Friday, February 17, 2012

President Obama's 2013 Environmental Budget

President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal supports efficiency, renewable energy, green jobs, clean air, clean water, and a livable climate. Obama is also tightening the nations belt and helping to forge a cleaner future by proposing $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.

This is how Energy Secretary Steven Chu explained the choice Americans face:
“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.”
Here is a summary of some of the greener elements of the President’s budget:
  • 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
  • $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.
The President continues to press for massive investment in public transportation and he is once again calling for $47 billion for high-speed rail which is down $6 billion from last year’s proposal.

There is also some bad news in this budget for those concerned about the environment. Obama has provided no additional funding for the loan guarantee program for clean energy projects.

The EPA faces a budget cutback of 2.1 percent, these cuts will reduce funds for hazardous waste site cleanup, a program to reduce indoor radon exposure, a program to monitor beaches, and a program to help states improve infrastructure and drinking water treatment.

The President's fiscal 2013 budget also makes cuts to the EPA. The proposed EPA budget is $8.3 billion, which is $105 million less than the current level of funding for the EPA. If Congress approves the proposal, it would be the first time since 1994 that the agency’s budget was cut for three consecutive years.

To help offset some of these cuts, Obama has proposed $66 million for air quality programs to help states meet new regulations and $5 million to hire more inspectors for high-risk oil and chemical plants.

Cuts to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are equally counterproduction. 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.

Although the President does propose funding to boost domestic oil and gas production, Obama is also asking for $450 million to preserve public lands and $28 million for new inspectors.

“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.”

Although we should expect more obstructionism from the GOP, this budget is “a testament to the importance of innovation and clean energy to the country’s economic future,” the budget request says.

Click here for a complete overview of the budget from the White House.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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