Trump succeeds where Abbott failed and kills renewables R&D

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Donald Trump has achieved something that Tony Abbott tried and failed to do – the complete elimination of an agency funding clean energy research.

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Donald Trump cannot claim many victories in the first six months of his presidency (well, actually he does, almost every day) but he has succeeded where former prime minister Tony Abbott failed – killing off government-funded R&D into renewable energy technologies.


Last week, the Republican dominated Congress eliminated all funding for the $1.4 billion program known as ARPA-E  which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.

Like Australia’s Renewable Energy Agency, its mission is to fund research into clean energy technologies that the private sector isn’t yet ready to invest in, and it was designed to retain high quality research, retain talent, and bridge the gap between basic energy research and development/industrial innovation.

Among its main initiatives is the Sunshot program, which aimed to significantly reduce the cost of solar, and it has invested in numerous research projects for battery storage, advanced wind, and electric vehicles.

In Australia, ARENA was spared the axe because of opposition in the Senate by Labor and the Greens, although it eventually took a big haircut with some $500 million slashed from its budget in a compromise deal with the Turnbull government and Labor.

Ironically, the Coalition is now proud to have its ministers, such as energy Josh Frydenberg and deputy PM Barbaby Joyce, be pictured with shovels at the launch of projects partially funded by the agency the Coalition tried to eliminate, such as the Carnegie mini-grid this week and the White Rock solar farm last month.

The elimination of the ARPA-E funding came as part of a bill that will also slash 45 per cent of the budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in what is a major victory for a proposal pushed by the fossil fuel lobby led by the Koch Bros, who recently launched attacks on electric vehicles too.

According to Climate Progress, Democrats fought against the bill but were outnumbered.

“We should invest in our future for renewable energy and energy efficiency rather than throwing more money at the past and into nuclear weapons,” said Democrat congressman Jared Polis. “Fossil fuel research is a dead end for America and our economy, for the clean air we need and clean water.”

CP also said the House also approved an amendment, introduced by Republican Steve Stivers that prohibits Energy Department funds from supporting the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project.

And it also approved an amendment by another Republican, Paul Gosar “to prohibit the use of funds to prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation or guidance related to the social cost of carbon.”

For a full list of some of the atrocities being imposed on the clean energy industry, and the environment protection agency, read the stories here.

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  1. john 2 years ago

    The delusion within the Republican Party is astounding.
    There are fast adherents to the mantra that anything Government is bad therefore do away with all Government Agency’s install private enterprise ones.
    The end result of this would be the military being privatized zero Government funded research as it will be done by private enterprise.
    Frankly the American Governance system is broken.
    When the only media is commercial driven by commercial gain the average American is very poorly informed.
    They can sit there and take a dysfunctional White House going from sacking to statements that contradict earlier statements and this is rational?
    We are witness to how the end result of commercial enterprise governs in my opinion extremely poorly.

    • brucelee 2 years ago

      To specifically label the social cost of carbon is to acknowledge there is one. And then to prohibit actions relating to it is surely demonstrable negligence.

      • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

        Determined and willful ignorance. Or greed for short. USA is not the land of the free, it’s the land of the dollar. Congress is drowning in dollars and until they fix that the rot will continue, Trump is exactly what their system asked for and led to. Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Trump,… where will it end? Just how fascist can US become before an overwhelming social uprising for justice, fairness and environmental values takes place? We know the military and administration are preparing for such an uprising with militarisation of the policing just one small example. Maybe they know something?

        • john 2 years ago

          I actually think the average American thinks the present system of governance is good.
          Some do realise that it is totally dysfunctional however there is no way to fix it as the whole system is commercially driven and in the end will wind up with the type of clown now running the place.

          • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

            Not so sure, Trump and Sanders popularity was premised on “broken system” understanding (or at least cynicism) in general population. Less than half population votes in USA (55% of eligibles voted in 2016 and many are ineligible due to age, nationality, imprisonment etc). Even fewer vote in Congressional midterms which Dems need to win to unwind damage of Citizens United and all that legalised corruption.

      • Joe 2 years ago

        It’s why The Libs and The Coalers Lobbyists here in Australia are anti RE, deny that there is global warming and deny the science of climate change. Stick your head in the sand and the problem is not there….no need to do anything.

  2. George Darroch 2 years ago

    A huge loss for the United States (and a gain for Australia, Germany, China, and other countries investing in research). This will set them back much more than four years.

