On the morning after his State of the Union address, in which President Donald Trump told the nation that his administration had “ended the war on American energy,” he made news that suggested otherwise.
Citing draft budget documents it obtained from the White House, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was proposing to cut federal funding for renewable energy research and development by 72 percent.
“This couldn’t have been worse for this state,” said Robert Lang, an economic development expert and executive director of Brookings Mountain West, during a panel discussion examining the State of the Union address. “This is an actual assault on something that was one of the state’s largest job producers, one of the gainers in our economy, one of our points of pride.”
Trump’s reductions would be imposed on the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which receives about $2 billion. When the White House’s formal budget proposal came out Feb. 12, it included a cut that was less deep than one in the draft budget, but only slightly. It reduced funding about 65 percent — offering $696 million for the office, which researches solar power, electric vehicles and an array of other clean energy technologies.
“Nevada is at the forefront of America’s clean energy economy. The Trump administration’s budget threatens that leadership, it threatens Nevada jobs and it puts the interests of Big Oil above the well-being of workers in Nevada,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in a statement following the release of Trump’s formal budget. “In Nevada, we have the opportunity to convert closed mines into renewable energy projects that keep our rural economies growing, attract new jobs and investment to our state, and lead the way in sectors from solar to geothermal energy. I will oppose any attempt to weaken Nevada’s economy, and that is exactly what this budget proposes to do.”
Lang said the proposed cuts, along with tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on imported solar panels, threatened to slow the development of Nevada’s renewable energy industry and in turn would force the state to continue relying on imported energy sources like natural gas. Because energy creates wealth in the areas where it’s generated as opposed to where it’s consumed, he said, the changes could hurt Nevada’s economy.