Feb 11, 2020 - Energy & Environment

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

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

Go deeper

Top Republican floats bill to double science funding

Rep. Frank Lucas. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Washington would double the amount of federal funding in basic science research per a new proposal by Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, the top Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee, as a way to address climate change.

The big picture: Lucas' policy as part of House Republicans’ broader efforts on the matter is far narrower than the sweeping draft legislation Democrats unveiled Tuesday that aims to slash emissions over the next 30 years.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020

Bipartisan House duo explore "clean energy standard"

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A bipartisan House duo is floating a new plan that's both a throwback idea and a sign of today's climate politics.

Driving the news: Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) want to require utilities to greatly cut carbon emissions by mid-century.

Trump wants to double quantum, AI R&D budgets

Photo: Getty Images

The Trump administration wants to double federal spending on R&D for artificial intelligence and quantum computing over the next two years.

Why it matters: AI and quantum computing have the potential to upend everything from labor markets to civil liberties to encryption, and some policymakers and industry players say American leadership is needed on both fronts to stave off economic and technological threats from other countries, particularly China.