What Does Obama’s 2011 Budget Have in Store For the Environment?

What Does Obama’s 2011 Budget Have in Store For the Environment?
President Obama

The Obama Administration released its proposed 2011 budget this week, and, unsurprisingly, there is plenty of cash in store for sustainable initiatives–and not so much for oil and natural gas companies.

Some of the highlights:

  • $300 million for ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), or the agency that sponsors “moonshot” green technology
  • $36 billion in new loan guarantee authority for two nuclear power facilities
  • $793 million for a research program to address technology needs for nuclear energy production
  • $144 million for smart grid projects
  • $3 billion to $5 billion in guarantees for renewable energy and efficiency projects.

Obama’s overwhelming support of nuclear energy is controversial, with organizations as diverse as the National Taxpayers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists protesting that the investment in nuclear power is a financial black hole that won’t help in the fight against climate change. But in the long term, wind and solar alone are unlikely to fulfill our energy needs–and coal is out of the question for sustainability advocates.

The budget also assumes that no revenues from cap and trade will arrive in Treasury coffers. Just last year, the administration projected $646 billion in revenue from 2012-2019. Has Obama given up on cap and trade?

Another contentious point in the budget is the proposed elimination of $36.5 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies. This is key for making renewable energy sources competitive with oil, and the White House claims that the subsidies won’t have a big financial impact on energy companies. But energy companies are already gearing up for a fight, so don’t expect that the proposal will go through. Last year a similar budget proposal was killed by lawmakers.

Regardless, we’re encouraged by the continued focus on renewable energy and green tech–even if only some of the proposed measures pass.