Trump proposes 72% cut to DOE’s clean energy research

One day after lauding “beautiful clean coal”, something that exists only in the fever dreams of fossil-fuel dead-enders, a leaked version of President Donald J. Trump’s draft budget suggests he wants to eviscerate clean energy and energy efficiency research to the tune of 72%.

Should Congress decide to pass a long-term budget based on the president’s recommendations, The Washington Post is reporting that the administration’s draconian cuts would include slashing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) from $2.04 billion level to $575.5 million and cutting nearly 250 jobs from the office.

The paper reports the biggest research cuts will fall on fuel-efficient vehicles (82%), but solar energy technologies research would see its budget reduced by 78%. The future of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which receives the bulk of its $293 million budget from EERE, is unclear.

Given that the budget documents are in draft form, the cuts are by no means final, and at least one senator – Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee – seemed to dismiss the deep cuts as merely “suggestions”, reminding people that Congress is the body that authorizes any governmental spending.

The paper suggests, without providing specific evidence, that Congress will likely restore most of money, but the proposal is still troublesome because it sets the mark for where the negotiations will start when the budget negotiations begin in earnest this month.

Clean energy supporters may take some solace in the fact that the current Congress appears incapable of coming to a long-term budget deal and seems wed to the process of shutting down the government every few weeks over budget issues, which is what saved the programs from last fiscal year’s planned cuts – but that’s a thin thread on which to hang hopes of keeping clean energy research budgets in tact.