The Senate Committee on Appropriations recently exhibited a quality somewhat rare in U.S. politics these days: bipartisanship.
The committee released a lengthy report on the 2018 fiscal year budget for the Department of Energy that walks away from the Trump Administration’s efforts to defund clean energy.
In fact, the committee voted on a bipartisan basis to boost funding, rather than slash it.
The Administration had called for massive cuts to the Department of Energy in its 2018 budget, specifically targeting clean- and renewable-energy projects and energy-efficiency efforts.
As detailed in a summation of the report by the Brookings Institute, the committee of Senators voted 38-1 to increase the Department of Energy’s budget—effectively rejecting the Trump administration’s proposed budget.
With its vote, the committee actually increased DoE’s budget by $4 billion over that for the 2017 fiscal year, to $38.4 billion.
The surprise lay not just in the committee’s rebuke of the budget cuts, but its defense of clean- and renewable-energy investments in its report.
To paraphrase portions of the report, senators uniformly agreed the Trump budget moved too far away from later-stage research and development.
Instead, the administration placed more emphasis on early-stage development, which the committee felt would harm real-world integration of new technology and energy advancements.
The Trump budget charged the Department of Energy with research and development of core technologies, but placed all implementation on the private sector.
The bipartisan committee laid out a plethora of reasons why that approach had proven not to work, including limited R&D budgets at utility companies.
The panel took the position that it can sometimes be the government’s responsibility to help innovation and technology that benefits both citizens and the broader society facing the increasing impacts of climate change.
The $4 billion in extra funds will filter into solar and wind power.
The committee noted both are booming sectors that employ hundreds of thousands of American workers, far more than the remaining U.S. coal industry the Administration has talked up so often.
Additionally, the committee looked at energy storage in budget increases to add reliability and greater access to the power grid.
In all, the committee sent a strong message that clean and renewable energy is here to stay, and that the Senators felt it deserved a greater focus than what the current administration has allotted.
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