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Days of climate doom and gloom

Published Mar 19, 2017 07:19am

TORONTO: With President Donald Trump entrenched in the White House, the issues of global warming and green energy are seemingly in for a big hit.

As a candidate, President Trump had been expressing doubts about the very science of global warming, the rising temperatures and about people’s influence on global warming.

He has also been blaming wind turbines for killing eagles while lamenting the push towards solar power as costly.

He wanted the fossil fuel era to continue and longer than anticipated.

Now his budget proposals presented on Thursday are turning those words into numbers.

In the proposals, the Environmental Protection Agency of the US has taken the biggest hit – 31 per cent – from $8.2 billion down to $5.7 billion, coming to its lowest levels in 40 years.

Just before the unveiling of the budgetary proposals, the former EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia was quoted as saying that a cut of up to 25pc would “be unprecedented and would really dismantle the agency’s ability to protect the health of Americans and the environment.”

The cut announced was even higher – 31pc.

The budgetary proposals appear directly hitting programmes that addressed climate change. The proposal eliminated funds for the Clean Power Plan and by “reorienting” the US EPA on air pollution. Trump definitely wants the US government to pull back sharply from any effort to stop global warming, adapt to its impacts – or even study it further. And, once the proposals are enacted, there would be no more money for work on the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation to control CO2 emissions from power plants (by law, the EPA would still have to work on emission rules for vehicles).

There are cuts to “international climate change programmes, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts” totalling $100 million. The budget also proposes eliminating Energy Star, a voluntary certification programme that helps companies release energy-efficient products, helping prevent more than 300m tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

It proposes axing climate research funding for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the agency’s scientific research arm. As per the proposals, the overall budget of this entity would be cut in half.

As per the budgetary proposals, the Department of Energy is in for a 5.6pc hitting specifically, its R&D programmes. It plans to impose 17.9pc cut – roughly $2bn – from core energy/science programmes intended to accelerate the transition to new (and cleaner) energy technologies.

This might mean closing DOE’s programmes, such as the Sunshot Initiative. This initiative was basically to help solar companies look for ways to cut costs. As per reports, the new budget proposals might also mean that DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy will no longer be able to help utilities build the carbon capture and sequestration technology for coal (as DOE did with the Petra Nova plant in Texas).

The proposal also proposes eliminating ARPA-E. This program was funding early research into long-shot energy technologies that the private sector felt shy of working on. The unveiled programs also eliminate loan programs to what is at times termed as ‘disruptive energy research’ like the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which gave early support to Tesla.

The State Department’s funding for climate change has also been axed. As part of the Paris climate deal, the United States pledged not just to cut emissions, but also to offer $3bn in aid to poorer countries to help them adapt to climate change and build clean energy.

Trump proposals are suggesting to “cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating the US funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.”

NASA’s Earth-monitoring programmes are also in for a cut. NASA has deployed a fleet of Earth-observing satellites since 1999, collecting data on everything from temperature and precipitation to underground aquifers and ocean currents to wildfires, soil moisture, and storms. That is under question now. A key program to help coastal communities adapt to climate change would also be gone under the new proposals.

US under Trump seems pulling itself back from the leadership role in many sectors. And the energy sector is no exception. What does it all mean for the fossil fuel industry? Although, the direct impacts are still to be viewed, measured and quantified, yet the Trump push is very apparent.

Rex Tillerson must be a happy man today.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2017