Feb. 9, 2006 – In his 2006 State of Union Address, President Bush challenged the nation to reduce its dependency on oil and called for more than a 20 percent increase in Energy Department research into clean energy. The presidentâ€™s proposed 2007 budget released Monday, though, is at odds with the call and seeks millions in cuts from programs aimed at meeting precisely those challenges.
Under the proposal, funding for both the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency will drop below current levels, with programs aimed specifically at renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources bearing a large portion of those cuts.
Energy Department funds would be cut by about $186 million under the White House plan, with a significant portion of the funding -- $632 million â€“ going to the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, an increase of more than $90 million.
Among energy programs slated for cuts are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, which would lose nearly $10 million. In addition, the 2007 budget would trim money for other renewable-energy projects, including the Energy Departmentâ€™s weatherization program, Clean Cities initiative and all building materials and code-update-related efforts, according to a breakdown released by the Alliance to Save Energy.
The budget also cuts the EPAâ€™s main energy education program, Energy Star, by 9 percent. And it assumes that there will be increased revenues from more oil drilling in the West and banks on money from exploiting oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Tuesday, a network of over 60 groups called on lawmakers to reject the Bush Energy budget and instead direct funding toward sustainable energy as authorized by the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPAct). The Act calls for increased funding for alternative energy sources, including biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cells. Those initiatives will receive funding boosts under the presidentâ€™s proposal, but not at levels authorized under EPAct.
â€œOptions such as expanded oil and gas drilling, â€˜cleanâ€™ coal and nuclear power are, at best, long-term strategies that will offer no immediate or even near-term relief from the energy problems now confronting the US,â€� the groups wrote in an open letter sent to all national legislators. â€œMoreover, many of these technologies entail unacceptably high economic, social, and environmental costs that will limit, if not completely preclude, their use over the long term.â€�
Instead, the groups recommended, â€œthe only energy resources that can provide any significant relief, both now and in the years ahead, are the mix of energy efficiency and renewable-energy technologies deployed to the maximum extent possible.â€�
Last week, the Wilderness Society, an environmental conservation group, and several other environmental groups sent proposals for a â€œgreen budgetâ€� to Congress and the president. The request included more funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other sustainable energy projects, as well as calls for tighter restrictions on logging and grazing on public lands.â€œThe core safeguards protecting our health and our communities have been cut to the bone in recent years,â€� Natural Resources Defense Council Deputy Legislative Director Heather Taylor said in a statement accompanying the Societyâ€™s call. â€œWe canâ€™t afford to keep slashing away. We need new investments in clean, renewable energy technologies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut global warming emissions.â€