Business leaders push back against Trump’s energy research cuts

Business leaders push back against Trump’s energy research cuts
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A group of business and energy industry leaders is pushing back against President Trump’s proposed cuts to federal energy research and development programs.

More than a dozen executives sent a letter Thursday to congressional budget and appropriations leaders asking that they prioritize energy research and development — and make sure that it is sufficiently funded.

They asked Appropriations Committee and Budget Committee leaders to “invest in America’s economic and energy future by funding vital programs in energy research and development at the Department of Energy.”

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The letter was signed by executives including Christopher Crane of Exelon Corp., Bruce Culpepper of Shell Oil Co., Thomas Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce and Tom Fanning of Southern Co.

Trump’s first budget proposal, released last month, sought massive cuts to key Energy Department research and development programs, including a 36.5 percent cut in nuclear research, 58 percent in fossil fuel technology and a 35 percent reduction in science and energy innovation, as well as eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy and its $306 million budget.

While the letter does not explicitly mention that budget proposal, it depicts federal energy investment as an important piece of how energy innovation happens.

“Leveraging its expertise, the private sector has invested billions of dollars to commercialize new energy technologies. Critical to this process is the feedstock supplied by federal investments, especially in early-stage and high-risk research,” they wrote.

“The capital intensity of energy projects, long time horizons and uncertain regulatory environments make these partnerships especially critical in the energy sector.”

The letter was organized by BPC Action, the advocacy arm of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Appropriators in the House and Senate have started holding hearings on Trump’s budget request, but have not yet scheduled one with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.