Trump wants to gut energy program with highest job potential and rate of return

Draft budget cuts renewables and efficiency by 70 percent as China plans massive investment

Renewable energy jobs in select countries (excluding large hydropower). CREDIT: IRENA
Renewable energy jobs in select countries (excluding large hydropower). CREDIT: IRENA

The Trump administration wants to slash the Department of Energy’s (DOE) investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy by 70 percent, according to a draft budget obtained by Axios.

Even setting aside the issues of air pollution and climate change, gutting renewable energy and efficiency runs counter to the president’s stated commitment to economic growth and job creation.

Clean energy is the world’s biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment. That’s why China’s has budgeted a $360 billion investment in renewable generation alone by 2020. Beijing calculates the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”

Even in this country, clean energy jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1.

Second, the DOE’s clean energy program has the highest documented rate of return to taxpayers of any federal R&D program. One National Academy of Sciences study found that an $11 million investment in a handful of energy efficiency technologies, returned about $30 billion in energy savings.

Clean energy has the highest documented rate of return of any federal programthinkprogress.orgWhile Congress is unlikely to agree to cuts so deep, as Axios points out, “the lower the starting point, the lower the ultimate numbers could well end up.” And, again, our major trading competitors are boosting funding in this area, which is what we should be doing too.

Here are the numbers in the draft DOE budget:

CREDIT: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
CREDIT: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While these cuts would be both devastating and tragic, they shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Trump campaigned on zeroing out clean energy funding — and on trying to bring back jobs to the coal industry, which leading experts say is simply not possible.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected in 2016 that the world will invest an astonishing $3.4 trillion in solar alone by 2040 — more than the investment for all new fossil fuels and nuclear combined.

So while Trump may want to return to some imaginary past where polluting energy and inefficiency reigned, the future is clean and green.