Losing The Future: GOP’s Continuing Resolution Proposal Crushes Clean Energy

Our guest bloggers are Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Kate Gordon, Vice President for Energy Policy, and Michael Linden, Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address waved the green flag for innovation and competition in the clean-tech sector. He proposed a number of programs to speed the development and manufacturing of domestic energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors to help American businesses race with their Chinese, German, and other competitors. But before the president’s proposals had completed their initial laps in Congress, the Republicans’ proposed House continuing resolution (or spending bill) for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 waves the yellow caution flag that they would slow down — if not outright halt — the promise of America’s clean-tech revolution and all the ensuing companies and jobs it would create.

The proposed bill would slash clean-tech and energy investments by nearly 30 percent, devastating this growing but immature industry that struggled during the Great Recession. The House Appropriations Committee majority bragsthat it “cuts climate change funding bill-wide by $107 million, or 29%, from the fiscal year 2010 enacted level.” The proposed budget includes many other cuts that would harm innovation, the economy, and public health:

The House Appropriations Committee majority claims its bill would cut spending by more than $100 billion between now and October 1. And clean energy, one of the great hopes for American global competitiveness, is one of its biggest targets:

CUTTING SCIENCE: The proposed budget would slash funding for scientific study of our atmosphere and the consequences of the past 150 years of massive carbon-dioxide pollution on our climate. Some representatives seek a $379 million cut in NASA’s programs to study climate change from space that would deprive scientists of essential knowledge about our increasingly chaotic climate. The bill would also devastate America’s clean energy and other scientific research by cutting the Department of Energy’s Office of Science by 18 percent.

CUTTING KNOWLEDGE: In addition to flattening funding for scientific investigation, the House Republicans’ proposed spending bill would devastate the federal government’s ability to study, understand, and communicate vital information about our changing energy sector. It would cut the Department of Energy’s independent Energy Information Agency by nearly one-sixth. EIA is the preeminent collector and disseminator of vital statistics and projections of energy production, consumption, and pollution. The budget also would wipe out the Greenhouse Gas Registry that collects data on companies’ carbon-dioxide pollution.

These two cuts would save a paltry $25 million. For comparison, this is just one-twentieth of the $500 million spent on military bands in 2010. The large congressional climate science denier caucus clearly believes that ignoring the problem will make it go away.

CUTTING R&D: The House Republican spending bill slashes key elements of the American invention support system, including the Economic Development Administration. One of its programs, the Energy Regional Innovation Cluster program, focuses on fostering regional partnerships to discover and develop breakthroughs in invention, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies. Next fiscal year, the budget would also halt the low-carbon technology efforts of the DOE’s Loan Programs that are essential to support investment in clean energy technologies. In 2010, the Loan Programs Office was the world’s largest renewable energy projects financier.

The House Republicans’ budget also slashes the budget of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which houses both the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

CUTTING INFRASTRUCTURE: The proposed House spending bill ignores the dire need for investment in our electricity grid and instead cuts funding for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability by one-fifth.

CUTTING JOBS: To compete in the global clean energy race, America must take a page from China’s playbook and begin to seriously train our workers in key skills like engineering and science, as well as in trades such as machining, welding, and pipefitting. The House Republican spending bill would slash all job-training funds in half.

CUTTING RAIL: The proposed House spending bill would cut existing rail by slicing one-tenth of Amtrak’s budget. It would also zero out funds for high-speed rail, even though our global competitors in China and the European Union have invested heavily in high-speed passenger rail to move people quickly between cities, cut air pollution from air and car travel, and free up regular rail corridors for freight rail.

CUTTING EFFICIENCY: The proposed House GOP budget would decimate investments in energy efficiency, cutting funding for these vital programs by more than one-third. The budget would also eliminate funds for EPA’s Energy Star program that informs consumers about energy-efficient products and practices. In 2009 it helped consumers save nearly $17 billion on their utility bills.

CUTTING RENEWABLES: The United States ranks 11th among the G-20 nations in clean-energy investments per unit of gross domestic product. The GOP budget would dramatically disinvest in the solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and other renewable technologies that enabled the United States to get back in the clean energy race. It would cut funds for clean tech by nearly $800 million.

CUTTING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: The proposed House budget would devastate the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect our health. It would also cut funds for states that help them enforce these health protections.

CUTTING ENERGY ASSISTANCE: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is a lifeline for seniors and others who cannot afford high electricity bills. The House GOP budget would cut money for the LIHEAP emergency fund by $200 million, or one-third of current funding. President Obama may also propose deep cuts in LIHEAP, which would be a shameful act in the midst of the worst economy in 80 years.

Instead of proposing a budget that invests in future clean-tech jobs, the proposed House Republican budget turns back the clock to the Bush administration era when there was relatively little investment in clean tech and other countries began to lap us. The proposed House GOP spending bill for the remainder of 2011 would strangle clean-tech innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

Read the full analysis at the Center for American Progress.

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