Energy and environmental issues do not get much attention at budget time. Compared to the massive outlays for other programs and the overall 3.1 trillion dollar budget, the Department of Energy’s proposed 25 billion dollars, the Department of the Interior’s 11 billion, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s 8 billion are downright modest. The real problem for businesses and consumers are the costs of federal energy and environmental laws and regulations, which are probably 10 times more than the direct outlays from taxpayers to run the agencies.
If there is a role for the federal government it is in conducting basic research related to climate change. Such research is a much better approach than proposed legislation like S. 2192,
One good idea in the budget are provisions supporting increased domestic energy production, including opening a portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) believed to contain 10 billion barrels of oil. Though unlikely to survive the upcoming fight with Congress over ANWR, the administration has done the right thing by keeping the debate alive over positive and truly pro-energy steps the government should be taking.
On the nuclear energy front, the budget funds an assortment of programs. While some are necessary, as a whole they continue to perpetuate government dependence by the nuclear industry. Some of these programs, such as funding for
Other programs that should enjoy Congressional support are the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative ($302 million) and Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems Initiative ($70 million). AFCI is helping to accelerate the development of recycling technologies that minimize waste volume while maximizing energy resources. The Gen IV program is providing basic research into the next generation of nuclear reactors. Ultimately, however, if a nuclear renaissance is really going to take place, the federal government must decrease its role, limit its involvement to legitimate oversight, and allow the private sector to get to the business providing power for the American people.