Trump admin overhauls webpages for wind, vehicles

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017

The Trump administration has removed language on the Department of Energy website that emphasized wind as an emissions-free replacement for fossil fuels.

The website changes come as DOE conducts a study of whether policies favoring wind and solar power are accelerating coal and nuclear plant closures. The administration is also proposing budget cuts to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which could hit wind programs.

Documented by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, the website changes include the removal of this statement: “Wind power is an emission-free and water-free renewable energy source that is a key component to the administration’s renewable electricity goals.” The changes occurred between December and April, according to the group, which monitors federal websites.

In several other sections, DOE shifted the focus away from wind’s greenhouse gas and environmental benefits and toward job creation and economic growth.

The department also replaced language on lowering wind costs with boosting U.S. competitiveness, and added that wind energy supports more than 100,000 jobs and that wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing occupation.

Large font at the top of one page now says “Wind Energy Technologies Office” rather than the “DOE Wind Program.”

DOE didn’t respond to a request for comment about the website changes by press time.

In other parts of the website, DOE removed text comparing wind with fossil fuels.

DOE replaced the statement about its leadership “in making wind energy technologies more competitive with traditional sources of energy and a larger part of our nation’s renewable energy portfolio,” instead touting the United States’ position as a “leading global market for wind energy due to its vast domestic resources, low cost and highly skilled workforce.” The agency also removed an entire section on how wind energy is a clean power source that creates no air pollution.

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative documented similar changes between January and February on webpages for the vehicle technologies and bioenergy sections in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Both sections altered language emphasizing clean energy technologies as a replacement for fossil fuels and boosted emphasis on job creation.

The mission statement of the vehicle office was changed from reducing the use of petroleum to strengthening “U.S. energy security, economic vitality, and quality of life.”

At the same time, other language emphasized the possibility of phasing out petroleum use, although it shifted the focus away from electric vehicles.

During the Obama administration, the DOE website said greater use of electric vehicles could reduce petroleum use by more than 40 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 percent. Now the site says both EVs and low-carbon fuels and electricity could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent and petroleum use “almost entirely.”

Earlier this month, DOE changed its climate change website and removed references to the Paris climate agreement and Mission Innovation, a plan to address climate change by doubling clean energy research and development spending (E&E Daily, April 6).

This month, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told his chief of staff that the grid study should examine the market effects of federal subsidies that help some forms of energy at the expense of others. The study is being led by Travis Fisher, a political appointee who has been critical of the wind production tax credit in the past (Greenwire, April 19).

Perry oversaw a massive expansion of wind power while governor of Texas but has said little about DOE’s wind program since becoming secretary.