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.