Dave Elliott: In line with his electoral promises, US president Donald Trump has tried to revamp much of the US energy system, backing coal against renewables, cutting support for climate change research and supporting nuclear power. His most visible action internationally was to indicate his intention to pull the US out of the Paris COP21 climate agreement, but nationally his policies have been just as divisive, with Obama’s Clean Power Plan being attacked and climate policies reversed, along with the linked “social cost of carbon” methodology. That was widely attacked as environmentally irresponsible. Trump’s main national priority seemed to be to cut federal spending on energy projects he didn’t approve of. However, he only initially identified £100m in possible cuts from the planned 2018 climate and energy allocations. Apparently Obama had managed to stash much of the climate/energy funding in hard-to-cut programme areas. But Trump persevered and came up with more substantial cut proposals. They included a 69% cut for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and a 31% cut for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filleting the energy programme. Overall, around $1.4bn of clean energy spending was set to be cut. And in all, reportedly, around £3.6bn from energy and climate spending. However, most of the proposed budget cuts were in the event successfully resisted. Indeed, some were reversed. But Trump is now back seeking even larger (72%) DoE budget cuts for 2019, with US energy secretary Rick Perry backing the plan. Some of that now seems to be going ahead. The US House Appropriations Committee has just approved a $243m funding cut for the 2019 energy efficiency and renewable energy programme, but backed a $58m rise in R&D funding for fossil fuels. So the future remains uncertain, with brave efforts to map out a different path, like Jacobson’s “100% renewables by 2050” study, being dissed by some critics. Just at the point when other studies were coming to similar conclusions – the US, like most other countries, could get to 100%, or at least 80%. In my next post I will look at China, where things are somewhat different.
Physics World 31st May 2018 read more »