How Congress Wants Trump To Fix The Energy Department

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Congressional lawmakers want incoming President-elect Donald Trump to reform the Department of Energy (DOE) to make it more responsive and efficient.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Trump’s transition team outlining how the DOE could be reformed and modernized.

Cramer’s proposals include funding DOE research programs by results instead of technology type, diverting money from wind and solar subsidies into basic research, focus on exporting energy and reorganizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the DOE.

Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are outraged by recent behavior by DOE officials — who withheld information from Congress to advance President Barack Obama’s global warming plans, an investigation concluded. The investigation found that agency officials fired an employee for honestly answering Congressional staff’s questions. This has led to a debate over how to reform the agency and what its mission should be.

“The mission of the Department is to provide science and technology solutions for energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges, but only 37% of the DOE’s roughly $30 billion budget is designated for science and energy programs,” states the letter. “Consequently, advocates for reform argue the DOE should focus on its core mission: energy innovation. For example, carbon capture and utilization technology solutions are critical to revitalizing coal and other fossil fuel related jobs.”

Cramer thinks the DOE should spend research budgets by outcomes, which would give the agency greater flexibility to set big goals as well as allowing it to redirect funding to where it makes the most sense. The Department of Energy plans to spend $8.5 billion next year on global warming-related research next year, which is roughly comparable to the amount it spends on energy innovation.

Cramer also wants Trump to reorganize the EPA under the DOE, as that agency has also attempted to dodge congressional oversight. The agency would be rolled into the DOE, potentially saving billions of dollars and improving governmental efficiency.

“Moving the EPA to DOE makes sense from a policy perspective since the combined agency would host both relevant regulatory and technology functions,” states the report. “Merged with strategic energy policy and technology considerations, U.S. environmental policy making would become more rational and less influenced by environmental special interests like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club.”

Finally, the DOE should  lift restrictions on energy exports, according to Cramer’s letter, as industry groups are already moving in this direction.

Across the U.S., five new liquid natural gas export terminals, capable of exporting 10 billion feet per day, are under construction. When finished, these terminals will make the U.S. one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas. Selling gas to Europe would have minimal costs and huge economic benefits, according to a DOE study, but environmentalists have repeatedly blocked permits for terminals.

Exporting natural gas is likely to be a growth industry, as global demand for natural gas is expected to be 50 percent higher by 2035 than it is now, according to the International Energy Agency.

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