May 17, 2017

Scoop: Trump's plan to cut fossil-fuel, nuclear funding

The Trump administration wants to cut the Energy Department's offices for nuclear power and fossil-fuel energy by 31% and 54%, respectively, according to a draft administration budget document viewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Top Trump administration officials have repeatedly said they back nuclear power and fossil fuels, in particular coal burned more cleanly with technology that captures and stores carbon underground instead of emitting it. These cuts show mismatch between the rhetoric and what they're willing to allocate.

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Data: Draft of Energy Department budget; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

For the record: An Energy Department spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

What we're hearing: Some conservative groups say cutting funding for policies like cleaner-burning coal technologies would undercut Trump's promise to save the coal industry.

"It would be very difficult, especially on the carbon capture front, to keep some of the promises that the administration made to the coal community if it's not going very deep on innovation in this space," said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath Foundation, a conservative organization pushing cleaner energy technologies within the GOP.

To be sure: Congress is unlikely to grant these fiscal year 2018 requests for the nuclear power and fossil offices, given support for those areas spans partisan lines. But the numbers are nonetheless important for two reasons: 1) It shows how even policy areas the administration backs are at risk for cuts. 2) It puts a marker down for negotiations with Congress. The lower the starting point, the lower the ultimate numbers could well end up.

What's next: The Trump administration has said it will send its budget request for fiscal year 2018 to Congress next week. These proposed cuts are part of a broader effort across the administration to make deep reductions, including nearly 70% in the Energy Department's renewable energy office.

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