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It's In The Fine Print

   

 Dark Clou Union of Concerned Scientists
February 22, 2005

Bush Administration FY06 Budget—Highlights and Lowlights

President George W. Bush recently released his comprehensive budget request for fiscal year 2006 (FY06). The administration has slightly reduced funding for the missile defense system and did provide significant cuts in new nuclear weapons requests while allowing for an increase in nuclear nonproliferation programs. And while the administration’s budget for renewable energy resources, clean vehicle tax credits, hydrogen energy research, and cleaner school buses address some of the nation’s energy and transportation needs, it fails to provide the long-term size and scope required to ensure a cleaner, more secure energy future. The Bush budget is also replete with a number of anti-environmental requests. Funding cuts for forest fire protections and endangered species, and a backdoor attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, are just a few examples of regressive policy initiatives within this budget. UCS will oppose cuts to many of these programs and will seek to support policies for a safer, more sustainable world.

Contents:
Clean Air and Climate
Global Security
Clean Vehicles
Food and Environment
Global Environment


Clean Air and Climate

Renewable Energy
The proposed budget includes $354 million for the Department of Energy's (DOE) renewable energy programs—a 5.6 percent reduction from the proposed 2005 budget. Under the administration’s proposal, hydrogen and wind would receive a boost, with five and seven percent funding increases, respectively. The overall decrease in DOE renewable energy funding, however, reflects a reduction in spending on other renewable technologies such as solar, geothermal, and bioenergy. Unfortunately, the mature, polluting fossil fuel industry continues to receive more than 30 percent additional DOE funding than the struggling renewables industry, despite the fact that investing more in renewable energy would improve our energy security, save consumers money, boost rural economies, and cut global warming pollution. UCS calls for a doubling of the DOE renewable energy budget to help our country shift to a smarter, cleaner energy future.

The budget also proposes cutting more than half of the $23 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency funding that Congress included in the 2002 Farm Bill (HR 2646, sec. 9006). The proposed cut would hurt farmers, ranchers, and small rural businesses by minimizing a grant and loan program that supports energy efficiency improvements and the purchase of renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, solar electric panels, and biomass production equipment. At a time when many people in rural communities face economic challenges, funding these projects would help establish an additional income source for landowners, create jobs, and lower energy costs for rural consumers. When the Bush administration made similar attempts to slash this program last year and in 2003, UCS worked with coalition partners to successfully restore the full $23 million during the congressional appropriations process. We will push for full funding of the program again this year.

Energy Efficiency
The proposed funding for all energy efficiency programs is $847 million, 2.3 percent lower than the administration’s 2005 proposed funding. The budget proposes funding cuts for important energy efficiency programs such as low-income weatherization, building and industrial technologies, and federal energy management. As our nation faces soaring natural gas prices and over-reliance on unstable and polluting energy sources, UCS believes that now is the time for across-the-board increases in efficiency funding that will save consumers money, create jobs, and cut pollution.

Climate Change
Several programs supporting climate change research are slated for cuts in the administration's budget. Among the cuts is the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which coordinates federal research on climate change across 13 federal agencies. The CCSP funding is set at to $1.9 billion, down from the $2 billion it has received for the last several years. For NASA's Earth Systematic Missions to study climate change, the administration proposes a 40 percent ($118 million) reduction in funding. UCS will work hard to restore this funding.

Global Security

Missile Defense
The enormous budget deficit has finally caught up to the ballistic missile defense program, as the Bush administration cut its budget by $1 billion from last year’s level. Still, at $9.6 billion, it remains the single largest program in the $438.8 billion defense budget.* Despite that huge budget, the Bush administration missed its own goal of deploying a national anti-missile system in 2004. Now apparently it will not declare the system "operational" at all but instead further develop an undefined "emergency alert" capability. Given two recent test failures, we will call on Congress to stop funding for the system, at least until it is proved to work in realistic testing.

* Note that overall figure does not include costs of the war in Iraq, for which the administration will request $80 billion more.

Nuclear Weapons
Late last year, in an enormous victory, Congress eliminated funding for the administration’s most controversial programs to develop new nuclear weapons capabilities, specifically a planned new nuclear bunker buster and other "advanced concepts" research. Congress also increased the amount of money for dismantling excess existing nuclear warheads. This year, the Bush administration again requested funds for the bunker buster, but only $8.5 million, down from a $27 million request last year. We expect to successfully challenge this request this year.

