Tell U.S. Congress No U-turns for Clean Energy Spending

Lawmakers heading home to their states and districts for the August recess will have some explaining to do. Attempts to repeal healthcare for millions of Americans will be top of mind for many of their constituents. But members of U.S. House of Representatives also may have to answer for passing a federal funding proposal that abandons clean energy progress and eviscerates federal investments in core efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The so-called Make America Secure Appropriations Act 2018, H.R. 3219, is in stark opposition to the set of values shared by the millions of Americans—one of clean air and clean water, equity and prosperity, and innovation and progress.

The House-passed budget cuts would be devastating. The “Make America Secure” legislation slashes programs that have consistently proven to deliver results—driving job creation, economic growth, and increased affordability. It cuts $1 billion (a 48 percent reduction) from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and eliminates the Loan Program Office and the Advanced Research Programs Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). EERE supports critical programs that are helping make homes and businesses more energy efficient. It also supports advanced manufacturing solutions, sustainable transportation and the deployment of renewable energy resources. And funding matters in local communities: About eight full-time jobs are created for every $1 million in federal invested in efficiency, which is nearly three times the employment created by the same investment in fossil fuels. The $1 billion dollar cut the U.S. House of Representatives advanced could translate into 8,000 American jobs that never materialize.

Take the SuperTruck program in the EERE Vehicle Technologies Office, which was completely defunded in the Trump administration’s budget request. The program is the result of years of careful evaluation on what will stimulate industry to innovate. It has already led to trucking technology innovations that are being deployed, and has the potential to produce many more. Manufacturers and industry partners have noted over and over again that without the competition spurred by federal funds, those innovations would likely not have been developed, and trucking fees, which are passed along to average Americans, would be higher.

Notably the Senate’s first draft bill does NOT follow the House’s lead on this. Instead, it continues to fund core efficiency and renewable energy programs within EERE, funds ARPA-E at historic levels, and acknowledges the importance of federal investment across the spectrum of research from basic science to field demonstrations and deployment support. With such significant differences, it will require the two chambers to work together to resolve their differences and ensure the government is funded past September 30, 2017.

The Difference a Decade Makes

As clean energy adoption expands from key federal investments, carbon emissions will dramatically fall. Failing to sustain the necessary rapid pace of innovation would place U.S. entrepreneurs, manufacturers and workers at a competitive disadvantage in developing breakthrough technologies and creating jobs needed for our future clean energy economy, while hindering our ability to meet our mid-century climate objectives.

Early DOE support for clean energy innovation has fostered partnerships among our 17 National Labs, over 100 small businesses in 31 states, and even 24 international allies. It has made clean energy vastly more affordable in just a few short years. Because of advanced research in efficient lighting solutions, for example, we’ve seen the cost of an LED lightbulb drop by an amazing 94 percent. The cost of wind and solar energy have been cut in half and advanced batteries by nearly 75 percent—all since 2008. This work and more is part of multi-year science and energy research, development and deployment programs that is contributing greatly to our economic growth and healthier future, and in each technology area, there is still more work to be done.

DOE’s ARPA-E and the Loan Program Office are also highly successful programs that support technology start-ups to bridge the critical “valley of death” between research and development and commercialization. In a few short years, ARPA-E has invested over $1.5 billion in 580 projects of which:

  • 56 projects formed new companies;
  • 68 projects have partnered with other government agencies, like Defense Department, to further development, and;
  • 74 projects have attracted more than $1.8 billion in private-sector follow on funding.

A recent National Academies of Science report closes its findings with “the agency is not failing and is not in need of reform. In fact, attempts to reform the agency… would pose a significant risk of harming its efforts and chances of achieving its mission and goals.”

Efficiency is the easiest, cheapest way to drive down costs, and the DOE’s appliance standards program has a 30-year proven record of success. This popular program, launched under President Reagan, ensures that refrigerators, washing machines and other major appliances and equipment use less energy while remaining affordable. Efficiency standards for appliances are helping save the average household $500 a year, and will save Americans a cumulative $2.4 trillion by 2035.

Appropriations Riders…Again?

Why is it that Republicans who control both chambers of Congress and the White House resort to amendments preventing agencies from doing their job? Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) introduced once again an amendment, or rider, to the DOE budget to prohibit funding for the implementation or enforcement of lightbulb energy efficiency standards. These standards, passed by Congress in 2007 and signed into law by President Bush, are saving American households about $100 annually on average. American lighting manufacturers and their trade association support these standards and have committed to complying with them. The Burgess amendment seemingly opens the door to foreign companies to introduce sub-standard lightbulbs, undermining the energy saving opportunity and putting energy-saving bulb manufacturing jobs at risk in America. Is that what the congressman has in mind?

Also introduced was an amendment by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to prevent the DOE from implementing or enforcing the test procedure to ensure air-conditioners and heat pumps meet the newly established federal energy efficiency standard. Importantly, the testing requirements—which evolved from a negotiated agreement—have already taken effect and manufacturers are retesting products to meet the updated specification. As Reps. Peter Welch, Marcy Kaptur, and Adam Kinzinger rightfully noted in opposition to this amendment, “pulling the rug out from under them now would allow cheaper, less efficient foreign imports to undercut U.S. products.” Thankfully 57 Republicans and all of the Democrats voted down this measure, preventing it from risking the energy savings equivalent to powering 28 million households in the United States for a year.  

The Department of Energy is the largest funder of clean energy innovation in the United States. As such, a robustly funded Department of Energy research portfolio is essential for a strong domestic economy, the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, maintaining global leadership on energy innovation and meeting our long term climate objectives. Don’t let Congress make a U-turn on this progress.