Report: DOE target for massive cuts in Trump budget draft

Dive Brief:

  • President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office later today, and early reports indicate his team is preparing a series of dramatic cuts that could reduce government spending by more than $10 trillion over a decade.
  • The cuts, reported by The Hill, would reshape the Department of Energy, eliminating divisions focused on electricity, efficiency and renewables, and fossil fuel research. Advanced nuclear and computing funding would also be rolled back to 2008 levels. 
  • Trump's pick to head the DOE, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, vowed during confirmation hearings to protect research at the agency, but said he was not aware of the budget proposal before media reports surfaced.

Dive Insight:

Transition team members are reportedly discussing trillions in cuts with the White House budget office, following a budget blueprint laid out by the conservative Heritage Foundation. 

According to The Hill, cuts at DOE could include eliminating the Office of Electricity, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Fossil Energy. Funding for some nuclear and advanced nuclear computing research could would also be rolled back to 2008 levels. 

The cuts would affect DOE programs focused on key Trump campaign themes, such as supporting the ailing coal industry, and his cabinet appointees were seemingly unaware of the proposal's existence. 

Former Texas governor Perry, who once famously proposed eliminating the DOE, told senators at his confirmation hearing that he did not know about the cuts, but promised to protect the agency's research mandate. "I will be an advocate. I will be in the room advocating for these types of things," Perry told senators considering his appointment.

Reviving the coal industry was a mainstay campaign promise, and one many in the energy industry have doubted is possible. If a turnaround is in the cards, it would appear that carbon capture and sequestration advances would play a significant role — research overseen and funded through the Office of Fossil Energy.

About a week ago, that office issued a statement announcing NRG Energy and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration completed development of Petra Nova, a retrofit of an existing coal power plant that is now the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture system. 

Senators highlighted that project and other key DOE programs on renewables, climate research and cybersecurity at the hearing. Perry promised to "protect all the science, whether it's related to the climate or the other aspects of what we're doing."

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy