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Good-bye ARPA-E, DOE, Loan Guarantee program, Energy Star,
OPIC, USTDA, NEA, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle
Manufacturing Program. Even Big Bird gets the guillotine.
In Washington, the White House released
its budget requests for 2018, a high-level, 62-page overview
of President Trump’s strategy for “Making America Great Again”.
In order of percentage impact, the departments are as follows.
$52B or 8 percent
Veterans Affairs: Up
$4.4B or 6 percent
Homeland Security: Up
$2.8B or 7 percent
Small Business Administration: Down $43M or 5 percent
Health & Human Services: Down $15.1B
or 18 percent
Down $10.1B or
Education: Down $9B or 13 percent
Urban Development: Down
$6.2B or 13 percent
Energy: Down $5.6B or 6 percent
Down $4.7B or 21
EPA: Down $2.6B or 31
$2.5B or 21 percent
Transportation: Down $2.4B or 13 percent
Interior: Down $1.5B or 12
$1.5B or 16 percent
$1.1B or 4 percent
$0.5B or 4 percent
$0.2B or 1 percent
Well-known programs slated for 100% funding cuts include:
the Chemical Safety Board
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
the Delta Regional Authority
the Inter-American Foundation
the U.S. Trade and Development Agency
the Legal Services Corporation
the National Endowment for the Arts
the National Endowment for the Humanities
the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy,
the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program
the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program
Highlight Impacts for Selected Departments
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The Administration says: “The President’s 2018 Budget
requests $17.9 billion for USDA, a $4.7 billion or 21 percent
decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level
(excluding funding for P.L. 480 Title II food aid which is
reflected in the Department of State and USAID budget).”
• Reduces funding for lower priority activities in the National
• Continues to support farmer-focused research and extension
partnerships at land-grant universities and provides about $350
million for USDA’s agship competitive research program.
• Reduces funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while
maintaining core Departmental analytical functions, such as the
funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture.
• Eliminates the duplicative Water and Wastewater loan and grant
• Reduces staffing in USDA’s Service Center Agencies to…reflect
reduced Rural Development workload, and encourage private sector
• Eliminates discretionary activities of the Rural Business and
Cooperative Service, a savings of $95 million from the 2017
annualized CR level.
The Department of Energy
The Administration says: “The Budget for DOE…reflects an
increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage
research, development, and commercialization of energy
technologies and focuses resources toward early-stage research and
development. It emphasizes energy technologies best positioned to
enable American energy independence and domestic job-growth in the
near to mid-term.”
The President’s 2018 Budget requests $28.0 billion for DOE, a
$1.7 billion or 5.6 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR
• Provides $120 million to restart licensing activities for the
Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and initiate a robust
interim storage program.
Eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Title
17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, and the Advanced
Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.
• Ensures the Office of Science continues to invest in the highest
priority basic science and energy research and development as well
as operation and maintenance of existing scientific facilities for
• Focuses funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and
Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of
Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy
Research and Development program on limited, early-stage applied
energy research and development activities where the Federal role
The Administration says: “The budget for EPA
reflects…President’s priority to ease the burden of unnecessary
Federal regulations that impose significant costs for workers and
consumers EPA would primarily support States and Tribes in their
important role protecting air, land, and water in the 21st
The President’s 2018 Budget requests $5.7 billion for the
Environmental Protection Agency, a savings of $2.6 billion, or 31
percent, from the 2017 annualized CR level.
The President’s 2018 Budget:
• Discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international
climate change programs, climate change research and partnership
programs, and related efforts—saving over $100 million for the
American taxpayer compared to 2017 annualized CR levels.
Consistent with the President’s America First Energy Plan, the
Budget reorients EPA’s air program to protect the air we breathe
without unduly burdening the American economy.
• Avoids duplication by concentrating EPA’s enforcement of
environmental protection violations on programs that are not
delegated to States, while providing oversight to maintain
consistency and assistance across State, local, and tribal
• Eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, saving an additional $347
million compared to the 2017 annualized CR level. Lower priority
and poorly performing programs and grants are not funded…examples
of eliminations in addition to those previously mentioned include:
Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor
Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native
Villages and the Mexico Border.
