I wanted to know a little more about President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget as it related to energy items. I’m wondering what priorities his administration has, for instance. I can’t say that after taking a brief look around I’m totally pleased with what I found. There is too much of a budget boost to legacy energy systems and not enough emphasis, in my opinion, to the energy systems of the future. Those future systems are what I think the government should be funding. Without a doubt, the subsidies to the dirty energy industry need to be cut off completely. They’re mature to the point of being nearly monopolistic, which means they can stand or fall on their own merits now. With that in mind, here is some of what I’ve found.
The White House is requesting $123 million for DoE’s wind program, a $43 million increase over current spending.
Obama’s new budget includes nearly $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, an increase from $113 million in the previous budget. That sounds like a good amount of money for programs that will help energy consumers save money quickly (energy efficiency) and reduce demand on dirty energy while clean energy comes online. Speaking of the latter,
J.P. Morgan analyst Christopher Blansett said that measures in the budget such as $500 million in credit subsidies for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects do not account for much in the “big picture perspective.” Blansett estimated that it will cost between $158 billion to $445 billion if the United States adopts a national electricity standard requiring 15 percent of all electricity in the country to come from renewable resources by 2020.
That’s mostly because of the antiquated transmission system we have in place now. It is in terrible shape due to decades of lack of maintenance and the fundamental problem of being developed in a hodge-podge fashion.
What about nuclear power, which the President spoke of in his SOTU? The almost 5 percent increase in funding from fiscal 2010 covers a $36 billion boost in loan guarantee authority for nuclear power facilities for a total of $54 billion, $300 million for an innovative energy research program, and a $226 million increase in funding for the Office of Science for research and development of “breakthrough” technologies for a total of $5.1 billion.
Suddenly, that $43 million wind program increase and the $113 million energy efficiency and renewable energy program increase is put in a different context. They’re drops in the bucket compared to nuclear – which carries along a much higher risk aspect. Some of the recent nuclear plants that were supposed to be started in the past year have suffered from ballooning project costs and as a result have been put on the shelf again. It seems to me that the $36 billion boost should go instead to the transmission grid instead. That would be a good down payment on the hundreds of billions it will cost to flesh it out to the level required.
Weatherization programs in the DoE are included. The administration sought $385 million, an 83 percent increase from the $210 million that Congress approved last year. The request for DoE wind power jumped 54 percent, from $80 million last year to $123 million this year. The administration also wants a big boost in solar programs, seeking a hike from $225 million last year to $302 million this year, which would be a 34 percent increase. The budget proposal recommends a 21 percent cut for the hydrogen technology program (still decades away from viability), taking it from $174 million to $137 million. But look at these numbers: increases of less than $100 million from last year each.
To fill out more of the big picture, I want to state for the record that President Obama’s priorities are much more in line with mine than were Bush’s. The Obama administration includes people that I think truly understand the dual climate-energy crises this nation is facing. While I would like to see the money divvied up differently, there are important amounts of funds going to projects and programs that do need them. Better they receive something rather than nothing, as they did under the Bush nightmare. Further, it remains to be seen what Congress’ priorities are. How many pet projects are going to receive taxpayer monies that do little to address those crises? Republicans and Democrats both do a fine job of complaining about all the waste, then boost spending to bring money back to their own districts. That kind of short-sighted politics doesn’t solve our national problems.
I would also like to see the Obama administration push for a strong climate and energy bill out of the Senate in very short order. We have quite simply run out of time. There can be no more delays, unless Congress would rather appropriate even more money for projects to dismantle and move trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure due to rising waters and other climate change effects.
Cross-posted at SquareState.