) – hope there isn’t any BP-style oil spill – and, of course the science budget is trimmed by $233 million, bringing the budget down to $4.7 billion (compare that to the nuclear budget of $11.7 billion).
These cuts are among many others that could lead to a potential government shutdown fight after Labor Day when a stopgap continuing resolution will have to be approved yet again to keep the government funded.