For someone who wrote a book about deal-making, President Donald J. Trump seems incapable of fulfilling his legislative promises – even from a Congress where his party controls both houses.
Take renewable energy (specifically solar): When details of his budget started leaking in March, the proposed cuts to renewable energy plans were draconian. 5.6% for the Department of Energy, which ballooned to 17.9% when other programs were considered.
31% at the Environmental Protection Agency. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) – reduced to shells of their former selves.
None of that happened.
While solar research did get cut, it’s nowhere near the levels Trump envisioned. It goes down from $241 million to $207 million in the overall budget. EERE lost $17 million. But ARPA-E goes up to $277 million. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) funding jumps from $62 million to $92 million. And research into battery storage climbed from $20 million to $31 million – an increase that should advance this next critical part of the solar industry’s success more rapidly.
So although the numbers aren’t 100% rosy for the solar industry, the budget came as a pleasant surprise as the harsh cuts Trump promised foundered on the shoals of strong opposition. In the end, Congress decided that cutting supports to an industry that produced 1 out of every 50 jobs in the United States last year wasn’t such a great idea after all.
That hasn’t stopped the Republicans from shouting from the rooftops about the fact that they cut renewable energy programs – but their argument is a Three-Card Monte game designed to distract attention from the fact that they aren’t really cuts at all.
The “cuts” are actually cuts from what the Obama Administration had proposed, but the actual numbers compare pretty favorably to what was actually spent in the past. Essentially, the Republicans are arguing that they produced huge cuts in money that hadn’t actually been allocated yet.
Now for the disappointing parts of the budget, at least from the solar industry’s perspective:
- The budget for nuclear energy rose from $986 million to over $1 billion. Given the recent tumult in the nuclear power industry, outrageous expenses of building new plants and perpetuating the mythical need for baseline power, combined with legitimate fears of Fukashima-level accidents, makes this increase throwing good money after bad.
- The Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program is still around, but with a new emphasis on “advanced fossil” and “advanced nuclear” projects, including a recently award for a carbon capture and storage project. The solar and wind industries greatly benefitted from the DOE Loan Guarantee Program in previous years, but as capital has become more available for large projects this program has become less significant for renewables.
- The administration increased funding for so-called clean-coal technology in the form of a research increase for ways to capture carbon – a largely worthless program that continues the delusion that there is such a thing as clean coal.
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This article implies that “Republicans” are / were anti-solar! Can’t we just lay off the politics and report things in a neutral way? Why act so surprised that there are other industries that just as desperately need funding (from their perspective). Why do we think that our needs always are the absolutely only important needs?
Rather this article should be much more positive about the actual budget numbers rather than be so aghast that Trump – which has been so portrayed as a Monster from the Black Lagoon – is looking to kill our solar industry? Liberal Media needs to get back to a middle ground and just report news as it is, rather than to always spin an anti-Trump message.
I’m sorry if reality bothers you. Here’s the facts: Trump promised to kill funding for solar and advanced energy research. According to the latest budget deal, he didn’t succeed.
You can live in a fantasy world if you want, but the reality is that the Trump Administration is making war on renewable energy, and if that bothers you, maybe you should reconsider your political positions.
Or maybe you think that as journalists we are supposed to be stenographers to powerful people. That’s not journalism, and don’t expect it any time soon from pv magazine.
Christian, Can you give a specific, documented, resourced reference that Trump (or his administration) says that he (they) : ” promised to kill funding for solar and advanced energy research” or is that just your assumption / biased memory? Just askin’. I distrust biased memories – mine included.
btw – I’m not a Republican, I’m just a “pioneer” solar and wind installer for the past 22 years…
Trump is a bombastic idiot in front of a microphone or audience, but I think he is an overall pragmatic judge of cost effective business. If oil, coal and nuclear have incentives to survive (and they do) then solar and wind should have the same % level of support. He knows that. I do not believe he could have a personal hate for renewables as you suggest, they just need to make a business case that they can show to compete in a level playing ground.
Coal’s problem is not “renewables” – its the low cost of natural gas that is eating its lunch and making it non-cost competitive.
Sorry to call out the liberal media bias slant on this story, but it was sooo obvious to me.
Thanks for writing. As we’re big believers in the adage “actions speak louder than words,” here is a partial list of documented times when Trump and/or his administration have either taken actions that will slash renewable research/funding/etc. or otherwise interfered with said research:
Trump and his team have talked about slashing research for renewable energy since he released his “skinny budget” on March 17:
Before he was even sworn in, he was trying to intimidate renewable energy researchers:
He and his team are purposely trying to throw the entire renewable energy research infrastructure into turmoil by freezing previously promised funding to renewable researchers, leaving them uncertain about whether or not their research can even continue:
And lastly, he appointed a fossil fuel advocate to head the office of renewable energy:
So…..I’m not sure how you can look at the actions of this administration and not leap to the immediate conclusion they are committed to destroying the renewable energy infrastructure in this country, both by withdrawing funding and putting people in charge who are determined to stop the research in its tracks.
Looks like Frank answered this before I could. His links contain good documentation, but there is plenty of other documentation out there regarding Trump’s pledge to kill ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (try a Google search). So perhaps in this case the facts have a liberal bias.
I think you have to be careful with Trump, and not fall into false equivalence. If we and other publications have harsh words to say about Trump’s governance and budgetary priorities, it is because the Trump Administration has been consistently opposed not only to renewable energy, but meritocracy in appointments, science and evidence-based decision making.
Why can’t you allow me to be neutral in this discussion, or to observe both sides without taking sides? If I am not White. therefore you must make me Black?
Your backup information / proof are all from a liberal solar publication that uses inflammatory words such as “witch-hunt questionnaire” and insinuating that renewable are the only ones being reviewed for so-called “cuts”? These are the words of biased journalism, unwittingly showing their feelings – and not handling events in an evenhanded professional way… but I guess I shouldn’t expect this solar magazine to not have a biased opinion, should I…
Perhaps you missed that this “liberal solar publication” is in fact the same solar publication that you are commenting on. Frank referred you to our stories, which we often do because that is where we collect these facts. If you look, you will usually find links to source documents. However, as I’ve mentioned before, a simple Google search will reveal to you that yes, Trump promised to cut funding for ARPA-E.
We at pv magazine have an opinion. We are a solar industry publication and we are in favor of renewable energy. As such, we are also critical of those in positions of power who use this power to try to stop renewable energy, whether they are utilities, government officials or even climate scientists who’ve been drinking the nuclear industry’s Kool-Aid. I don’t know why this surprises you.
I also think there is a bigger issue here. I get the impression that you are conflating our having an opinion, and a perspective, with the documentation of the facts that we are presenting. It is a fact that Trump promised to cut ARPA-E. It is a fact that the questionnaire circulated at DOE is unlike the actions of previous administrations. It is also a fact that the people appointed by the Trump Administration to head EPA and the DOE’s EERE are people who have worked and/or colluded with the fossil fuel industry to stop environmental regulation of CO2 and have spread myths about renewable energy.
And if we ever said that renewable energy programs were the only ones being cut, please refer me to that line. I have never written this.
I’m not going to defend Frank’s and my use of language here, because we aren’t pretending to be neutral as renewable energy funding is attacked. If you want writing that pretends to be from a neutral perspective, go to the mainstream media. You won’t get objectivity there, because no one is objective. But you will get the pretense of it.
As for your neutrality in this conversation, or lack thereof, that is not my concern.
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