Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) has authored the “2015 Energy and Water” bill, which was recently approved by a House Appropriations Committee subpanel. It calls for $113 million in cuts to renewable energy programs and over $500 million in increases for spending on fossil fuels.
A statement from the bill’s press release summed up the changes: “In order to balance investments in all energy sources, research and development to advanced coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies, which will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs, are funded at $593 million – an increase of $30.9 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. In addition, funding for nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration activities is increased by $9.8 million for a total funding level of $899 million. Renewable energy programs, which are funded at $1.8 billion in the bill, are cut by $113 million from last year’s enacted level.”
One might assume from the misleading language used in the press release that wind and sunlight are not natural resources, but oil, coal and natural gas are. The full text of the proposed legislation is here, but be warned it is a PDF file over 60 pages.
Some of the cuts were aimed at ARPA-E, eliminating about 81% of the program’s budget. A Democratic Representative from Ohio, Marcy Kaptur, said that the proposed cuts would effectively eliminate ARPA-E. She is the ranking member on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. (Kaptur helped secure Congressional funding for 180th Fighter Wing solar array and solar energy projects at the University of Toledo.)
Eliminating ARPA-E would probably not be considered a particularly intelligent thing to do. One argument for keeping it operating is that it is too early to cut its funding, because it hasn’t been functioning long enough to reach its full potential.
Earlier this year, some of its success was documented by Greentech Media. “On Tuesday, ARPA-E announced that twenty-two projects that have received about $95 million in federal funding have raised a collective $625 million in private-sector investment. That figure is up from last year’s tally of seventeen projects with $70 million in ARPA-E funding gathering $450 million in private sector funding.” Expecting all ARPA-E projects to always be successful is very unrealistic and is a standard not held to the private sector.
People who follow politics — especially energy politics — are not likely to be surprised by a Republican bill that tries to cut funding for renewable energy. In 2013, Republicans put forth a proposal to cut the renewable energy budget in half. Similar cuts were proposed by Republicans in 2011 as well. In 1995, they were just as resistant to renewable energy. It’s an ongoing story.