    • DevMac 2 years ago

      With the current leadership I’m tipping Australia might follow the US on it’s downward plunge. That right-wing rump will be all over this, and thus pressuring MT to do the same.

      Thank f*** the Libs weren’t able to get their proposal through, otherwise it would have been Australia leading the charge. Imagine that, Australia making decisions as bad as Trump’s, but getting there first. It’s bad enough that it got to where it did, it’s worse that the lessons don’t seem to be getting learned.

  3. Mike Westerman 2 years ago

    A few more noseless faces I guess…Elon Musk should back campaigns in marginal states to empty out Republican Senators.

    • DevMac 2 years ago

      Nah, Elon’s money is better spent actually proving he’s right than buying the opinion that the Republicans are wrong. A by-product of reaching the primary goal is to also achieve the secondary one.

      • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

        Elon’s money is US taxpayers money to a large extent so I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

  4. David McKay 2 years ago

    Is it delusion within Republican Party or just a demonstration of political influence that millions in donations buys?

    • wholisticguy 2 years ago

      Why can’t it be both?

      • David McKay 2 years ago


  5. Chris Fraser 2 years ago

    They need a new slogan on their red tinfoil hat – Make America Toxic Again.

    • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

      Given its for R&D I think its Make America Dumb Again

    • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

      China must be laughing their heads off. Trillion dollar mistake to benefit other advanced RE and EE nations, like China, Trump. What’s the conspiracy that makes Trump want to send all that business China’s way?

      • Chris Fraser 2 years ago

        I doubt that he’s in a mood where he can calculate consequences.

        • hydrophilia 2 years ago

          Nope: short-term cons and reality-show politics seems to be the speed of the current rulers…. but popular with certain people. “SAD!”

          RIP the USA democratic experiment… now, on to bread and circuses!

        • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

          “you’re fired” only goes so far, huh? or does it? Will he look in the mirror one morning and say Dude, you’ve screwed this country out of myopic avarice and a lust for power beyond competency, time to walk the plank?

          • Chris Fraser 2 years ago

            We would be dreaming it. That moment would, dare I say it, have to be nuclear-cathartic.

    • hydrophilia 2 years ago

      “Make America Grate”

  6. trackdaze 2 years ago

    Bad enough as it was It just goes to show Australia dodged a bullet with Abbott in not having a senate majority. Phew!

    • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

      Compulsory voting is what keeps our Senate somewhat representative I think.

  7. Radbug 2 years ago

    I’m an avid reader of Science Daily & I can tell you that there are a lot of very, very, bright people in the electrochemistry field in the US. Trump’s actions here will give some wannabe nation a shortcut to superpower status, just like the “firesale of the century” , in the early ’60’s, where a huge amount of electronics IP was sold to Japan for a song. Interpretation: if what the PhD’s do in the future (re Climate Change) is worthless, then what they did in the past re Climate Change is worthless also. Another monster firesale of IP is about to happen!!! … China’s going to buy the lot!!

    • Pixilico 2 years ago

      The Chinese government holds more than 1 Trillion dollars in US Treasuries which they’d happily trade for real assets. They could buy a lot of strategic knowledge for that money while the US dollar is worth anything.

  8. Miles Harding 2 years ago

    Seems TRump wants ARPA back at its cold war business of inventing interesting ways to spend a lot of money and occasionally kill people that aren’t American.

    This isn’t “The apprentice” and he can’t fire the scientists. They will move to a supportive country like China and continue their work there.

    • john 2 years ago

      In his reality TV experience which he thinks he is living he can do what ever he likes I think it is about time the man was certified.

  9. Ken Dyer 2 years ago

    Bullshit! Trump is irrelevant. Unfortunately, he is given too much air. You just have to look at the rate battery technology is improving. Industries such as Tesla are pouring trillions into R&D. Trump wont even slow renewables down. Meanwhile the fossil bloc continues the fight it started decades ago, and it is now losing. There is no place for defeatist articles like this in Renew Economy – Giles – take note!

    • jm 2 years ago

      There should be plenty of room for accuracy, rather than hope and hype. The economy is political, and at the moment in the US, renewables are being soundly beaten in the politics.

      Thinking renewables are indefeatable is behaving like the British in Singapore, or betting on the titanic rather than icebergs. It will help the other side win.

