Three views on what Trump’s energy budget means for green initiatives

by Brianna Crandall — March 27, 2017 — Several organizations published a variety of responses after the Trump Administration submitted to the U.S. Congress its fiscal year 2018 federal budget a week ago. Below are reactions from three buildings-related organizations on the impact the budget could have on energy efficiency initiatives and green buildings.

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

Steve Nadel, ACEEE executive director, issued the following statement:

“The federal budget outline released by the Trump Administration…takes a meat cleaver to energy efficiency programs, cutting both muscle and bone. If enacted, these cuts would raise Americans’ energy bills and kill jobs.

“The proposed cuts would get rid of ENERGY STAR, a popular, successful, and voluntary program that promotes energy-efficient equipment and buildings and saves consumers money. Also under the ax are research and development programs that keep U.S. manufacturers competitive in global markets. The proposed budget eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program, which reduces energy bills and increases the health and safety of low-income households across the country. It also cuts new public transit and other transportation funding that reduces traffic and gives people more options for commuting.

“The fact is, these programs produce a huge windfall for all Americans — saving us billions of dollars in energy bills, making businesses more competitive, reducing air pollution, and creating millions of U.S. jobs. The average American family saves at least $500 each year because of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) work on efficiency. ENERGY STAR helps Americans save more than $30 billion annually by providing information to choose energy-saving products. At least 2.2 million Americans work in ENERGY STAR-related jobs. DOE research in energy efficiency technologies is the foundation for small businesses across the country. And DOE has helped more than 7 million low-income families with energy upgrades to their homes. All of these gains could be lost under the president’s proposal.

“Wasting energy and killing jobs are not the change Americans were seeking in the last election. We hope Congress will continue to help Americans save money and will reject cuts that would harm the economy, the environment, and their pocketbooks.”

Alliance to Save Energy (ASE)

ASE President Kateri Callahan issued the following statement:

“This is a destructive proposal that walks away from decades of bipartisan support for energy efficiency going back to the Reagan Administration and beyond. We oppose these cuts in the strongest possible terms and will do everything we can to fight them in Congress.

“This budget ignores the fact that energy efficiency creates jobs and economic growth. Every time we successfully encourage an efficiency project or product, we are supporting jobs — whether it’s a factory job manufacturing high-efficiency windows and appliances or a construction worker weatherizing homes.

[According to DOE, energy efficiency supports nearly 2.2 million jobs across the country. It does so while saving consumers money, reducing pollution and strengthening grid stability and energy security, notes ASE.]

“ENERGY STAR is just a remarkable success story — one of the most successful public-private partnerships in history. This is a federal program that costs $50 million to administer and is delivering annual savings of more than $34 billion to consumers in reduced energy costs. It’s significantly cutting pollution and driving innovation and economic activity. With 16,000 partner companies and organizations, and ENERGY STAR-branded products in almost half of American households, it is a model for government programs around the globe.

“Likewise, DOE’s work on energy efficiency is world-class. The research and development is helping American manufacturers become more efficient and profitable. It is driving new technologies that make American companies more competitive. It’s also saving consumers and businesses billions of dollars. The appliance efficiency standards the agency has developed, for example, delivered consumers and businesses $63 billion in utility bill savings in 2015 alone. That is an enormous return on investment to taxpayers. Eliminating the Weatherization Assistance Program will only hurt struggling families who are trying to reduce their energy bills.

“Cutting this funding is the definition of penny-wise, pound foolish. We should be increasing funding, not reducing it.”

American Institute of Architects (AIA)

AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA, issued the following statement:

“This budget includes many cuts that will have severe long-term ramifications for our communities and economy. It does away with programs that foster a cleaner environment and strong neighborhoods, and it eliminates programs with a proven track record of job creation in the design and construction industry.

“We are concerned about a proposed 31 percent cut in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated. Future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides grants to architecture programs and conferences sponsored by the AIA, is also being cut.

“The federal government plays a vital role in promoting community development, performing research into sustainable and high-performing building technologies and techniques, and helping states and cities address congestion and sprawl through innovative grant programs. Drastic cuts to these initiatives impair the work that architecture firms do in our communities.

“We are ready to protect investments that affect the work we do on behalf of our clients. In fact, almost 800 design and construction businesses Thursday sent a letter coordinated by the AIA to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, calling for the continuation of important programs. And we will echo these calls across all agencies for all of the programs vital to our work.

“Federal budgets always require making tough choices, and wasteful or ineffective programs should be ended. But this budget’s short-term cuts to programs that work will end up costing us much more in the long-term.

“As the budget process continues, we urge the Administration to seek our guidance as leading experts in design and construction, before cutting the budget in ways that will hurt our communities.”