A Trump Budget Could Decimate Climate Funding – Scientific American
The world is waiting to hear what President-elect Donald Trump has in mind for governing the U.S. Among the biggest questions is what will happen to the budget for climate and energy-related activities.
Though they’re a relatively small piece of a federal budget that is in excess of $1 trillion, how the administration deals with climate and energy will go a long ways toward determining the future of the planet.
“We don’t get a second chance,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week at the United Nations climate talks in Morocco. “We have to get this right and we have to get it right now.”
The climate and clean energy budget could be in peril, though. Trump has called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese and has vowed to end the Paris Agreement (though on Tuesday, he softened on both stances in a meeting with New York Times reporters).
In a video statement released on Monday, he said he would “cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs.” That could be a reference to his stated goal to rescind the Clean Power Plan and Environmental Protection Agency rules.
The EPA transition team leader is Myron Ebell, a climate denier from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. On Monday, the transition team announced that Thomas Pyle, a former Koch brothers lobbyist, would head up the Energy Department transition and Doug Domenech, who runs Fueling Freedom, a group that aims to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels,” would head the Interior Department efforts.
Add in a Republican-controlled Senate and House, which have repeatedly tried to block climate action under President Obama, and it’s likely that the federal climate budget will suffer in the coming years. Just how remains to be seen until Trump proposes his first budget.
Here’s where a number of federal agencies stand with climate and energy funding, what they spend it on, and what could be under fire after Jan. 20 when Trump takes office. The budget numbers below are based on the 2017 fiscal year budget requests for each agency or department.
2017 climate-related budget: $8.5 billion
What it’s spent on: Energy efficiency and renewable and nuclear energy research and development as well as science and computing.
What could happen to it: Trump has said little about what his Energy Department would look like or how its funding would be affected. However, his energy plan calls for aggressively promoting fossil fuels to achieve full energy independence and create new jobs. His plan says he would continue research on nuclear power and renewables, but do so without preferring one energy source over another. By contrast, the Obama administration, through its Climate Action Plan, has made developing renewables a priority while restricting new coal development on federal lands. Coal is a major source of the greenhouse gases driving climate change.
If the Department of Energy deemphasizes research and development on renewables, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) could take a major hit. The NREL is a national lab that researches renewable power and energy efficiency technology, and ways to make the electric power grid more sustainable. The DOE, which determines funding for the 17 national laboratories scattered about the country, funds 80 percent of NREL’s budget, while the other 20 percent comes from other federal agencies and the lab’s partnerships with industry.
“We can’t speculate on what sort of policies President-elect Trump may choose to prioritize or what the related impacts will be for NREL,” lab spokeswoman Heather Lammers said. “In the meantime, we remain focused on our mission to find answers to today’s energy challenges.”
2017 climate-related budget: $1.1 billion
What it’s spent on: Supporting scientific research and managing landscapes for climate resilience as well as expanding public access to climate-related information. The Interior Department, through the U.S. Geological Survey, funds climate science centers, and research on carbon sequestration.
Interior’s climate resiliency programs include nearly $200 million to help communities such as those damaged by Hurricane Sandy to shore themselves against extreme weather, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change.
What could happen to it: Trump has been relatively silent on his intentions for the Interior Department other than saying that he wants to open federal public lands—many of them managed by Interior—to fossil fuels development to the maximum extent possible while also denying the existence of climate change.
Trump is considering a wide range of fossil fuels-friendly candidates for Interior Secretary, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Lucas Oil co-founder Forrest Lucas, and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, among others.