Washington, D.C – One of the most alarming cuts in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget is to the Department of Energy office that helps the private sector use advanced technology to make the U.S. more energy independent.
The proposal to cut the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office by 70 percent, or $1.4 billion, is especially shortsighted for an administration that claims to be focused on creating American jobs, said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“This is one of the most baffling parts of the budget because it undercuts work that directly translates to private sector investment and economic growth,” Reardon said.
Overall, the White House recommends a 5.7 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Energy, however the civilian, non-weapon programs would be cut by 14 percent.
The budget also recommends, for example, the elimination of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which over the years has improved the energy efficiency in homes for more than 7 million low-income families in all 50 states, including many senior citizens. In addition to making homes of low income residents more energy efficient, the weatherization program also improves indoor air quality by, for example, testing for carbon monoxide and gas leaks.
“The cuts to the Energy Department manage to offend both advocates of science and of the poor,” Reardon said. “These programs exemplify what is best about our country: the willingness to push the envelope of research in ways that improve the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. The federal employees who work in these offices should be commended, not pink-slipped.”
According to the Energy Department’s own statistics, the $20 billion taxpayer investment in EERE over the last 12 years has yielded a net economic benefit to the country of $230 billion. The office supports research and development that is used in advanced manufacturing, biofuels, modernizing the national power grid, electric cars, solar power and wind energy.
Even Ernest Moniz, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy and a nuclear physicist, called the budget a retreat from our nation’s commitment to clean energy research.
The proposed budget “would put us behind China and Europe, blunting our competitive edge in a multi-trillion-dollar developing clean energy global market,” Moniz said.
The employees at the Department of Energy, many of them represented by NTEU Chapters 213 and 228, are committed to the long standing principle that government-funded research is necessary because it provides the seed money for innovative ideas that aren’t yet viable in the private sector.
“They are scientists and mathematicians and engineers who could be earning much larger paychecks elsewhere but chose a career in civil service, and NTEU will fight to protect their jobs, their pay, their retirements and their agency missions,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 31 federal agencies and departments.