Trump Budget Cuts Renewable Energy Office, Ups Nuclear Weapons Spending

Source: By Timothy Gardner, Reuters • Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2018

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts spending by more than 65 percent for a research office on renewable energy and efficiency, reductions a Department of Energy official said reflected the success the bureau has had with electric vehicle batteries and wind and solar technologies.

The budget called for the office to be cut by $1.3 billion, compared to the level enacted for 2017, to $696 million for fiscal year 2019.

“The biggest reason for that is the accomplishments that these individual programs have made,” DOE under secretary Mark Menezes told reporters.

The budget is primarily a political document and is not likely to be embraced by Congress, but it represents a starting point for the administration on negotiations.

Menezes said the DOE is attempting to refocus its mission on renewable energy and efficiency to aid technologies that have a low probability of success, but are highly risky to invest in, calling it a “more appropriate role for the government.”

But the budget calls for the “termination” of the loans programs and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, while maintaining the existing loan portfolio and making sure existing awards are completed.

And it calls for a more than 19 percent boost to the fossil energy research and development office to $502 million for making advanced power systems based on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas more efficient.

A nonpartisan research institute decried the proposed cuts.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said the cuts “would undercut progress toward cheaper, cleaner energy in the United States and damage the nation’s prospects for global leadership in key growth industries of the 21st century.”

The White House proposed an overall DOE 2019 budget request of $30.6 billion, a $500 million boost from current levels. That included a nearly $1.2 billion hike, compared to last year’s request, for the National Nuclear Security Administration, to help pay for a revamp of the United States nuclear weapons arsenal.

But the budget cuts funding for the nuclear energy office by $259 million below enacted 2017 level to $757 million. The department handles research and development for advanced reactor technologies.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Grant McCool)