Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Power of Incrementalism, Revisited, Yet Again; EV Batteries, Government Budgets and Agencies with Horrible Names

Today, for the first time in what seems a lifetime, the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate agreed to something.  They agreed on something big...the federal budget.  As I scanned the news headlines, there was a lot of talk of important concerns.  The GOP, it turns out, doesn't really mind ridiculously large deficits, the GOP may not really need to placate Trump all the time, and the Democrats are not all necessarily on the same page as Pelosi threatens to send the budget off the rails in an effort to protect Dreamers and DACA.

Unfortunately, I noticed one thing seriously missing in all the budget news.  Just what does this mean for climate change?  The topic seems forgotten in the media coverage. Is it forgotten in the budget?

Now, I haven't seen an analysis of the bill yet, as it relates to climate.  But I did read portions of the bill and I would like to share with you here why the bill is important, why what legislators do is important, why insistence by the Dems that they get funding for more than just defense is important.

I raise to you a little known office within the Department of Energy.  Those that have followed my blog will recognize the office as one of my favorites:  ARPA-E (The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy--could anyone have dreamed up a less catchy title?).

BEEST: Just one of ARPA-E's projects,
BEEST funds research into EV energy storage
ARPA-E funds research projects into energy storage, transmission, efficiency.  They are making possible the research into battery improvements that will make electric vehicles more economically and practically viable, into grid efficiency in transport of electricity, into distributed energy production (think solar), into storage on microgrids, and so much more.
So much of what we need in order to remove carbon from our electricity production and electrify everything using this carbon-free grid depends on the kind of research ARPA-E makes possible.

You are probably wondering what any of this has to do with the budget.  Democrats pushed for more non-defense spending.  Why does that matter?  ARPA-E is just one small example of what that funding means.  In this bill, ARPA-E receives the same funding it received last year, which is the largest amount it's ever received after its initial inception.

ARPA-E's historical funding levels

Today's ARPA-E Funding in the Senate Budget Bill
If and when the budget passes the House, ARPA-E is going to continue to fund important research into clean energy innovation because the Democrats pushed to fund our government.  Not just our military, but the rest of our government.  There are a lot of good things that our government does, even if everyone wants to talk about how much government sucks.

The moral of this story?  Don't think that just because the Dems and Reps agreed on something that their battles don't matter, are more of the same old, same old or that there isn't a lot riding on the outcomes of these battles.  

Boring old bipartisan agreement to hard won budget battles may mean all the difference in carbon kept underground.

No comments:

Post a Comment