Clean energy technology wins out in Obama’s budget

Amanda Carey Contributor
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While House Republicans are preparing to slash spending for renewable energy projects in their plan to fund the government through the rest of this year, President Obama proposed “significant investment” on similar projects in his budget proposal released Monday for fiscal year 2012.

In total, the president is proposing an additional $8 billion for clean energy projects across all federal agencies, with a focus on research and development.

For the Department of Energy (DOE), the president requested a 12 percent increase over the current level to $29.5 billion. The budget promises to incur savings, however, through “cuts to inefficient fossil energy programs.” The proposal comes just three days after DOE Secretary Steven Chu outlined how the agency would cut wasteful spending.

The Office of Science is slated to receive $5.4 billion increase in funding in the president’s proposal, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy a is slated to get total of $550 million.

The president wants to double the number of Energy Innovation Hubs throughout the country from three to six as a challenge to “America’s scientists and engineers to assemble teams of the best minds in their fields to focus on the hardest problems in clean energy.”

The proposal calls the hubs the “Apollo projects of our time.”

Obama also reiterated the goal he laid out in his State of the Union address last month of one million electric cars on the road by 2015. To do so, the administration proposes transforming an existing $7,500 tax credit into a rebate for consumers who buy electric vehicles, spending $588 million on vehicle technology at the Department of Energy (DOE), and rewarding communities that pursue electric vehicle infrastructure with a $200 million incentive program.

The president also lays out how the government could fund his proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) – a goal that would double the amount of electricity used from clean energy sources by 2035. The budget includes up to $36 billion in future loans for nuclear power plants and $200 million in credit for $1 to $2 billion dollars in loan guarantees for innovation in energy efficiency.

Moreover, in an effort to fund reducing emissions from commercial buildings, the budget proposes a “Race to Green” program, similar to the Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” that makes states compete for funding. The program aims to reduce energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.

To help pay for it all, the budget proposes rolling back tax breaks and subsidies to the oil industry, totaling $46.2 billion.