Feb 11, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump's budget undercuts congressional GOP's climate innovation push

donald trump taking an axe to wind turbines

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The new White House budget proposal, which would slash Energy Department science and R&D programs, is awkward for congressional Republicans who are taking pains to emphasize "innovation" to fight climate change.

The state of play: To some extent this is all theater because nobody expects this budget to resemble what's ultimately appropriated — but it complicates GOP efforts to tout their ideas when the president, who commands fierce loyalty from the party, is pushing in the other direction.

For instance, it calls for...

  • A 75% cut in DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, down to $720 million.
  • An end to funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
  • A slash to DOE's Office of Science funding by roughly $1.2 billion to $5.8 billion.
  • Cuts to nuclear energy and, albeit smaller, fossil energy R&D.

The intrigue: The White House has tried to deeply slash DOE programs for years, and Congress hasn't gone along and won't this time.

  • But this year's release arrives on the heels of House Republicans beginning their push to promote a climate agenda.
  • And their policy ideas focus in part on accelerating clean technology development, while steering clear of emissions-cutting mandates and carbon pricing.
  • One of those recent proposals, from Rep. Frank Lucas, the top Republican on the House science panel, would greatly expand funding for scientific research.

What they're saying: Axios asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office whether the budget proposals are consistent with his innovation focus. A spokesperson said that the party's "vision is to double funding for basic research and fundamental science."

  • And ClearPath, a group that promotes "conservative" policies to boost clean energy tech, said that it is "encouraged that Congress and the administration will continue their trend of investing in clean energy innovation R&D," via its executive director, Rich Powell.

The other side: Renewables and environmental groups bashed the budget plan, which would also cut EPA programs. One example, the Environmental Defense Fund, hit at the White House for "prioritizing polluters" over public health.

Go deeper: Trump's budget proposal relies on highly unlikely expectations

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