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Obama's 2015 Budget Proposes Billions in Clean Energy Funding

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President Barack Obama's $3.9 trillion budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year contains billions in potential renewable energy investments.

The funding would vary from research to deployment efforts on federal lands and waters.

In all, the president is requesting about $27.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

President Barack Obama signs copies of the fiscal year 2015 budget as Office of Management and Budget staff look on in the Oval Office. Photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House Photo

"The U.S. remains the global leader in energy, science and security, building on its longstanding commitment to innovation,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “The president’s budget request for the Department of Energy sustains this commitment for future generations—in clean energy, in frontier scientific discovery and in global nuclear security.”

The proposal includes:

  • More than $900 million in "basic clean energy research" in the Office of Science

  • More than $500 million to increase the use and reduce the costs of renewable power

  • About $325 million for the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, which includes energy to support transformative applied energy research

Solar Energy Industries Association CEO and President Rhone Resch expected more out of the proposal. He points out that the budget includes eliminating the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and replacing it with a refundable Production Tax Credit (PTC) at the end of 2016.

"The ITC has helped to make solar energy a true American success story," he said in a statement. "Replacing it with the PTC is the wrong move at the wrong time. Since the solar ITC became law in 2006, installed solar capacity nationwide has grown from 680 megawatts to nearly 13,000 megawatts. That’s enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes."

The PTC, which various groups have advocated for over the past few months, received a ringing endorsement in the budget proposal.

"In order to provide a strong, consistent incentive to encourage investments in renewable energy like wind and solar, create American jobs, and support American companies and manufacturers, the Budget would make permanent the tax credit for the production of renewable electricity and reform it by making it refundable," according to the budgetary fact sheet.

The budget also calls for $345 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and $5 billion in USDA loans that would go to rural utilities and cooperatives to aid renewable energy deployment. The U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI) would receive about $95 million to review and permit new projects on federal lands and waters with an eye on the Climate Action Plan's goal of 20 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity.

Unfortunately for renewable energy advocates, the budget request also includes more than a combined $1.3 billion for the research, development and storage of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

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Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

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The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."