Trump Budget Cedes U.S. Global Leadership in Clean-Energy Innovation

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WASHINGTON—The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the top-ranked U.S. science and technology think tank, released the following statement from David Hart, ITIF senior fellow, on the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018:

The administration’s proposed cuts to clean-energy innovation programs represent not just a repudiation of scientific consensus and bad environmental policy, but also an enormous lost opportunity for job creation and economic growth. If the United States fails to accelerate its progress toward cheaper, cleaner energy, then it will lose its leadership position in the burgeoning global clean-energy market—valued at over $300 billion globally in 2015.

The administration’s budget proposal, if enacted, would also raise the odds that costly and heavy-handed regulatory and tax responses will be needed in the future. It ignores biases in energy markets that favor incumbent fossil fuels and discounts the complementary nature of public and private investment in the creation of cleaner, cheaper ways to supply and manage energy.

ITIF highlighted several critical programs that would be particularly damaging to cut as the administration has proposed:

ARPA-E: Modeled after the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARPA-E supports energy innovators who are developing technologies that will solve critical real-world problems in transportation, electricity, buildings, and other sectors. It fills an essential role in the energy innovation system: funding start-ups to the point that private investors can take their ideas to scale. Since the agency’s founding in 2009, 74 teams that it has funded have raised more than $1.8 billion in follow-on funding. The administration’s proposed elimination of ARPA-E would leave promising projects to wither on the vine or to migrate overseas where competitor nations will reap their benefits.

National Laboratories: DOE’s national laboratory system was founded to support the Manhattan Project during World War II and includes such iconic institutions as Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. These labs are unique concentrations of technical capabilities that support multidisciplinary research on national problems and maintain large-scale scientific facilities used by researchers throughout academia and industry. The administration’s proposal to cut 60 percent from DOE’s energy programs would decimate this system.*

Clean Energy Manufacturing Institutes: Advanced manufacturing is a vital economic activity for the United States, driving innovation and exports. The Manufacturing USA institutes fill a key gap in the innovation ecosystem, linking academic research to industry needs and fostering workforce development in support of regional economic growth. DOE currently supports five of these institutes, among them the Institute for Advanced Composite Materials in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Power America in Raleigh, North Carolina. DOE investments in the institutes, which have been more than matched by private and state investments, would be eliminated under the president’s proposed budget.

For further reading:

Stephen Ezell, David M. Hart, and Robert D. Atkinson, “Bad Blueprint: Why Trump Should Ignore the Heritage Plan to Gut Federal Investment” (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, February 27, 2017)

Robert D. Atkinson, “Restoring Investment in America’s Economy” (Information Technology and Information Foundation, June 13, 2016)

Source: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)

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