Department of Transportation
The Administration says: “The Budget request reflects a
streamlined DOT that is focused on performing vital Federal safety
oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally
significant transportation infrastructure projects.”
The President’s 2018 Budget requests $16.2 billion for DOT’s
discretionary budget, a $2.4 billion or 13 percent decrease from
the 2017 annualized CR level.
Digest analysis and comment
6 points to absorb for now.
1. It’s a budget request, not an appropriation.
All of this has to go through the sausage-making process in the
House and Senate.
2. It’s in many ways a War Budget. Not so much a
war on big government — as much as a War Budget in the form of
sharply increased defense-related and security-related spending.
Overall, this is a shift in government priority, not a shift
towards smaller government. Overall discretionary (excluding
contingency funds) is reduced by $1 billion, out of a $4 trillion
US budget. The cut is symbolic — while the shift towards Defense
and Homeland Security is real.
3. The focus is shifting away from the,
expensive, risky, Murky Middle of “bringing technologies from the
lab to ready-for-commercialization”. Instead, the budget
emphasizes “energy technologies best positioned to enable American
energy independence and domestic job-growth in the near to
mid-term” while at the same time shifting spending “toward
early-stage research and development”.
If you’ve wondered how the government will foster technologies
that are near-term and mid-term while retreating away from
commercialization activities in favor of a retreat into basic
R&D, you’ve raised a good question. If you say to yourself
that “the commercialization program was built because private
industry, in the past, has repeatedly not picked up the
slack”, you’ve raised a good point.
4. There’s a lot of “we’re still going to do it”
combined with “someone else is going to pay for it” in
Trumpenomics. The Mexican Wall is a prime example — “they’ll pay,
you’ll see” goes the refrain. So we see quite a bit of emphasis on
energy independence and advanced fleet, but corporations will pay
for everything beyond early-stage R&D. And we see a lot of
“the States and Tribes’ll do it” on protecting the environment.
Consider it a shift in the Glorious Burden, not a big change in
what the goals and priorities are.
5. EPA enforcement or responsiveness on anything
is likely to be greatly affected.
6. A lot of Goodbye. In the sector of the
advanced bioeconomy, think Energy Star, ARPA-E, the DOE Loan
Guarantee program, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle
What does it mean?
1. Big companies rock. Those that have the
financial resources to absorb a bigger commercialization effort
will face less competition, that’s for sure — from entities that
have relied on loan guarantees.
2. For the advanced bioeconomy, as we have
pointed out before, the Obama Administration was so profoundly
shifted towards the power sector and electric cars that the cuts
will be felt by fuels and chemicals perhaps less than any other
sector in clean tech. The Loan Guarantee and ARPA-E programs were
massively tilted towards power and electrics — far exceeding the
share of market held by the power sector — and that goes for the
Advanced vehicle program, too.
3. I wouldn’t bet on a gigantic appetite for
continuing the $7500 tax credit for buying an electric vehicle,
under this Administration. That’s tax policy rather than budget,
but tax reform is on the table this year in DC too, and if the
Administration is willing to gut everything else related the
deployment of electrics, they’re unlikely to be in love with a
market-distorting and huge tax credit.
Which might, in the end, put more emphasis back onto renewable
fuels as an affordable, low-cost, pro-American,
environmentally-friendly technology set. Not to mention that
renewable chemicals got so little love that they literally had
almost nothing to lose.
The Bottom Line
Bad news for many, but look on the bright side: perversely, could
be great times for renewable fuels and chems — it’s a bit of a
playing field leveler for the liquid cleantech sector that’s been
the Cinderella under Obama (and I mean the early scenes when
Cinderella is progressively reduced from daughter to wretch).
And for those looking for real estate in DC, prices should be
Jim Lane is editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest where this
was originally published.
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