According to Axios.com, the Trump Administration is proposing a 70 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Energy’s renewable and energy efficiency programs, a move that could severely dampen the recent surge in renewable energy production and job growth.
As Axios points out, a cut this steep will have trouble making its way through Congress, but it sets the bar incredibly low from a negotiation standpoint, meaning that the overall funding for the department will still fall significantly from previous years. Funding for the renewable energy programs dropped from $478 million in 2015 to $451 million in 2016, while energy efficiency programs increased from $721 million to $762 million in the same period.
According to The Hill, these programs at the DOE have played a huge role in reducing the cost of solar power in the United States. They also note that programs for nuclear power and fossil fuels would also be reduced under the Trump administration’s proposals, though those cuts are far less than the cuts for renewables, at 31 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
To make matters worse at the DOE’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, the new leader of the office is Daniel Simmons, a man with ties to the Koch brothers, ALEC, and a longtime opponent of renewable energy. DeSmog’s Ben Jervey recently detailed Simmons’ connections to fossil fuel and anti-climate science interests:
Before Simmons joined the then President-elect's transition team to the DOE in January, he served multiple roles at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), most recently as Vice President for Policy. IER is a Koch-affiliated non-profit think tank that focuses on “energy analysis and free-market energy and environmental policy,” offering reports and analysis criticizing plans to lower emissions and attacking renewable energy.
Simmons is also currently listed as a Policy Expert on the Heartland Institute's website.
Before joining IER, Simmons was Director of the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch-tied organization designed to link state legislators with corporations and create templates for state legislation.
These cuts, should they remain in the final 2018 budget passed by Congress, come at a time when renewable energy is surging in the United States.
Not only has the renewable sector surpassed the fossil fuel sector in terms of job growth, but the industry is on track to completely surpass the fossil fuel industry in total number of jobs within a few years. These budget cuts could result in less research into making renewable energy even more affordable and put the brakes on research into improving the energy grid, therefore giving the fossil fuel industry a few more years to dominate the American energy market at the expense of public health, the climate, and the U.S. economy.