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism
In the budgetary arena, UCS has focused its nuclear terrorism work on efforts to increase funding for programs to prevent the spread of highly enriched uranium, the material most vulnerable to theft and easiest to turn into a nuclear bomb. Congress and the Bush administration are beginning to agree. Last year the administration created the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to focus efforts in this area, and Congress increased funding for it by $30 million. This year, the administration increased its request slightly over last year's final level, to $98 million. Still, funding for all programs designed to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, which now totals around $2 billion for a range of activities (some of which UCS does not support), is dwarfed by funding for missile defense.


Clean Vehicles

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles and Infrastructure
The administration in proposing $322 million in spending for research and development of hydrogen power and fuel cell vehicles, an increase of $20.1 million over what Congress enacted last year. What is missing is a coherent policy vision to ensure the money, if approved by Congress, is spent wisely. Fuel cells and hydrogen hold significant long-term promise, but this promise will only be realized if the nation pursues renewable sources of hydrogen. The administration's budget is heading in the wrong direction in that it provides significant increases in federal dollars for hydrogen production from fossil fuels and nuclear power while proposing further cuts in renewable energy and efficiency programs. The UCS Clean Vehicles and Clean Energy programs will continue to work with Congress to ensure that federal dollars go toward the development of the cleanest fuel cell technology, renewable sources of hydrogen, and other vehicle technology improvements that will realize environmental benefits in the near term—not just 25 years from now.

Clean Vehicle Tax Incentives
The administration again calls for performance-based tax credits of up to $4,000 for certain hybrid vehicles and $8,000 for fuel cell vehicles. Unfortunately, the budget does not clarify how clean a vehicle has to be to be eligible for the credits, a key provision to ensure that vehicles that are "clean" in name only are not federally subsidized. UCS has been working over the last several years to advance a comprehensive package of vehicle tax credits that ensure strong fuel economy and emissions performance of eligible vehicles. Congress did not pass this package as part of energy legislation last year but did extend for one year the existing tax deduction for hybrid vehicles. We will be working this year to ensure that any consumer tax credits will be pegged to environmental performance and in support of tax benefits encouraging auto companies to retool existing factories to produce advanced technology vehicles in the United States.

Clean School Bus & Diesel Cleanup
One of the many casualties of the constrained budget situation is the Clean School Bus USA Program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last year, the administration requested $65 million in funding for the EPA to administer a national clean school bus program. This year, the request is a modest $10 million. This follows on the $7.4 million that was actually appropriated by Congress last year. UCS has been working with partners across the country to promote the passage of a multi-year grant program in Congress and to ensure that the EPA spends its school bus funding in a balanced way—helping school districts both to replace their oldest, dirtiest buses and to retrofit newer buses built after 1990. The administration has also requested $15 million for work on retrofitting older heavy diesel vehicles with pollution control technologies. This may give the opportunity for UCS to work with the EPA to more aggressively tackle diesel pollution from existing vehicles on a nationwide level.


Food and Environment

The Bush administration wants to slash vital conservation and sustainable agriculture programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in FY06, as it has done in prior years. Overall, the budget calls for a 28 percent cut to USDA conservation programs, with some programs taking an even bigger hit. For example, the Conservation Security Program, which provides financial rewards to farmers and ranchers who implement soil, water, and other conservation practices on working lands, is cut by 58 percent compared with full funding. The budget whittles 22 percent from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a program that funds nationwide research and education on environmentally sound farming systems. The budget completely eliminates two programs that support organic agriculture, the Sustainable and Organic Farming Outreach and Information Program and organic farming transition research. We will work diligently to restore funding for these vital programs.


Global Environment

Arctic Wildlife Refuge
The Bush administration has included revenues from leasing the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. This approach is an attempt to block a full debate on the merits of drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic Refuge. In accordance with Senate rules, the budget bills can not be filibustered. Thus, it can pass with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. If a budget resolution including proposed revenues from the Arctic is passed, then language that will remove the Arctic Refuge's protection from drilling will be included in an overall budget reconciliation bill.

Forests
The Forest Service is set to have its funding significantly reduced. The cuts include a 26 percent reduction in funding for wildland fire management activities such as fire assistance grants. Forest health programs are also facing cuts. While regular wildfire funding would see a very small total increase, funding for other fire operation is to be reduced by 40 percent.

Endangered Species
The proposed budget decreases overall funding for endangered species programs by $3 million. Among the cuts are funds for candidate species conservation, which are cut by 11 percent, and funds for recovery programs, which are cut by eight percent. The budget does propose a small increase in funding for listing and consultation. However, the listing budget of $18.1 million is still well short of the $153 million wildlife officials have said is needed to study the more than 250 species on the Fish & Wildlife Services' candidate list for endangered species.

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