Mar 16, 2017

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Good morning and welcome back to Generate! The big story today is the release of the White House budget proposal. Standing caveat: it's really a political document and far from what will emerge in Congress. With that, let's dive into the budget and other energy news . . .

Trump budget would slash Energy, EPA, State Dept climate office

Two quick notes:

  • Our own Jonathan Swan has a good piece on the high-level politics and substance of the budget plan.
  • Please check out the Axios stream today for more on the budget and how it's playing in Congress.

The White House will post the budget at 7 a.m., but details are gushing out already. The Washington Post obtained a copy, and here are some energy and climate takeaways …

It seeks to eviscerate State Department climate change efforts by ending funding for the Global Climate Change Initiative and U.S. support for United Nations-backed Green Climate Fund and other multilateral efforts.

The Energy Department would be cut by $1.7 billion, including a $900 million cut to DOE's Office of Science. The green energy loan guarantee program would end too.

  • Look for big pushback here: Per the Post copy, Trump's plan would kill the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a plucky branch with bipartisan support that funds "high risk, high-reward" research into breakthrough tech.

Over at EPA, Swan was right: It goes even further than early reports by seeking to cut a whopping $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from the agency. It would also end funding for a range of climate change programs.

Our thought bubble: The entire budget plan is a frontal assault on former President Obama's climate change and renewable energy priorities. What to watch:

  • How much will Capitol Hill Republicans fight to reverse cuts to green energy R&D programs that have support across the aisle?
  • Where will Democrats pick their spending fights, given that their wider budget is at odds with their priorities pretty much across the board?
Tesla seeks cash ahead of Model 3 launch

News from electric-car world: EV pioneer Tesla Motors is getting armed for the upcoming launch of its mid-priced Model 3 sedan with newly announced plans to raise $1.1 billion via stock and debt offerings.

Some context

via the Los Angeles Times

, which reports that plan is aimed at tamping down "widespread concern" that Tesla could run low on cash as it ramps up Model 3 production, builds the huge Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada and absorbs SolarCity, the big solar company Tesla bought last year.

Interesting timing

This went right by me on Tuesday, but it's worth exhuming from two days and like 10,000 news cycles ago: new Gallup polling shows rising public concern about global warming and rising public agreement with scientists on why it's happening.

Why it matters: Americans picked an interesting time to get more worried about global warming. The data arrives as Trump accelerates his moves against Obama-era climate regulations and policies, so look for Trump's foes to cast him as out of step with the public.

  • "Sixty-eight percent of Americans — the highest Gallup has recorded — believe increases in Earth's temperatures over the last century are mainly due to the effects of pollution from human activities," the polling group said. Forty-five percent worry a "great deal" about global warming, a 13-point jump since 2015.

More: Gallup also has new polling on energy.

Microsoft co-founder eyes climate research push

E&E News has the inside track on billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's still-under-wraps plan to improve understanding of climate change:

  • "Allen has spent months exploring how to improve the modeling used to make climate change predictions, according to multiple researchers who have participated in talks surrounding the project, including some only willing to speak on background."

Why it matters:

He's got tons of money, and the Trump administration is looking to cut federal support for climate research initiatives, though a top climate scientist cautions: "it's not the sort of thing that replaces an agency or anything like that."

Notes from the Paris saga

Here are two pieces of news about a running White House subplot—whether Trump will abandon the Paris climate change accord.

  • Reuters reports that the White House is taking the pulse of fossil fuel companies to see what they think. Many companies want the U.S. to stay but scale back its carbon cutting pledge, the news service said.
  • Two industry-linked groups—the American Council on Capital Formation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's energy arm—have a new report concluding that meeting the U.S. emissions pledge would impose steep economic costs. They forecast impacts by 2025 reaching 440,000 manufacturing job losses (and much greater losses overall) and some big sector-specific effects, like U.S. iron and steel production falling by almost 20 percent.
Steyer pressures GM over Trump’s mileage move

Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer is none too happy that big automakers—including GM—are backing Trump's move Wednesday to review strict Obama-era auto mileage rules and probably water them down. Steyer's NextGen Climate group is launching an online campaign urging people to contact GM to signal concern about Trump's move and "urge GM to help lead our country's transition to clean energy," Axios has learned.

  • "Backtracking on the commitment to meeting our country's current emissions standards is inconsistent with GM's strong record of advancing affordable clean vehicle technologies and building a sustainable supply chain, and it would needlessly endanger the American people," he said in a new letter to GM CEO Mary Barra, one of the execs who met with Trump in Michigan as he announced the plan Wednesday.
The politics of Republicans who warn about climate change

I posted about this in the Axios stream yesterday, but in case you missed it ... 17 House Republicans are freelancing a bit with a new resolution about how dangerous climate change is and the need to do something about it (though it's super-vague on that score).

Why it matters: It creates at least a small GOP contrast with President Trump on the heels of his EPA chief breaking sharply with the scientific community on global warming. Look for environmentalists to cite the resolution as they try and paint the administration as extreme.

To be sure: Don't look for these House Republicans to counter attacks on some of Obama's biggest policies. Most of the Republicans sponsoring the measure—including leaders Ryan Costello, Carlos Curbelo and Elise Stefanik—have actually voted to try and kill Obama's sweeping regulations to cut carbon from power plants. But they could help bolster Capitol Hill support for clean energy R&D programs that Trump's budget plan is expected to propose cutting back.

Ben GemanAmy Harder

Thanks, as always, for reading Generate! Please keep an eye out for more today in the Axios stream. Tips and feedback are always welcome at ben@axios.com.