The Energy Department would slash clean energy funding by just under 70 percent, but renewables still would get more money than clean coal, according to President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request.
Currently, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is flying high on a fiscal 2017 budget of about $2 billion to support former President Barack Obama's energy and climate priorities. But that is chopped by 69.3 percent under the Trump proposal to $636 million.
The Trump proposal also would slash the Fossil Energy Office's budget by nearly 56 percent from the fiscal 2017 appropriation and spending deal that is funding the office. That means the money for clean coal and other fossil fuels would fall from $630 million to $280 million, less than half what Trump is allowing for renewables.
Trump had touted building clean coal programs as one of his top priorities. But achieving that goal may have more to with rolling back climate regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency than funding research and development at the the Department of Energy. However, the budget is still only a wish list, since Congress approves funding.
The total Energy Department budget for fiscal 2018 was slashed just 5.3 percent from fiscal 2017, from $29.6 billion to $28 billion.
The comparatively large cuts to the renewable energy office immediately stoked the ire of climate change activist and environmentalists who are vowing to restore the funds by lobbying lawmakers to oppose them.
"We call on Congress to reject these draconian cuts and continue its bipartisan support for energy efficiency," said long-time energy efficiency advocate Steve Nadel, the head of the advocacy group American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Nadel said that the nearly 70 percent in cuts to the efficiency and clean energy programs would directly affect consumer costs and jobs.
Programs that support home weatherization and other energy efficiency programs at the Department of Energy's office help "lower energy bills for households, businesses and the federal government itself, all while creating domestic jobs," he said.
Other critics said the 70 percent cut would cede global leadership on energy efficiency and clean energy to countries such as China.
"This would effectively take the U.S. out of the game when it comes to advancing efficiency technology and improving productivity," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "We would be ceding the global leadership we have painstakingly built over the past 40 years to countries like China that are investing heavily in this area because they understand that it is an enormous economic opportunity – a way to make your economy more productive and competitive."
A group of Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent Trump a letter last week, asking that he not slash clean energy and efficiency spending in the energy budget.