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Report: White House Wants to Cut Renewable Energy Programs by 72%

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Report: White House Wants to Cut Renewable Energy Programs by 72%
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President Donald Trump—who remarked Tuesday that his administration ended the nonexistent "war on beautiful clean coal"—really wants to make fossil fuels great again.

The White House plans to ask Congress to cut the Department of Energy's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by a massive 72 percent in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by the Washington Post.


The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's (EERE) current spending level is set at $2.04 billion for the current fiscal year ending on Oct. 1. But the Trump administration will significantly lower that amount to $575.5 million for 2019, the Post reported.

The EERE supports the development of sustainable transportation, renewable power, and energy-efficient homes, buildings and manufacturing. Its SunShot Program has significantly reduced the total costs of solar energy.

The draft budget document calls for a number of cuts, including:

  • A staff cut of 680 in the enacted 2017 budget to 450 in 2019.
  • Reducing research in fuel efficient vehicles by 82 percent.
  • Cutting research into bioenergy technologies by 82 percent.
  • Shrinking research into solar energy technology by 78 percent.

This is the second year Trump has targeted clean energy spending. Last year, he proposed cutting the office's budget by two-thirds to $636.1 million, which Congress later rejected.

"It shows that we've made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped," one EERE employee told the Post.

The reported spending cut comes not long after Trump's decision to impose steep tariffs on imported solar panels and related equipment—a move that experts say will stifle the current solar boom, harm the fastest-growing job sector in the U.S., and drag down clean energy innovation.

The draft document could change before the federal budget is due later this month, but as the Post pointed out, the budget "will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities."

In response, the White House told the newspaper: "We don't comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the official budget."

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An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

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