The EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign and the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Energy Program have both been defunded in President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget, as the White House focuses on the much-debated goal of putting one million electric cars on the road by 2015. Bloomberg reports The NCDC budget was cut from $80m in 2010 to zero, even though Obama only just reauthorized $100m per year of grants through the program ten days ago. According to Senator Tom Carper, one of the sponsors of that re-authorization, the program
leverages federal dollars so efficiently that for every $1 invested, we get over $13 in health and economic benefits in return
Oh well. Meanwhile, fans of the oil-burners imported by the German brands can relax: the NCDC focused on improving diesel emissions from freight, ports and fleets rather than subsidizing Euro-phile sports sedans. Besides, diesel isn’t the only loser in the rush to push plug-in cars to market: hydrogen is also losing out.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s hydrogen technology program is another loser in the proposed budget, losing some $70m in funding according to DOE’s budget briefing. It’s not clear yet what portions of that program will be affected, but it represents a huge shift away from the Bush-era proposal for over a billion dollars in hydrogen fuel cell research.
Needless to say, the pro-clean diesel and pro-hydrogen lobbies are livid over these cuts. The hydrogen crowd took the big-picture approach, arguing
Even the President acknowledged the need for a portfolio approach in his State of the Union address. Just as American leadership in microprocessor technology led to the greatest economic expansion in the U.S. since post-World War II, fuel cells and hydrogen technologies have the transformative power to drive similar economic growth in the Energy Age.
We look to Congress for leadership to ensure the position of fuel cells and hydrogen in America’s clean energy future
The diesel dudes, meanwhile, take a more common-sense approach, arguing
It’s great to invest in something that’s a moon shot, 15 or 20 years from now, but what are you going to do until then? Modest sums to help modernize and upgrade some of these older engines would be dollars well spent.
But the forces of diesel and hydrogen face an uphill battle, as the Obama budget does include $588m in EV funding, the main feature of which would make $7,500 plug-in car consumer tax credits available as a discount at the point of purchase. This proposal will be hugely popular with GM, Nissan and other firms that are ahead of the game on the plug-in front, and could well squelch any opposition from within the auto industry. But this is also merely the first step in the budget process… twists and turns could well lie ahead.