      • Ken Dyer 2 years ago

        Renewables are not being beaten in economics though, and that economic news just keeps getting better despite the propaganda of the fossil bloc, which is increasingly looking like all tip and no iceberg.

        • hydrophilia 2 years ago

          Unfortunately, one can pretty easily see ways that the playing field could be tilted enough to smother renewables in the cradle: regulating that all renewable installations must be capable of uninterrupted output, adding “safety” regulations making battery installations too onerous, assigning as much cost to the network as possible and demanding everyone pay fixed fees, giving big credits to generators that have “fuel on-site” (nukes, coal, and diesel) on the basis that they are more reliable than gas generators or renewables…

          • jm 2 years ago

            exactly. Economics is politics. It is not pure, or driving everything else.

    • mitwit 2 years ago

      I agree Trump is irrelevant here. But so many try to target blame and credit on leaders when here it’s the US Congress. BTW, What about the storage breakthrough the US Navy is supposed to have found in improving its rail gun?

      • Ken Dyer 2 years ago

        You are talking about Saft Batteries, another industry in the trillion dollar R&D effort that is going into developing battery technology. The four industries that I am now aware of are IT, EVs,home and enterprise storage and now defense. When all this comes together over the next 12 months to 2 years, the demise of coal will accelerate. And by the way, Australia is about to build the largest (1GW) solar farm in the World in Queensland.

  10. DevMac 2 years ago

    If the US continues its march towards increasing its pollution the planet, how long until its once-allies will have to start enforcing sanctions to bring them back into line with science and logic?

    Trump is opening the door even wider for China, or any other country with willing leadership, to move up the international rungs of power.

  11. MaxG 2 years ago

    What Trump does, as well as the LNP here, is textbook neoliberalism… government is bad and ought to be dismantled = privatised, corporations rule, and the press is bought; the people are just dumb sheep, as the mob has proven over and over.
    We live in a dog eats dog society, which has no hint let alone a resemblance of a social contract… what did my head in was the fact flat-earthers exist — I cannot comprehend that one.

  12. Richard 2 years ago

    This won’t have much impact. I think people here don’t realise that the US is much more state based in policy decisions than Australia. All the researchers here will just go to California or another progressive State. There are so many options in the US for research and the 1.4 billion is small beer in the US.

    You can be assured that whatever Trump and his mal administration is doing will be more than covered for by the ramping up of state based clean energy policies. In fact it will probably have a positive effect overall as the programs are distributed to more localised and friendly environments and away from the central command and control
    of Washington

  13. Mark Anderson 2 years ago

    Wow this article is incorrect. Yes the U.S. House of Representatives put forward a budget recently that zeroed out ARPA-E. That’s not exactly news. But the news if there’s any on this slow-moving story is that a couple weeks ago the U.S. **Senate**’s budget actually increased ARPA-E’s funding. Those two competing budgets still need to be reconciled, and keep your eyes out this month and next to see the final result. It remains to be seen what the final level of funding will be for ARPA-E and related Department of Energy programs, but it’s wildly inaccurate to claim that Trump has at this point “kill[ed] renewables R&D.” ARPA-E has a number of Republican allies in the U.S. Senate, including the chair of the Senate appropriations committee, Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee).

    PS ARPA-E’s funding has since its 2009 founding been in the hundreds of millions, not $1.4 billion as the above article claims. e.g. The Senate’s budget increased ARPA-E’s 2018 funding to $330 million.

  14. onesecond 2 years ago

    He is actually highly successful, if destroying the US from within is his goal. I feel sorry for the decent people in the US.

  15. Clay Suddath 2 years ago

    So he cut off $1.4bn…? No problem. That’s chump change for GAFA and China, who are already scrambling to be state-of-the-art market leaders. Oh, and don’t forget, the Hydrogen Council is championing the Energy Transition with over $1 trillion in resources.

    Large swathes of civilization are already ignoring this guy, and rightfully so.

  16. mitwit 2 years ago

    As a Trump voter and still a supporter, I have no problem with US Federal Tax dollars not being spent on energy research thru the government system…it worked so well with Solyndra. There are 50 States and University systems, a multitude of millionaire donors, and don’t forget corporations all working on this…let them continue unchallenged by the US Government. Is Trump stopping others…no. The US is $20 TRILLION in debt (thanks O) so not spending where others are is a good idea.

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