Finance

Trump Admin Proposes 70% Cut To Renewable Energy and Efficiency Programs at Energy Dept

Butcher knife on cutting board with dollar bill cut in half

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.

Federal Report: Environmental Safeguards Provide Billions In Economic Benefits

piles of money

Very quietly over the holidays, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a long-overdue draft report on the economic impacts of environmental regulations and safeguards for the fiscal year 2015, which covers October 2014 to September 2015.

In the report, 2016 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Agency Compliance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, the OMB looked at the cost of environmental regulations and compared to them to the economic benefits, both those seen during the 12 month period and the estimated long-term benefits. Their results showed very clearly that these safeguards are providing an exponentially greater economic benefit than they are costing.

Donald Trump’s Anti-Environment Agenda Could Tank US Economy

United States President-elect Donald Trump has already made it clear that his administration will be far more friendly to fossil fuel companies than it will be to the environment, both with his appointment of noted climate change denier Myron Ebell to head up the EPA transition team, and with his stated desire to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

While Ebell’s appointment spells environmental disaster, it is Trump’s desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement that could cripple the United States both environmentally and economically. And it is that second point – the economic impacts – that might actually have a chance of resonating with the American public.

Hillary Clinton Is Raking In Fossil Fuel Money At An Alarming Rate

In speeches and press conferences, and occasionally in policy, the Democratic Party in the United States has always claimed the high ground on the issue of climate change and the need to move the country off oil, gas and coal towards renewable energy. As a result, the fossil fuel industry has heavily backed Republican politicians for decades.

But the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has once again proven unique by every measure. A new report by The Wall Street Journal shows that Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pulling in far more money from the fossil fuel industry than her Republican opponent Donald Trump.

The report shows that, through July, Hillary Clinton has received almost three times as much campaign cash from fossil fuel employees than Trump, to the tune of about $525,000 compared to Trump’s $149,000. Her joint account with the Democratic National Committee has also received an additional $650,000 from fossil fuel executives and employees.

Massive Budget Cuts Looming For EPA As Republicans Seek to Limit Rules on Air and Water Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was dealt a massive blow this week by the House Appropriations committee, where the Republican majority voted to further cut the agency’s budget and reduce its authority to enforce laws safeguarding our air, water and health.

The House committee voted on Tuesday to slash the EPA’s budget by 9%, or $718 million. This is in addition to a dramatic 20% reduction in overall funding that has taken place since the control of the House of Representatives switched to the Republican Party in 2011. This new reduction will put EPA funding at its lowest level since 1989. 

G20 Governments are Spending $88B Each Year to Explore for New Fossil Fuels. Imagine if Those Subsidies Went to Renewable Energy?

oil change international, subsidies, oil gas exploration

Rich G20 nations are spending about $88 billion (USD) each year to find new coal, oil and gas reserves even though most reserves can never be developed if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to a new report.

Generous government subsidies are actually propping up fossil fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic, states the report, “The fossil fuel bail-out: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration.”

Produced by the London-based Overseas Development Institute and the Washington-based Oil Change International the 73-page analysis also noted the costs of renewables is falling and the investment returns are better than fossil fuels.  

Every U.S. dollar in renewable energy subsidies attracts $2.5 in investment, whilst a dollar in fossil fuels subsidies only draws $1.3 of investment,” said the report released Tuesday, just days ahead of the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane, Australia.

The report also notes the G20 nations are creating a ‘triple-lose’ scenario by providing subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration.

More Oil Companies To Disclose Risks Of Fracking, Climate Change To Investors

Last week brought yet more evidence that investors in oil and gas companies are waking up to the risks of fracking and climate change.

Two natural gas companies, Anadarko Petroleum and EOG Resources, recently struck a deal with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to disclose the financial and environmental risks associated with fracking to their shareholders, including “probable future regulation and legislation” that could impact their operations, according to a statement released by Schneiderman's office.

The agreement resolves a probe by Schneiderman into the disclosure practices of oil and gas companies begun in 2011.

