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Obama’s Budget Proposal a Win for Those Who Care about Clean Air, Clean Water, Livable Climate, & Jobs

 
Obama’s budget proposal is out and is a clear win for the environment. It’s not perfect, but it puts us in the right direction. “Once again, clean, renewable energy and environmental sanity are at the heart of the package,” Jeremy Bloom of sister site Red, Green, and Blue writes.

obama budget

Oil and other fossil fuel companies, which have seen tremendous, unprecedented profits in recent years, are the darlings of many Republican political leaders, and their billions/year in subsidies have been protected without hesitation by those politicians (and by some Democrats, to be fair). The wacky idea is that not giving them billions more to stick in the bank and sit on, they would cut jobs and America would suffer—absolute rubbish! What would happen is they wouldn’t see record profits year after year and a continuously expanding savings account.

The good news is that Obama, in his new budget proposal, has included $39 billion of subsidy cuts for the fossil fuel industry over the coming 10 years.

“Repealing fossil fuel tax preferences helps eliminate market distortions, strengthening incentives for investments in clean, renewable, and more energy efficient technologies,” the budget plan states.

Yes, please!

“On the other hand, the budget does include funding for the Department of the Interior to boost oil and gas production, particularly on public lands in the west,” Jeremy notes. “That will be partly balanced out by $450 million to preserve public lands and $28 million for new inspectors to make sure that we don’t have a repeat of the BP Gulf Oil disaster.”

Renewable energy and energy efficiency, of course, continue to get good support from President Obama. This has certainly been his strong suit over the past few years, in my opinion.

The President’s budget calls for:

  • A clean energy standard for electricity production, so that by 2035, 80 percent will be come from low-carbon sources like wind, solar, natural gas and nuclear
  • $2.33 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 29% increase
  • $5 billion for the Office of Science, a 2.4% increase
  • $1.2 billion for energy efficiency, including clean vehicle technologies
  • $310 million for the  SunShot Initiative for cost-competitive solar energy
  • $95 million for wind energy
  • $65 million for geothermal
  • $350 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) for transformative energy innovation research
  • $770 million to develop small modular reactors
  • Extended renewable energy tax credits
  • NO additional funding for the loan guarantee program for clean energy projects that has been under attack by the GOP since solar company Solyndra failed.

“In light of the tight discretionary spending caps, this increase in funding is significant and a testament to the importance of innovation and clean energy to the country’s economic future,” the budget request says.

“The choice we face as a nation is simple: do we want the clean energy technologies of tomorrow to be invented in America by American innovators, made by American workers and sold around the world, or do we want to concede those jobs to our competitors? We can and must compete for those jobs,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu added.

The EPA doesn’t get axed, but it also doesn’t get a boost.

While the EPA faces a small 2.1% decrease in its budget, that’s a far cry from GOP proposals, which range from “slash it” to “kill it completely”.

Still, it seems like a strange negotiating tactic: When your opponents want to cut something, you don’t START by pre-emptively meeting them halfway. That sure hasn’t worked out in the past, and it’s probably a mistake now.

Cuts include:

  • Money for hazardous waste site cleanup
  • A program to reduce indoor radon exposure
  • A program to monitor beaches to make sure they’re safe enough to swim (maybe they can get BP to volunteer to fund this one?)
  • A program to help states improve infrastructure and drinking water treatment

Increases include

  • $66 million for air quality programs to help states meet new regulations
  • $5 to hire more inspectors for high-risk oil and chemical plants

Transportation proposals please the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and all transit lovers and riders, as well as bicyclists and high-speed train lovers.

“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association, we are pleased that President Barack Obama released a six-year transportation bill that increases funding for public transportation by over 100%,” APTA writes. “We support the efforts of the Administration to move this proposal forward because investing in public transit is essential to creating American jobs and boosting our economy.”

But, as Jeremy aptly notes, GOP politicians aren’t particularly interested in having the economy bounce back while Obama’s president, since their #1 goal (as stated by leaders in the party) is to make Obama a one-term president. So, Jeremy’s statement on this is a little more pessimistic (or realistic, you might say):

Sadly, Obama’s transportation priorities are probably as dead in the water as the GOP’s. He’s once again calling for $47 billion for high-speed rail (down $6 billion from last year’s proposal), but the House and Senate will probably block that completely.

He’s also calling for $50 billion in up-front infrastructure spending to boost jobs creation this year, but improving the economy is also the last thing the GOP wants to do right now.

Overall

“Despite some flaws, the president’s budget is a big net plus for the environment, and we urge Congress to embrace the positive aspects of it,” said Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget for Natural Resources, Energy and Science, after praising the oil and gas company cuts but lamenting EPA and Farm Bill conservation cuts.

“Look at it this way:  environmental conservation is cheaper than environmental cleanup, just like preventive medicine is cheaper than emergency room treatment. We applaud the President’s support of job-creating, clean energy programs.” Well put. That’s an analogy we should use more often!

And, at a glance from the EDF (note that the EDF is probably the most corporate-friendly green organization in the country):

Good news:

  • $27.2 billion for the Department of Energy, a 3.2 percent increase over what Congress enacted last year:
    • $2.3 billion would go towards research and development for energy efficiency, advanced vehicles and biofuels.
    • $522 million increase in renewable energy sources and an additional $174 million for a revamped industrial technology-advanced manufacturing program.
    • $12 million would go towards multi-year research investments in safer natural gas infrastructure in order to reduce risks associated with hydraulic fracturing in shale formations.
      • Pipeline safety would receive a 70 percent, or $64 million, increase.
  • Approximately $1 billion for energy conservation efforts in the Department of Defense (DOD), which is the world’s largest energy consumer.
    • DOD is increasing its commitment to renewable energy, which now makes up 8.5 percent of its energy production and procurement.
  • $174 million for sustainable fisheries work by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which supports the science and management needed to support the commercial fishing industry that supports 1 million jobs and yields more than $32 billion in income every year.
  • $28 million for the National Catch Share Program, a critical part of the nation’s strategy to return its fisheries to abundance, the same level adopted by the Congress last year.

Bad news:

  • Counterproductive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency
    • The fiscal 2013 budget seeks $8.3 billion, which is $105 million below the current funding level for the agency.
    • If Congress approves the proposal, it would be the first time since 1994 that the agency’s budget was cut for three consecutive years.
  • Counterproductive cuts to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service
    • The fiscal 2013 budget seeks to cut funding for Farm Bill conservation programs by about $600 million.
    • Congress already has cut conservation funding by $2.8 billion over the last five years (FY 2008-2012), representing 81 percent of the nearly $3.5 billion in Farm Bill spending cuts during that time period.

Overall, it’s better for the environment than it is bad. Now, we have to support those critical good parts as the Senate and House GOP try to hack them up or incinerate them.

Check out this complete overview of the budget from the White House for more.

Image of Obama via White House

 
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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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