President Barack Obama’s FY2013 budget includes $27.2 billion for the Department of Energy. US DOE says the budget priorities are focused on the ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy laid out in the President’s state of the union message.
There are many lofty energy goals articulated in the budget:
• R&D support for clean energy technologies including $276 million for clean coal and carbon capture and storage; $350 million for more ARPA-E early stage R&D;
• Reduce the cost of solar energy by 75% and achieve grid parity without subsidies by 2020;
• Reduce dependence on oil by one-third by 2025;
• Invest in basic science, research and innovation to solve our energy challenges including $60 million for research on energy storage systems; $120 million for the Energy Frontier Research Centres and $140 million for six Energy Innovation Hubs for research commercialization;
• $770 million for nuclear energy, including $65 million for cost-shared awards for small modular reactors and $60 million for nuclear waste disposal research;
• $14.0 billion to reduce nuclear dangers and maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent and clean up the environmental hazard legacy from the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.
But the reaction to the President’s budget was as welcoming as a big snow storm:
“The White House’s budget for fiscal 2013 begins with a broken promise, adds some phony policy assumptions, throws in a few rosy forecasts and omits all kinds of painful decisions. Even then, the proposal would add $1 trillion more to the national debt than Obama contemplated a few months ago — and it is a non-starter on Capitol Hill, where even Senate Democrats have no plans to take it up. It is, in other words, exactly what it was supposed to be: a campaign document.”—-Washington Post.
The good news is that the President’s 2013 budget restores the popular Treasury Tax Grants of 30% of renewable energy projects that expired last December helping to create as many as 37,000 new solar jobs according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
But the bad news as reported in the Washington Post is that not even Senate Democrats in the President’s own party believe his budget is anything more than a campaign speech on paper. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had no plans to bring the budget to the floor maintaining his perfect record—he has not even asked for a vote on a budget submitted by his own president since Obama assumed office. This is code for ‘keep those campaign contributions flowing for Senate Democrats and we will see what we can do for you.’
The bottom line is the President’s Budget is going nowhere fast so all these lofty goals and promises are showbiz teasers for the main event ahead in November 2012. Like many other programs clean energy can no longer count on subsidies, tax grants or other gimmicks to support its bottom line, it is emancipation day in America. The kids have grown up, they have jobs but no benefits, but they are young, healthy and full of enthusiasm—and about to learn one of life’s best lessons—struggle is good, it toughens you up for the real world, it forces you to set priorities and face consequences sometimes unintended but nonetheless real—and when you succeed it is so much sweeter because you did it yourself!
By. Gary L. Hunt
Gary Hunt is President, Scalable Growth Strategy Advisors, an independent energy technology and information services adviser and a partner in Tech & Creative Labs, a disruptive innovation software collaborative of high tech companies focused on the energy vertical. He served as VP-Global Analytics & Data at IHS/CERA; global Division President at Ventyx, now an ABB company; and Assistant City Manager-Austin Texas responsible for Austin Energy and Austin Water.