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Energy Plans Revealed in Obama’s Budget Outline

Renewable energy and high-speed rail win; Yucca Mountain project loses.
February 26, 2009

President Obama’s budget outline offers some glimpses into what the future holds for energy.

Department of Energy

The stimulus bill allocated $39 billion to the Department of Energy–nearly double last year’s budget for the DOE. But that’s not all the DOE is getting: the budget outline provides for an additional $34 billion, which will include money for renewable energy, smart-grid projects, and demonstrating technology for capturing and trapping carbon-dioxide emissions.

Nuclear Energy

Of particular note for the nuclear industry is that money for the Yucca Mountain waste program is being scaled back “while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.” The controversial program is the result of a promise from the federal government to provide storage for nuclear waste. It’s not surprising that the program is getting the ax: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is from Nevada, where Yucca Mountain is located.

Here’s what Reid had to say today: “I have worked for more than two decades with help from our state’s leaders and thousands of Nevadans to stop Yucca Mountain. President Obama recognizes that the proposed dump threatens the health and safety of Nevadans, and millions of Americans. His commitment to stop this terrible project could not be clearer.”

Transportation

The budget will provide additional support for high-speed rail: “To provide Americans a 21st Century transportation system, the Administration proposes a $1 billion-a-year high-speed rail State grant program, in addition to the $8 billion provided in the recovery Act.”

Climate Change

One of the biggest potential incentives for increased renewable energy would be a price on carbon-dioxide emissions. The budget outline provides some details about Obama’s plans for a cap-and-trade system for reducing such emissions “14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and approximately 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.” Emissions allotments will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to fund alternative energy and help poor people who will be affected by the higher energy prices that such a program would cause. The cap-and-trade plan is not part of the budget, but it will be next on Obama’s agenda after the budget is passed.

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