The Republican-controlled House of Representatives proposed budget, released Tuesday, takes a hatchet to what the party views as excessive or unnecessary spending, but the plan has kind words for domestic energy, namely oil and natural gas.
"In recent years, the dream of North American energy independence has increasingly become a reality," says the intro to the fiscal year 2016 budget proposal. "Our budget would double-down on this vibrant area of our economy by expanding the exploration and production of American energy. At the same time, we ought to stop throwing hard-earned taxpayer dollars at politically-connected companies that have proven more successful at making headlines than making a viable contribution to America's energy portfolio."
That last line is a not-too-veiled swipe at the controversy that engulfed the Obama administration over a loan guarantee to alternative energy firm Solyndra, which has come up before in Republican budget talk (see Daily GPI, March 18, 2013).
Republicans are calling for "limited regulations based on common sense" when it comes to energy.
"The United States is on track to become energy independent within the next 10 years...This budget encourages further exploration of oil and natural gas both onshore and offshore in North America on both private and public lands," the budget document says.
Republicans give a nod to the private sector for "leading the way" on domestic energy while Washington stands in the way "with needless regulations or with subsidies that distort the market...
"This budget encourages the committees of jurisdiction, the House Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees, to pursue policies that will ensure private sector capital investment is not crowded out by wasteful bureaucratic interference. At the same time, by streamlining research and development activities across the Department of Energy [DOE], we can increase efficiency and consolidate operations, ultimately leading to reduced costs."
To that end, the budget would charge DOE with focusing solely on "breakthrough innovations" while leaving to the private sector the "commercialization of new technologies," which presumably means alternative energy projects.
"The federal government is filled with energy programs that either produce little useful results or perform a task that can be better handled by the private sector," the Republicans say. "Therefore, we propose reforming or outright eliminating a number of programs.
"The budget rescinds all unobligated balances from the president's stimulus green energy programs. The government cannot recover taxpayer dollars from failed projects like Solyndra, but it can protect taxpayers from being on the hook for future boondoggles.
"These actions and others will prevent the federal government from picking winners and losers in the marketplace and let those companies that truly create innovative products and benefit consumers succeed."
American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle said he likes what he sees in the Republicans' proposal. "The House budget is a step in the right direction toward encouraging more domestic energy development and winding down the Obama administration's reckless green energy spending. The U.S. is the No. 1 oil and gas producer in the world despite the administration's policies aimed at blocking energy production on federal lands and propping up expensive renewable energy schemes."
The budget holds out a helping hand to the coal industry, which Republicans say has been unfairly targeted by new environmental regulation, to the detriment of power generators and consumers.
"Coal-fired power plants provide roughly 40% of the United States' electricity at a low cost," the budget says. "Unfairly targeting the coal industry with costly and unachievable regulations will increase energy prices, disproportionately disadvantaging energy-intensive industries like manufacturing and construction, and will make life more difficult for millions of low-income and middle class families already struggling to pay their bills."
To thwart burdensome regulation, such as that which they claim plagues the coal industry, the Republicans propose to require "congressional approval of all new major regulations (those with an impact of $100 million or more) before enactment as opposed to current law in which Congress must expressly disapprove of regulation to prevent it from becoming law, which would keep Congress engaged as to pending regulatory policy and prevent costly and unsound policies from being implemented and becoming effective."
The budget cites what is claimed to be "excessive duplication and redundancy in federal programs." Included among these is the implementation by 23 government agencies of "approximately 670 renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010 at a cost of nearly $15 billion."