President Obama’s New Budget Is Peppered With Efforts To Tackle Climate Change

CREDIT: AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Barack Obama

CREDIT: AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Yesterday, President Obama unveiled his proposed national budget for fiscal year 2015, and it includes a smorgasbord of efforts on climate issues.

“We know that future generations will continue to deal with the effects of a warming planet,” the President said yesterday in a speech introducing the budget.

The $3.9 trillion document allocates about $1 trillion for discretionary spending across both defense and non-defense, with the rest going to mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare. Within that $1 trillion, Obama carves out numerous programs to push forward the climate action plan he announced last year.

The centerpiece of that effort is continued funding for regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants. The agency has already revealed the rules for new plants, and should release its rules for existing plants in June of this year.

But there’s plenty else on climate and green energy issues in the budget. Here are some of the major items:

Clean Energy Tax Credits. This includes a permanent extension of the production tax credit for wind — a cost of $19.2 billion over ten years — which expired at the end of 2013. There’s also $401 million over that time period for alternative-fuel trucks tax credits, and $1.7 billion for cellulosic biofuel.

Cutting Fossil Fuel Tax Breaks. The budget would axe about $4 billion in tax breaks that are currently available to the oil and natural gas industries, and another $3.9 billion in tax preferences for coal.

Climate Resiliency Fund. Obama announced last month he would ask Congress for $1 billion to fund new technology and infrastructure to prepare for climate change, aid for communities, and new research. The budget makes good on that promise.

NOAA Satellites. Obama wants $2 billion to fully fund a new fleet of weather satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Fighting Wildfires. The cost of tackling wildfires in 2012 was 23 percent higher than the 10-year average. So Obama’s budget boosts the U.S. Forest Service’s budget 4.7 percent to $2.3 billion, in order to suppress and research wildfires.

Infrastructure vulnerabilities. The budget would give the Department of Homeland Security an extra $400 million to track down “critical infrastructure vulnerabilities” to climate change.

Clean Energy Technology. The National Science Foundation would get $362 million under the budget to research advanced forms of green energy.

Energy Networks. Overall, the budget boosts funding for the Energy Department to $27.9 billion in 2015 — an increase of 2.6 percent over 2014. That includes $355 million to beef up the robustness of the electrical grid and fuel transportation infrastructure.

Obama’s budget must be passed by Congress, which is pretty unlikely. “It’s a great place to begin this discussion, but will the Republican-led House of Representatives fund anything with the word ‘climate’ in it?” asked Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, in an interview with Bloomberg.

Of course, Congresses rarely pass any President’s proposed budget as is, usually writing their own that the President then signs.

But the Union of Concerned Scientists is on board with Obama’s priorities. “The president is confronting members of Congress with a reality they need to face: climate change is already hurting us economically,” said Angela Anderson, the director of the group’s Climate and Energy Program. “Resilience funding is essential to confront the consequences of climate change already being felt.  Beyond that, Congress needs to get serious about reducing the risks of the changing climate. Unless and until we start cutting emissions that cause global warming, the problems communities are facing, and their price tags, will continue to grow.”

“The president was right to highlight some of these steps, especially renewing the production tax credit for wind energy, in his budget.”