Trump seeks to screw over energy workers with massive cut to renewables program

White House seeks to gut energy programs with highest potential for job creation.

Wind farm workers in Colorado. CREDIT: Steven Clevenger/Corbis via Getty Images
Wind farm workers in Colorado. CREDIT: Steven Clevenger/Corbis via Getty Images

President Donald Trump has reportedly decided to escalate his war on clean energy, the world’s biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment.

The White House wants to cut the Energy Department’s $2 billion Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program by a whopping 72 percent, according to draft budget documents obtained by the Washington Post.

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Last year, Trump proposed to cut the EERE budget by 66 percent, but any cuts were thwarted by the inability of the Republican-led Congress to pass a budget. The U.S. government has been funded by continuing resolutions that freeze spending at existing levels.

Meanwhile, China has budgeted more than $70 billion a year for renewable generation alone through 2020. Beijing calculates the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.”

In this country, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1 and have been one of the fastest growing sectors. But the president has been waging a war on clean energy jobs for over a year now, including his plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and repeal the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He even tried to get federal regulators to raise consumer energy bills in order to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.

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Most recently, Trump slapped a 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells and panels, which puts at risk tens of thousands of jobs installing solar — especially in the states that voted for him.

While EERE is only about 7 percent of the overall $28 billion Energy Department budget, it 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.

Trump can’t stop the global clean energy revolution, which will generate millions and millions of jobs in the coming decades. But he certainly can slow the revolution in this country, while ensuring countries like China get the lion’s share of those jobs.