On the heels of giving away the (decorative) centerpiece of his climate technology effort, NeverGen FutureGen, Bush released a heartless and mindless FY09 energy budget yesterday.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent around an email on the President’s Budget Request for FY2009 (I will post budget details later). Bingaman is “pleased to see overall growth in the DOE budget, particularly in the area of basic research,” but critical of a number of dubious administration choices:

  • The new administration budget also cuts funding for solar energy research, hydropower, and industrial energy efficiency. “If American energy-intensive industries, and the jobs they provide, are to prosper in a future in which we impose a cost on carbon dioxide, we need to act aggressively now to position them as global leaders in energy efficiency of all kinds,” Bingaman said. “It’s a bad time to be rolling back this societal investment in our future high-wage jobs.”

[So much for the “we back clean technology because it is the only solution to global warming” rhetoric.]

  • The administration’s proposal [zeroes] out funding of DOE’s weatherization programs from their currently appropriated level of over $220 million. The weatherization assistance program increases the energy efficiency of dwellings occupied by low-income Americans, thus directly reducing their energy costs. This is important, as energy costs account for about 13 percent of the household budgets of low-income families, compared to 3.5 percent or less for all other Americans. With energy costs rising significantly, and an economy poised on recession, the weatherization program is more needed than ever, and the funds already appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2008 will pay for upgrades to 85,000 low-income dwellings. “It’s hard to fathom why this program is being terminated by the DOE now — a lot of households need help reducing their energy bills, and the work of insulating their homes creates residential construction jobs that are greatly needed right now, too,” Bingaman stated. “I am working to get weatherization funding for an additional 77,000 dwellings into the economic stimulus package before the Senate, so the program can help over 162,000 households this year. I will certainly urge my colleagues to reverse DOE’s ill-timed budget cut for fiscal year 2009.”

[What does Bush say to poor people who are trying to keep warm in the face of record gas/oil prices (driven by his failed policies): “Let them burn cake!” This decision must be quite a surprise to the three or four remaining people who still believed the “compassionate conservative” nonsense.]

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  • Bingaman questioned the continued diversion of oil from tight world markets into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The new budget request states that this diversion of the government’s royalty oil will continue, despite the fact that it is likely adding to upward pressure on oil prices. “We need to investigate the effects of this diversion more closely. I will be calling a hearing later this month to examine the rationale and effects of the government competing with refineries for the highest quality crude oil,” Bingaman said.

[Ever the savvy businessman, Bush keeps filling his tank at the highest possible prices, even though that extra demand actually helps keep oil prices at record levels!]

  • The Administration’s proposal once again zeroes out all research and development (R&D) relating to oil and natural gas, and proposes to repeal $50 million in guaranteed funding outside the regular budget for onshore natural gas exploration. This leaves coal as the only fossil fuel on which DOE now proposes to carry out any research. “This Administration has a real blind spot when it comes to developing new domestic natural gas resources. The gas that is most available to the consumers who need it is located onshore, and the key players in developing it are independent oil and gas producers. They aren’t big enough to have R&D departments that undertake the research needed to keep our natural gas supplies robust. If DOE walks away from the R&D needed to keep natural gas flowing in an economic and environmentally responsible manner, then consumers will pay through higher prices and working families will pay through loss of manufacturing jobs that depend on natural gas. This is another short-sighted decision that I hope the Congresses reverses.” Bingaman said.

[Natural gas, who needs that? We have all the coal we need, and we’ll be able to burn it without carbon dioxide emissions thanks to pioneering efforts like … uh, like … Futuregen … Never mind.]

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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