Overnight Energy: Obama's last budget pushes 'climate-smart economy'

OBAMA PUSHES GREEN AGENDA IN FINAL BUDGET: President Obama is looking to pump billions of dollars into clean energy policies as part of his final budget in office.

In the budget document released Tuesday morning, the White House said Obama hopes to invest in a "climate-smart economy" this year, a plan that would help secure his environmental legacy.   

"We have made great strides to foster a robust clean energy industry and move our economy away from energy sources that fuel climate change," Obama wrote in the introduction to his budget message to Congress.

The centerpiece of the budget is a push to green the transportation sector through a $32 billion, 10-year plan to invest in mass transit, clean vehicle research and lower-emission transportation sectors on the local and state level.

Obama would pay for the plan by assessing a $10 per barrel tax on oil produced or imported into the United States, though like many other components of the budget request, Republicans have rejected that proposal.

Other green policies in the budget include new research and development funding for clean energy, climate change resiliency measures and new funding for international climate change accounts.

The budget comes as Obama tries to lock in the work he's done on climate change through executive regulations and international diplomacy. In his budget message, he said the United States can do a lot more to advance his goals.

"Rather than shrinking from the challenge, America must foster the spirit of innovation to create jobs, build a climate-smart economy of the future, and protect the only planet we have," he wrote.

Read more here.


-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $8.3 billion, including $235 million dedicated to implementing agency climate regulations. The request is around $200 million more than Congress gave the agency last year, when Republicans made a point to note their opposition to the climate funds.

-Interior Department: $13.4 billion, or $200 million more than what was appropriated for 2016. The budget includes a big boost for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a host of climate change-related accounts.

-Energy Department: $32.5 billion, about a 10 percent increase over what Congress gave the department last year. The big theme for the Energy Department this year is clean energy funding. Specifically, as part of Obama's pledge with 18 other countries to double clean energy research funding by 2021, he's asking for a 21 percent increase in those programs.

$10.25 IS THE NEW $10: Obama announced last week that he'd propose a $10 per barrel tax on crude oil. But by Tuesday, that'd increased to $10.25.

It's unclear exactly how the 2.5 percent increase came about.

The administration said Tuesday that it would bring in $319 billion over the next decade to create a modern, clean transportation system.

"Meeting future challenges will require a long-term vision for the transportation sector that includes more and cleaner options," Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxSix contenders to be Uber's new CEO Obama’s Transportation chief given Super Bowl tickets by Hollywood studio exec If you want to understand America’s infrastructure problem, just look at New Jersey MORE said in a statement. "This budget brings us closer to that vision."

The increased tax made the proposal even less palatable to Republicans.

HE'S GOT SOME MOXIE: Obama is asking Congress to wind down construction on the half-completed Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.

The Energy Department has already spent $4.5 billion on the project, meant to convert fuel from nuclear weapons into material that can be used to produce power. But it estimates that completion could cost up to $21 billion total, and it might not be operational for decades.

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizObama energy secretary launches nonprofit Overnight Energy: Zinke, Perry take heat over Trump budget Overnight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back MORE told reporters Tuesday that the program just isn't affordable, and the administration wants to explore alternative routes.

The facility is a high priority for South Carolina's leaders and congressional delegation, who see it as a major investment from the federal government and a huge economic opportunity.

The same day as the announcement, South Carolina's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration to force it to finish the MOX project, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

AN ALASKAN FOCUS: The impact of Obama's trip last year to Alaska was evident as soon as his 2017 budget was released. The cover features a photo of Mt. Denali, the nation's highest peak, which Obama renamed from Mt. McKinley as his trip began last year.

Apart from the cover, the budget features numerous provisions specific to Alaska.

It has $150 million to move along the process of building a new icebreaker for the Coast Guard.

It seeks $2 billion for coastal climate change resilience, with $400 million set aside for Alaskan communities threatened by rising seas and other climate impacts.

Other pieces either specifically for Alaska or that would greatly benefit it include infrastructure for Alaska Native villages, new funding for the Denali Commission and funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

FEDS SEE CHEAP GAS THROUGH 2016: Federal researchers expect Americans to pay an average of less than $2 for a gallon of gas this year, the first time that's happened since 2004.

In its Short Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Tuesday that the average price of gas in the United States will be $1.98 per gallon in 2016. The average price last year, EIA said, was $2.43 per gallon, and if the agency's projection is correct, gas prices this year will be at their lowest average annual mark in a dozen years.

The agency said gas prices will bottom out at an average of $1.82 per gallon in February before increasing over the spring and summer.

The agency's energy report is here.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: EPA head Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyTrump’s budget prioritizes polluters over people Trump pulls US out of Paris deal: What it would mean Regulations, farmers and the law MORE will testify before the House Agriculture Committee for a hearing on the impacts of her agency's actions on farmers, ranchers and rural economies. Expect extensive discussions of the EPA's new Clean Water Rule, also known as waters of the United States.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver will testify at a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on the city's water crisis. The partisan committee had hoped to hear from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), but he declined an invitation to focus on the release of his annual budget plan.  

Rest of Wednesday's agenda ...

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will be a featured keynote speaker at the National Association of State Energy Officials' policy conference.

The four members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will testify before the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water subpanel.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark-up 12 bills. A list can be found here.

A House Natural Resources Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on fish-related federal regulations.

The Space, Science and Technology committee will meet to examine federal regulations from the Obama administration.   

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on writing a new reauthorization for water resources programs, with witnesses representing local officials and other stakeholders.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will host a briefing on the Paris climate deal. Daniel Reifsnyder, the State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, will speak.


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) unveiled his budget proposal Tuesday, which includes a 6.5 percent tax on the state's natural gas industry, StateImpact reports.

The California Coastal Commission is due to decide Tuesday whether to kick out its executive director, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Alpha Natural Resources Inc.'s lenders are offering $500 million to help the company emerge from bankruptcy by this summer, the Wall Street Journal reports.  


Check out Tuesday's stories...

-Report questions economic impact of Obama oil tax
-Clean energy research central to Energy Dept budget request
-Obama looks to increase budget for public lands
-Key Dem embraces Obama oil tax
-EPA gets funding boost in Obama's budget
-Obama proposes $320B for 'clean transportation'
-Reid: GOP should support aid package for Flint
-Obama looks to forge 'climate-smart economy' with budget


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