The Trump administration's 2019 budget proposal will seek deep cuts to clean energy research spending when it is released next month, according to draft budget documents obtained by the Washington Post.
The spending reductions would hit programs aimed at driving down the cost of solar energy, a sector that is creating jobs at a faster pace than the broader U.S. economy. It would also wipe out a home weatherization program that has trained thousands of Americans and lowered utility bills for ratepayers, the Post reports.
The proposal asks Congress to appropriate $575.5 million for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 72-percent drop from the previous fiscal year. In its first budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed cutting the office's funding by two-thirds to $636.1 million.
Congress has so far rejected the administration's efforts to slash funding for the office, instead setting the office's budget at $2.04 billion for the 2018 fiscal year, which ends in October, the Post notes. Lawmakers, many of whom represent states that benefit from booming job growth in renewable energy, may once again refuse to approve the cuts.
"The president suggests a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is influential in the appropriations process, told the Post.
The document viewed by the Post is in draft form and could change before the White House makes it public.
People familiar with the matter tell the Post the Energy Department requested more modest spending cuts, but was overruled by the Office of Management and Budget. Sources also said Rick Perry's focus on nuclear energy may have played a role in diverting funds from renewables and efficiency programs.
The Energy Department did not return the Post's request for comment, and the White House declined to respond, citing its policy of not commenting on leaks.
President Donald Trump championed fossil fuels throughout his candidacy and into his first year in office. During his first State of the Union speech on Tuesday, he boasted about growing U.S. energy exports, but only mentioned one fuel source by name: coal.
The draft budget proposal obtained by the Post calls for:
- Cutting staff at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from 680 in 2017 to 450 in 2019,
- Eliminating state energy grants,
- Reducing research into fuel efficient vehicles and electric cars by 82 percent,
- Slashing bioenergy technologies research by 82 percent,
- Shrinking research into solar energy technology by 78 percent.
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