Republicans Should Hate These 7 Proposed Cuts to DOE’s Budget
By Fahad Siddiqui
Recent reports indicate that the Trump Administration is planning major cuts to the Department of Energy, closely following a blueprint published by the Heritage Foundation last year. You really can’t even call this plan conservative — “radical” or “heinous” are more appropriate terms. The Heritage budget aims to cripple DOE, the agency that helps the U.S. produce game-changing technologies, compete for trillion-dollar global markets, and ensure a reliable and affordable supply of energy. If his budget proposal is even a fraction as extreme, the President should expect major pushback from his own party. Here are 7 pieces of this plan that could leave many Republicans ROYALLY pissed.
1) Don’t mess with the labs
Tracing their origins to the Manhattan project, these institutions have transformed America into a global R&D powerhouse and provided some of the greatest breakthroughs in human history. Eliminating DOE R&D support could cut 60,000 high-paying jobs at the national labs and permanently damage the nation’s pipeline of scientific talent at universities all over the country. Which is why members of Congress, including some powerful Republicans, go to the mat for their labs.
2) Literally everyone likes ARPA-E
It’s a small program, but the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has a huge fan club on Capitol Hill. Based on the DoD program that gave us the Internet, ARPA-E makes small investments in the type of technologies you’d see in a sci-fi movie. ARPA-E has helped 45 projects secure $1.25 billion in private sector investment, and could spawn entire new industries for the U.S. to dominate. So let’s just cut all the funding, right?
3) Solyndra is done, the Loan Program is not
Folks love to hate Solyndra. But the DOE Loan Program that supported the failed solar project is still around, it’s investment portfolio is kicking butt, and it’s helping projects that Republicans tend to love — like nuclear reactors and a coal-to-liquids plant. Projects supported by the DOE Loan Program are paying money back to the Treasury (with interest) and keeping thousands of Americans employed. And it still has $40 billion in loan authority to help jumpstart private investment — unless we follow the Heritage budget plan.
4) So we shouldn’t fight for a piece of a $1.35 trillion market?
Renewables are the world’s fastest-growing source of energy, and the countries that get even a piece of this growing market can expect big returns. The office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has spurred American leadership in clean energy and is helping our companies bring home the bacon. It also develops technologies that are increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of the American manufacturing sector. But really, who cares if EERE gets obliterated? Other than the plurality of Republicans who want to prioritize alternate sources of energy.
5) US Nuclear: Rolling over for Russia and China
America should have a bigger chunk of the growing global nuclear energy market. It makes us richer, safer, and more influential in foreign policy. We pioneered and dominated this industry for decades, but now China and Russia are eating our lunch. To get back on top, we need to “out-innovate” our competitors. DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is helping American innovators get next-generation reactors to the world before our competitors…they’re getting our lunch back. Or we could gut NE and let China and Russia have it all. That’s cool too.
6) Wait, don’t Republicans like fossil fuels?
We personally love the Office of Fossil Energy (FE) because of what it does for climate, but it has also given us GOP favorites, like enhanced oil recovery, hydraulic fracturing, methane hydrates, ultra deep-water drilling…the list goes on. FE supports carbon capture and other technologies that could help coal find a place in a low-carbon future — something most Republicans would agree the world is heading toward, regardless of what Washington does. Plus, eliminating FE’s research would instantly kill thousands of high-paying jobs in struggling (and politically important) Appalachian communities. Not good. Not smart.
“Efforts to capture CO2 in the enhanced oil recovery process are seen as a key to providing a long-term, low-carbon path to the production of fossil energy resources”
— Matt Mead, Republican Governor of Wyoming (talking sense)
7) America desperately needs a modern power grid
Power outages cost the U.S. $25 — $70 billion each year. And it’s pretty universally agreed in Washington that America needs a stronger, modern, more reliable grid. Three members of President Trump’s new cabinet said as much in their confirmation hearings. And Trump himself promised to invest in a modern reliable grid. But he also might eliminate the entity leading our grid modernization and security efforts (the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability). Someone please explain this to me.
Fahad Siddiqui is the Fellow for Clean Energy at Third Way.