D.C. Reps. Call for Renewable Energy Budget Increases

Sixty-seven Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling upon congressional appropriators to significantly increase funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE/RE) programs above the Fiscal Year 2006 levels being proposed by the White House.

Representatives Greg Walden and Mark Udall, who are members of the House Appropriations Committee, co-authored a letter outlining their request and submitted it to Rep. David Hobson, who is the chairman of the subcommittee on energy and water; and Peter Visclosky, who is the ranking member of the same subcommittee. The letter calls for the “restoration of funding to last year’s enacted levels for the DOE’s EE/RE budget, while supporting the President’s recommended levels for wind, fuel cells, and renewably based hydrogen.” “Robust R&D funding for [EE/RE] programs remains important to help further reduce technical, institutional, and economic barriers to enable even faster market penetration,” they stated in the letter. “Such funding should not be curtailed when these technologies are just beginning to approach making real inroads into the marketplace.” Walden and Udall used the letter to highlight specific cuts being proposed in a number of DOE’s core EE/RE programs. Funding levels for most of the DOE’s core renewable energy programs were reduced in the proposed budget for FY06. Overall funding for biomass/biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, and solar energy programs would be reduced by nearly $24 million, not including another $4 million targeted to be cut from the budget’s Distributed Energy account. Of all of the DOE’s core renewable energy programs, only wind energy has been proposed for a modest increase. A number of core energy efficiency accounts are also targeted for reductions, including a 24 percent cut to the Industrial Energy Efficiency program, an 11 percent cut to the Energy Efficient Buildings program, and a 7 percent cut to the State Energy program. “We support both fuel cell and renewably-produced hydrogen technologies. However, they are not substitutes for the mix of energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies that are poised to address the nation’s most pressing energy needs today – and tomorrow,” Walden and Udall wrote. “Further cuts will only increase U.S. vulnerability to energy supply disruptions, worsen fuel price volatility, and cause higher energy prices overall unnecessarily, while also ceding lucrative energy efficiency and renewable energy product markets to other countries, such as Japan and Germany.” Walden and Udall cited the budgets for oil and natural gas imports in 2004, which totaled $166 billion and $18 billion respectively. Keeping that cost down depends on a mix of energy sources, and renewable technologies have the potential to tap large domestic resource bases at lower and lower costs, both to the economy and the environment, they wrote. “We therefore strongly urge you to develop an appropriations bill for FY06 that restores funding for those EE/RE programs being recommended for cuts, while accepting the President’s recommended funding levels for wind, fuel cells, and renewably-based hydrogen.” The letter was made available through the Sustainable Energy Coalition, which is a coalition of 85 national and state business, environmental, consumer, and energy policy organizations which work with Members of Congress and other interested parties to increase public support for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
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