This week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended the Trump administration’s FY18 budget proposal for the Department of Energy (DOE) before both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations committees. Perry cited the safety and security of nuclear weapons, protecting energy infrastructure from cyberattacks, supporting early-stage research and development, and fulfilling national environmental management commitments as the administration’s top priorities. In the President’s proposed budget, the Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), would see a cut of 69 percent, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would essentially be eliminated, with a 93 percent cut. Overall, the proposed budget would reduce total DOE funding by 5.6 percent from FY17, with nuclear weapons and nuclear waste programs receiving big increases, offsetting losses to research, renewable and efficiency programs.
Clean Energy Research and Development
Despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Secretary Perry said the United States is committed to being a global leader in clean energy technology now “more than ever.” When asked about funds supporting hydrogen fuel cell technology, Perry said we will need an “all of the above” approach to energy that will include oil, natural gas, and renewables.
The proposed budget, however, would reduce funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) by 69 percent. Rep. Kaptur (D-OH) called this a setback for “the sector inventing our future” and Sen. Coons (D-DE) said the cuts basically say the United States is “giving up on the clean energy race.”
EERE oversees projects promoting energy efficient buildings, clean energy manufacturing, renewable power generation, and sustainable transportation. The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within EERE also works to develop advanced biofuels from non-food sources. For example, in 2016, BETO provided $4 million in funding for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop a way produce renewable jet fuel from industrial waste gases. EERE also houses the vehicle technologies office.
Under the proposed budget, funding for the Office of Science would be cut by 17 percent. The Office of Science is the steward of 10 of DOE’s 17 national laboratories. The innovation and research produced in these laboratories have allowed the United States to maintain its position as a world leader in science and technology. In strong support for the national laboratories, Sen. Alexander (R-TN) told Perry, “The federal budget can’t be balanced on the backs of national labs” and “the federal debt is not the result of energy research.” Lawmakers were also concerned the cuts to the Office of Science would result in a loss of nearly 7,000 national laboratory jobs.
Perry assured lawmakers that national laboratories will continue to be the future of innovation and technology in the United States and promised to “find places to save dollars, at the same time being able to deliver what citizens want, and what your constituents want."
Nuclear Waste Management
In both Senate and House committee meetings, much of the conversation centered around nuclear waste. There are currently 77,000 metric tons of nuclear waste spread across more than 120 sites in the United States. After a recent visit to the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, Perry believes we have a “moral and national security obligation” to develop safe, long-term nuclear waste storage. The Fukushima plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011, causing multiple meltdowns, and Perry warned the United States could suffer from a similar situation.
The proposed budget would devote $120 million to resume the licensing process for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada and develop plans for interim storage. Nevada has repeatedly opposed proposals to open Yucca Mountain with concerns the facility could leak or create a target for terrorists.
Baseload Power and Expanding Oil Pipelines
In his testimony, Perry also stressed the need for reliable baseload power, noting record high temperatures in the southwest and the possibility of brownouts. To achieve this, Perry said the United States will need to have “not just our nuclear plants but any plants able to run that baseload,” a possible reference to coal-fired power plants. Renewable technology groups, like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower have argued that together, renewables can provide 24/7 power. Indeed, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower provide baseload power and can complement wind and solar when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.
Rep. Kaptur also asked Perry about President Trump’s proposal to sell off oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is the world’s largest supply of emergency oil, with the capacity to store over 713 million barrels of crude oil. The reserve was created in the 1970s after an oil embargo caused a national energy crisis. In response to Rep. Kaptur, Perry said increasing our network of oil pipelines could remove the need for an emergency oil supply. Perry mentioned the Dakota Access pipeline can hold up to 5 million barrels of oil, and said pipelines can act as a form of storage.
Author: Sara Tanigawa
For more information see:
Department of Energy – Budget Hearing, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations
Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
Perry Touts ‘24-7’ Power, Oil Pipelines as Key to Energy Security, Inside Climate News