Business media outlets like Bloomberg are framing the story very much as “oil companies doing the right thing,” but it's important to note that these companies would not be doing this if they didn't feel it was in their best interest—and generally whatever keeps shareholders happy is in a company's best interest.

Bloomberg notes that the oil companies are hoping “to ease public fears about fracking after legal setbacks and concerns over water pollution.” As is becoming increasingly clear, concerns over water pollution are all too valid.

Legal setbacks are probably keeping any fracker in New York up at night, as well, after the New York state supreme court ruled in June that municipalities have the right to adopt their own rules on fracking.

So far, 180 New York towns and cities have issued a ban or moratorium on fracking.

Harvard President Says Fossil Fuel Divestment Unnecessary, "Hypocritical"

A degree from Harvard University was once seen as the pinnacle of achievement in higher education.  Parents would boast proudly that their child was attending one of the most prestigious universities in America, and a diploma from Harvard could almost guarantee you a job in whichever field you chose.

But today, Harvard’s image is being tarnished by fossil fuels.  The university still maintains considerable holdings in fossil fuels in their endowment funds, and according to University President Drew Faust, that isn’t going to change in the near future.

Faust has long been an opponent of fossil fuel divestment, and refuses to take part in the larger movement of universities and other institutions who are pulling their endowment funds out of dirty energy financial holdings.  Harvard currently has an endowment worth over $30 billion, the largest of any other institution in the United States. 

ClimateProgress has been following Faust’s anti-divestment campaign for some time, and has completely debunked all of Faust’s talking points on the issue of divestment.  In 2013, Faust released a letter explaining her reasoning for refusing to divest, which includes: fossil fuel companies won’t notice; divestment would hurt Harvard’s bottom line; the endowment is not a tool for social change; and that divestment is hypocritical.

As ClimateProgress pointed out at the time, all of Faust’s reasoning rests on faulty logic.  First of all, divesting from fossil fuels would send a big message to the dirty energy industry and would easily inspire others to do the same.  Second, as fossil fuel reserves are depleted, the companies' stocks will plummet, which will have a significant impact on Harvard’s bottom line.  And third, on hypocrisy, it is not hypocritical to remove your financial holdings from an industry that is making money at the expense of human and environmental health.

But Faust clearly cannot be swayed by logic, and this week her ignorance was put on full display when a young activist named Alli Welton from Divest Harvard put Faust on the spot and asked her why her university refuses to divest from the dirty energy industry.  ClimateProgress provides the video:

Survey Lists the Best and Worst Financial Funds When it Comes to Climate Change Risk

Is your pension fund or insurance company a leader or laggard when it comes to avoiding risky bets on the future impacts of climate change?

A new survey released today finds that many major institutional investors, like retirement funds and insurance companies, are putting their investments (read: your money) at risk by not addressing the negative financial impacts posed by climate change and atmospheric disruption.

The survey, called the Global Climate Investment Risk, is based on data acquired from 460 funds who were invited to provide data, either from members of those funds or using publicly available information. Each fund is rated from AAA to X based on investment mix and recognition of the financial risks that climate change will have now and into the future.

Conducted by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), the survey concludes that, of the 460 funds, only 5 received a AAA rating, while 173 funds are rated “X.”

The Real Winner Of US Election – Dirty Energy Money

As Democrats crawl out from their election night hangovers, still riding the high of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory, it appears that a reality check is due.  Obama might have won the election, but the battle was won by the dirty energy industry.

Sure, the industry went all-in on Republican nominee Mitt Romney, showering him with almost $5 million, compared to a paltry $705,000 to Obama in 2012.  But the industry knew better than to put all of their eggs in one basket, and they received a massive return on their investment in the down ballot races, particularly those for the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the top 20 House candidates who received money from the dirty energy industry were all members of the Republican Party.  Together, these 20 Republican candidates received more than $3.6 million from the industry.

Here are the top recipients of dirty energy largesse (all money sources via OpenSecrets, election results via Huffington Post), along with the results of their respective elections:

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