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Proposal to Cut Efficiency Budgets Makes No Sense

The Trump administration's new budget cuts energy efficiency and clean energy programs

The Trump administration's new budget would affect a variety of energy efficiency and research programs at the Department of Energy. [Image credit: U.S. Department of Energy / CC BY-ND / Flickr]

It’s not Groundhog Day, but it sure feels like it: the Trump administration rolled out its detailed Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and once again, it contains enormous cuts for the federal energy efficiency and clean energy programs that affect the lives of and energy bills of all Americans — and at a time when we need these initiatives more than ever to clean our air, create jobs, and urgently fight climate change.

Slashing funding, like the 85% (!) hit to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that administers the efficiency standards program saving U.S. households, on average, $500 a year, leaves no room to continue investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The Trump administration is even proposing to fully eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program that helps low-income families lower their bills and make their homes more comfortable. Trump’s budget proposal, which favors dirty energy, represents a more than $2 billion cut from the $2.3 billion lawmakers allocated for EERE for the current fiscal year.

Last year, Congress ignored the president’s proposed DOE budget and instead increased funding. And while Congress has once again already signaled its intent to ignore most of the latest irresponsible request, sadly this proposal represents this administration’s priorities.

The work EERE does is crucially important. From the efficiency standards program, which saves consumers over $500 each year on their utility bills, to research on advanced energy technology, to programs like weatherization that help low-income consumers save money on energy bills, this work has a long track record of success.

DOE investments in energy efficiency have had a powerful impact on the American people. The research and development programs funded by DOE improve lighting, appliances, building systems, grid efficiency, and much more.

For example, thanks in part to DOE programs, LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs — which consume up to 85% less energy than their incandescent counterparts — have dropped in price by 94% since 2009, and over 400 million LED bulbs have brightened American homes and businesses as a result.

Handicapping standards

The proposed budget would mean that DOE would not have the funding to adequately do its job to update and enforce standards, which have saved $2 trillion since their inception in the late 1980s.

DOE has already missed statutorily mandated deadlines for 16 standards and is poised to miss many more if the department doesn’t step up its work. There’s no excuse not to follow the law, and an inadequate budget should not be used as a ploy to halt work on this important, successful program.

Furthermore, DOE has already been spending its time working on rollbacks to standards and making the process of setting standards more cumbersome. Congress should be clear with DOE that this is unacceptable, especially in the face of missed mandatory deadlines. The $57 million proposed in Trump’s for the Building Technologies Office, which administers the standards program and other important building-related efficiency programs, is a 75% cut from 2019 funding levels. Instead, we want to see an increase in funding to $268 million for fiscal year 2020, which will enable the department to make even more progress on efficiency of standards, building codes, and other innovative programs.

Hurting the most vulnerable

The president’s plan to zero out the Weatherization Assistance Program is highly problematic. Weatherizing improves the efficiency of the homes of low-income families, by adding insulation, sealing leaks and cracks, and ensuring homes are safe and comfortable. These improvements lower utility bills and help make home ownership more affordable for the most vulnerable members of our society.

The president’s budget claims that this funding cut is because the department should “shift in focus away from deployment activities.” However, that dramatically understates the impact of this program, which provides enormous benefits to low-income consumers. Over the last 40 years, weatherizing homes has reduced energy costs for more than 7 million low-income households across all 50 states by improving energy efficiency.

The program supports 8,500 jobs and provides weatherization services to approximately 35,000 homes every year, and those households save an average of at least $283 annually on their utility bills. This is just one of the common-sense programs that will be drastically impacted by the latest irresponsible Trump budget.

Energy Star: Messing with success

Furthermore, the Trump budget also makes detrimental changes to the wildly popular Energy Star program, which is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Energy Star provides a highly recognizable label for appliances and equipment, which differentiates high-efficiency products in the marketplace. This program, with an annual budget of approximately $50 million, paved the way for $34 billion in annual consumer and business savings in 2015, alone. However, the Trump administration has proposed zeroing out federal funding for the 25-year-old program that helps consumers and businesses choose the more efficient appliances and equipment.

Although the program has long enjoyed bipartisan support, the Trump administration instead wants to finance it with fees charged to the companies using it. The Energy Star program has enjoyed such success largely due to the trust consumers have in the Energy Star brand (and its blue and white label) — they know it’s a trustworthy, government-run labeling system that isn’t unduly influenced by manufacturers.

Requiring a “pay to play” system puts this program at great risk. There were no details included in the proposed budget of how this would work, and it is unclear how important aspects like how specification levels are set, verification testing, and ongoing program management would be handled.

Cutting these successful programs makes no sense. At a time when we need to dramatically scale up our actions to reduce the worst impacts of climate change, Trump’s budget moves in completely the wrong direction. We know that scaling energy efficiency and increasing renewable energy is the best way to fight climate change while also reducing consumer energy bills, strengthening the electricity grid, and reducing other forms of air and water pollution.


Lauren Urbanek is a senior energy policy advocate in the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Energy program. This post originally appeared at the NRDC’s expert blog and is republished here with permission.


  1. Jon_R | | #1

    Energy use and things we care about are going to be increasingly decoupled. I'd like to see a large print pollution (not energy) disclosure statement on my utility bills. Along the lines of "your usage combined with our generators produced .....".

