By STEVE KILAR
WASHINGTON (March 1, 2011) With only four days until disputes between Democrats and Republicans over 2011 budget cuts could force a federal government shutdown, a bipartisan duo of Maryland representatives called for increased funding in the 2012 budget for renewable and efficient energy technologies.
"We're starting at least 20 years too late doing this—so now it's really, really catch-up time," said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, to a group of legislative staff and energy interest group representatives.
In conjunction with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Reps. Bartlett and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, hosted a budget analysis panel Monday to throw support behind President Obama's $3.2 billion proposal for renewable and efficient energy programs in fiscal year 2012.
The proposal is a 44 percent increase from fiscal year 2010 appropriations, the last time Washington finalized a budget.
Bartlett and Van Hollen's push for more green energy funding in 2012 comes amid rancorous debate between the two parties over where to cut from the 2011 budget. Failure to reach agreement on the 2011 budget by Friday will result in a shutdown of the federal government.
In February, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee proposed significant cuts to renewable energy funding for the rest of fiscal year 2011.
But increased funding for renewable energy will advance national security interests, improve the environment and create jobs and business opportunities, said Henry Kelly, U.S. Department of Energy principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Among renewable energy sources, only water power will see a reduction in funds under Obama's proposed budget. The water energy appropriation for fiscal 2012 is about 20 percent less than in fiscal 2010.
Wind energy, for instance, would receive a 60 percent increase, to about $127 million. Last summer, Constellation Energy began building wind turbines in southern Garrett County, which is in Bartlett's congressional district.
The U.S. energy situation is reaching a "perfect storm," said Bartlett, a longtime proponent of increasing renewable energy use in the U.S.
The peaking of worldwide oil production, recently revealed over estimates of oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and China's snapping up of fossil fuel sources around the globe are all contributing to America's need to explore alternative energy sources and reduce energy consumption, Bartlett said.
Programs supporting solar, geothermal and biomass energy sources would also see funding increases under the proposed budget—as would technologies to make vehicles and buildings greener and more efficient. In spite of these increases, funds for renewable energy sources would still be less than 11 percent of the Department of Energy's total allocation.
Nuclear energy would see a decrease in funds of less than 1 percent. But funding for fossil fuel programs would decline by more than 40 percent.
Since January, Van Hollen and Bartlett have been co-chairmen of the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, one of the largest bipartisan working groups in Congress.
"He and I obviously have had a chance to work together on Maryland specific issues," Van Hollen said, "and I'm really glad we're going to have the opportunity now to work together on these energy policy issues."