On Tuesday, U.S. President Obama unleashed his final budget proposal, a huge portion of which aims at building out clean energy research and development through the next five years. It comes on the heels of research showing that wholesale and retail rates for low-carbon energy are falling, as “dirty” energy (oil) declines. While any budget the president put forth would have been met with opposition from Republicans, this energy-focused one has drawn particular ire.
Obama wants to double investment in clean-energy research and development to $12.8 billion by 2021, as part of a broader commitment to curb the effects of climate change. This ask comes two months after Obama not only admitted to the U.S.’s role in creating the climate change problem, but promised to fulfill a responsibility to handle the issue at the Paris talks on global warming. While the U.S. has traditionally been a stickler at conferences on global warming, Obama took a specifically supportive tack, and this budget proposal underscores the commitments he made in Paris.
About 80% of the proposed $12.8B in funding would support Department of Energy efforts including development of clean-vehicle technologies, energy storage and nuclear-reactor research. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Agriculture would be some of the other recipients of the cash as well.
And while Republicans are already griping about the proposal, making it clear they will counter these clean energy efforts, a report from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy points out just how successful clean energy is already becoming in the U.S.
Greentech Media reports that 2015 was a record year for utility-scale and distributed solar, huge gains for wind energy, and a shift away from coal toward natural gas. The Sustainable Energy in America Factbook says that decarbonizing the economy has not led to higher power prices in most places — something opponents of renewable energy have used as deterrent for investment. Wind power is two-thirds cheaper than it was six years ago, according to the American Wind Energy Association. And perhaps most notably, the study found that the U.S. economy has grown 10% since 2007, but energy consumption has fallen by 2.4%.
According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, only 48% of Americans believe that there is consensus among the scientific community that global warming is happening. And 40% of Americans believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is occurring. While it is more heartening to note that 71% of Americans are convinced that global warming is happening, that figure is still alarming, considering that 99% of scientists agree that climate change is occurring. And these figures do not take into account the percentage of Americans (57%) who believe that climate change is caused by human activity. There is clear room for growth when it comes to educating the public on the causes and effects of climate change. With billions of dollars behind clean energy development, and the renewable markets set to create new jobs, perhaps more Americans will take note.