- Deep cuts to clean energy programs at the Department of Energy planned by the Trump administration budget would not mean a "reduction in results" from those programs, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry told a Senate committee Tuesday.
- The DOE budget would cut funding to national energy labs, carbon capture research and eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), but Perry said that if Congress funds those programs, they will be "operated in a way you will be most pleased at."
- Perry said DOE is also focused on improving cybersecurity for the electricity system, with a proposed 10% boost in cyber funding bolstered by planned increases in other areas, such as exascale computing.
The Department of Energy's proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 includes steep cuts to renewable energy, research and carbon capture programs, but its leader could not find a bad thing to say about those initiatives in his appearance before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
When Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the ranking member on the committee, referenced planned cuts to the DOE's 17 national laboratories around the country, Perry said a reduction in funding would not impact their operations.
"Just because there's a reduction in the line item doesn't necessarily mean there will be a reduction in results," Perry said.
"Not sure I agree with that," Cantwell replied.
Perry repeated that line when asked by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) about DOE's plan to cut research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) by 80%. The budget would instead refocus funding on coal technologies without pollution controls, such as small modular coal plants.
"Our commitment to carbon capture, utilization and storage is very strong," Perry said.
For some programs, Perry did not even attempt to defend his budget's proposed cuts. When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked him why the proposal would eliminate funding for ARPA-E, a popular and successful DOE research program, Perry offered only praise of the program and pledged to run it effectively if it is funded.
"I've looked at the results of [ARPA-E] and have found some very very positive things out of it," Perry said. "So I’ll leave it at this, if this Congress and this committee support the funding of that it will be operated in a way that you will be most pleased with."
Congress is unlikely to pass a budget that retains DOE's proposed cuts. Last year, an 11th hour budget compromise in May increased ARPA-E funding by $15 million, but Congress must approve a new spending bill before the end of this week to avoid a government shutdown.