Friday, February 10, 2006

BushCo Cutting Energy Savings Programs

The Financial Times reports that President Bush is cutting proven energy saving programs after highlighting the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil in his State of the Union address:
The Bush administration came under fire in Congress on Thursday for proposing deep cuts in energy-efficiency programmes while increasing funding sharply for longer-term programmes whose payoff are far more ­uncertain.
The administration has trumpeted proposals to increase funding for research on hydrogen, which would get an extra $43m, taking its funding to $199m, and biomass, which would see its funding rise by $59m to $150m. The Energy Dep­artment will also get $250m to work on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from reactors.
Meanwhile, BushCo is proposing to cut the grants to help homeowners better insulate their homes by one third. Senator Bob Menendez doesn't think that makes sense:
The programme has helped to improve fuel efficiency in 5m American homes, saving the average household receiving assistance an average of $235 (€196, £134.7) per year. The energy saved, Mr Menendez said, was equivalent to 15m barrels of oil a year.
What does this tell us about our President's skewed priorities? First, it once again reveals BushCo's love of subsidies for the energy industry and disdain for programs that help actual families.
Second, it demonstrates that our MBA president doesn't have anyone who can perform the most elementary cost/benefit analysis. While research on hydrogen, biomass and reprocessing nuclear fuel may be useful, the payoff is unclear and wouldn't be seen for many years. When you improve the insulation in someone's home, the savings start immediately and last for the life of the home. The present value of $235 a year over 30 years based on a the federal government's 30 year bond (which is yielding 4.5%) is $3,827.88 -- assuming no increase in the cost of energy for 30 years.
But wait, there's more, or should I say less:
There are also heavy cuts in energy efficiency research. Aside from the $91m cut to weatherisation assistance to $225m, the administration has suggested an $11m cut in spending on energy efficiency in industry to $46m.
Research on vehicle efficiency would also be cut by $6m to $166m, despite the president’s enthusiasm for advanced batteries that could improve vehicle efficiency. A $25m programme to promote energy efficiency technology would be cut altogether. Energy experts believe that the administration’s neglect of more short-term measures is a mistake.
“The research is allocated in a way that is very high risk, on projects that are often very long term,” said Bill Prindle, deputy director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.


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