  2. tommay | | #2

    On the lighting board, there should be a big OFF switch. I don't understand why people look to the gov to help them save energy. People are in control of what they use and how they use it. Less gov intervention in our lives is what we should be striving for which would eliminate all kinds of fees, taxes and monies needed for new proposals.

  3. krom | | #3

    Any chance we can steer this site back away from all the political bullshit that is being pushed recently????

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #4

      The federal government has several effective energy savings programs, including the Energy Star program and the Weatherization Assistance Program. The current administration is proposing drastic cuts to those programs. That's called "news," not political bullshit, and GBA is reporting the news.

      1. tommay | | #5

        So does that mean my local politicians won't come over and help me insulate my home anymore?

        1. GBA Editor
          Martin Holladay | | #6

          Actually, your "local politicians" (as you put it) provide many forms of help. Government helps you pay your mortgage (by making your mortgage interest tax-deductible). Government helps you get to your job and the local store (by paying for roads and plowing them in the winter). Government protects your home from disaster (by supporting your local fire department).

          And yes -- if you have a low income, and if you live in an uninsulated house, you may be eligible to get on a waiting list to have your house insulated by the Weatherization Assistance Program -- until the funding is cut off, of course.

          1. hudson_valley_gregg | | #8

            Yes, and it's all *backed* by the asset-unbacked fiat Federal Reserve Notes produced out of thin air by banks and their banksters since 1913. Per the U.S. Treasury, the notes acting as dollars are backed simply by the sheer velocity of goods and services traded - so the more pollution and petroleum and fossils pushed through, into, and out of us (and the more we struggle to manage the daily tidal wave of toxins via "government" programs to counteract them), the more the assetless-backed notes remain viable. Yay "government". As you were...

  4. tommay | | #7 forgot to add, "Your government loves you".

  5. exeric | | #9

    [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

    If Donald Trump had just invested his hundreds of millions of dollars he was given from his father in good investments instead of his scams he would be far wealthier than he is now. He was born incredibly lucky and has wasted it. He was born on third base and yet he is forever claiming that he hit a home run.

    [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

    1. Deleted | | #10


      1. exeric | | #11

        [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

        I think fear and resentment are what caused the current dysfunction in government and is not the result of it. You are right of course, voting based on fears of the unknown is exactly what got us Trump and his anti-regulation policies. People operating on their worst impulses is never a good idea.

        [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

        But I'm afraid I'm getting overtly political when the previous talking points were only covertly political. So I'll shut up.

        1. Deleted | | #12


          1. exeric | | #13

            Gregg, it's taken me a long time to formulate an answer to your diatribe.

            [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

            The things said in this article are all true. Donald Trump has turned into a wrecking ball for the all the green issues that many progressives have championed. He has ignored the call to clean up our act on environmental issues that are so important to the planet.

            [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

            Who are the elites? Sorry, it's not me.

            [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

            Trump is the king of the elites. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he wants to define anyone that gets in his way as the enemy. He sidesteps rules and science all for his own selfish purposes, as clearly outlined in this article. If you can define the person opposing you as the enemy then you don't have to answer the questions that person is raising. That is what demagogues do and it is what Trump is doing.

            [Portions of this comment deleted by GBA editors.]

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  7. SherbyHerby | | #19

    This is my first post to this site, but I have been an avid reader/learner and follower for a long time.

    When I read this thread, I cant help have a question. Why is it we can't have a discussion without it becoming personal? If we want to make progress it will come from recognizing that everyone is allowed to have their own view and perspectives (whether we agree or not), we need to acknowledge and respect that.. And no matter what I believe, its OK for someone else to believe something completely different. We will move forward when we can understand the root causes of all the emotion and work through things. History shows that more progress can be made through alignment that fracture.

    I apologize if I sound preachy, that's not my intent. But on this site at least, maybe we could strive for something more than some of the subreddits I read.

    1. GBA Editor
      Martin Holladay | | #20

      Thanks. I agree completely.

  8. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #21

    To all GBA readers: While GBA encourages readers to post comments expressing their views, it is a violation of GBA editorial policy to disparage the character of other GBA readers. Personal attacks will not be tolerated, and repeat violators of our policy will be warned that continued violations may lead to banning from our site.

    1. hudson_valley_gregg | | #22

      Disappointed in your redactions. I suggest in the future you simply remove entire threads instead of expose your own political bent through selective editing of individual posts. I'm going to remove my comments in their entirety now.

      1. GBA Editor
        Martin Holladay | | #23

        You're entitled to your opinions, and of course you are free to delete your own comments. However, your opinion won't change our editorial policy. GBA readers who post insults or who disparage other GBA readers are violating our policy and are at risk of being banned.

  9. shtrum2 | | #24

    As a reader who has now worked for the national weatherization program (a.k.a. WAP) over several years, I thought some clarification might be in order. This fiscal dance is nothing new: every couple of years when the federal budget is configured, the WAP budget is cut to make political hay. Then congresspeople of both parties put it back in (sometimes with more money than was initially proposed), because they know that a) it’s effective, and b) their constituents value it. WAP is one of the few programs that makes more money than it spends; for every dollar spent, there’s an estimated $1.72 in energy savings (even more in non-energy benefits, such as health improvements, pollution reduction, etc.). In short, WAP helps people and saves money . . . ascribe your political view to whichever floats your boat. Unfortunately, there are some who insist on putting their own short-sighted agendas ahead of solid research and practical solutions.

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