A former top aide on energy issues for President Trump’s transition speculated that the Administration will cut research funding for wind and solar power and redirect money to fossil fuels.
Energy lobbyist Mike McKenna, who headed Trump’s Department of Energy transition team until late November, told the West Virginia Coal Association that current funding allocations favoring renewable energy would likely be changed.
“The young people have a word for it, it’s not sustainable,” he said, alluding to the agency that crafts the President’s budget. “If DOE doesn’t take care of that on it’s own accord, the Office of Management and Budget almost certainly will.”
The Department of Energy spends billions on research each year, the bulk of which goes to renewable energy projects. In the 2016 fiscal year, the agency spent more than $2 billion on energy efficiency and renewable energy, nearly $1 billion on nuclear energy and more than $600 million on fossil energy.
Supporters of renewable energy have speculated that the Trump Administration will cut research funding as he undoes Obama-era environmental regulations. Trump has long shown a personal disdain for wind energy in particular, expressing skepticism that it is cost effective and complaining that it kills birds.
Still, renewable energy remains popular among many Republicans and Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saw the rapid deployment of wind and solar during his tenure as governor. Some renewable energy research programs, like ARPA-E created under President George W. Bush, generate substantial returns from the projects they fund.
McKenna’s wide-ranging remarks also included a comment on rising concerns among career staff at the Environmental Protection Agency over Scott Pruitt, the agency’s new head, and his record suing the agency. McKenna is not concerned.
“We’re not about assuaging the concerns of the 14,000 employees of the EPA,” he said. “We’re about assuaging the concerns of the 63 million people who voted for Donald Trump.”
McKenna, who left his role in the transition a few weeks after the election in response to a rule requiring transition officials to de-register as lobbyist, seemed to acknowledge that his remarks would draw controversy.
“That’s why I came here to Charleston to say something that would get me in trouble right away with the new Administration,” he joked. “I was in trouble with the last one. Why shouldn’t I be in trouble with this one?”
The Trump White House did not respond to a request for comment.