Obama budget asks to ramp up clean energy
US President Barack Obama, taking aim at climate change, proposed Monday to ramp up research in clean energy including small nuclear reactors while slashing subsidies for fossil fuels.
Obama called for a 12 percent increase in funding for the Energy Department in his 2012 budget, signaling that clean energy will remain a key priority despite a push to curb a record deficit.
The proposal, which needs approval by Congress, would double funding for the Energy Department's science research office to $5.4 billion dollars compared with a year earlier and step up investment in solar and other renewal energy.
The budget offers $853 million to develop nuclear energy including so-called Small Modular Reactors -- which are smaller and much less costly than usual nuclear plants and are eyed to replace coal power.
The plan is far from reality. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2008 said starkly that it could take "years and years" to approve small reactors as it assesses whether they are safe.
Obama also renewed his effort to cut longstanding subsidies for fossil fuels, which come in the form of tax incentives for oil companies and support for drilling.
The administration said that eliminating the subsidies would save $4 billion per year. But such efforts in the past have met strong opposition from the rival Republican Party, which now has control of the House of Representatives.
The Obama administration has committed to fighting climate change and argues that investment in green energy would provide a vital source of jobs. Last year was the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
But a proposal for the first mandatory US caps on greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming died last year in Congress and many Republicans are skeptical about climate change.
Obama's budget proposes to cut nearly 13 percent of the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, a bugbear for conservative Republicans, to $9 billion.
However, the budget would still support the agency's work on climate change. The cuts would reduce funding for states to provide clean water and scale back an initiative that fights invasive species such as Asian carp in the Great Lakes.
(c) 2011 AFP