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What's in the Budget?

April 11, 2013 – The budget that the President sent to Congress yesterday would reduce the deficit to 2.8% of GDP by 2016.  Further predictions are made about reductions in 2023, but we all know that’s meaningless.  The point I’d like to make here is that the President continues to try to work with Republicans in decreasing the deficit, which would be of benefit to us all.  Setting that mutual goal aside, the similarities between the President’s budget and the Republican budget pretty much end there.  The R’s are already staking out their territory on the evening news, a dishearteningly familiar strategy.  Whether or not the President’s budget is DOA remains to be seen.  Let’s take a look at it.
First and perhaps foremost, the President proposes to make the tax credit for renewable energy production permanent.  This should be more than offset by the retraction of oil industry subsidies.  His budget also proposes clean energy research and development.  There is a “race to the top” challenge, intended to encourage states to dramatically decrease energy waste and modernize their grid.  An Energy Security Trust would be created to fund research in powering cars and trucks without fossil fuels.  The safe production of natural gas, whatever that means, is promoted (as you can tell, I’m a bit skeptical about that idea.  It sounds like a sop to somebody.)

As for the elimination of $39 billion of special tax breaks for the oil companies, it can’t happen soon enough to suit me.  Instituted to help oil companies gain traction, that need has long since been met.  (In fact, so helpful have tax payers been to this monstrously wealthy industry that tax payments amounting to $466 billion dollars have been forgiven!)  BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell grossed $255 billion in 2011 and 2012 alone, while at the same time producing less oil.  Oil exploration and production are much more expensive than they used to be, but that’s the exact point: we’ve hit peak oil, none of the oil will be easy to get from now on, we need to change course.  Just because those five companies will miss their obscene wealth is no reason for the rest of us to play along.  Out with the old, in with the new!
What else is in the President’s budget  for 2014?  There is money for polar weather satellites, some of which is being transferred to NASA from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for the development of climate sensors.  NOAA will work on satellite development.   A 2012 advisory panel recommended this switch, but it seems backwards to me.  I’m sure there are factors I know not of …  There is funding to maintain a network of buoys in the tropical Pacific Ocean that contribute to the prediction of El Nino and La Nina events.

The National Weather Service is slated to receive money for the upgrade of their computer system “ so that it can ‘become a competitive, world class system.’”  Cuts to previous budgets have caused the U.S. to lag behind other countries in updating weather forecast models.  (Notice that it is no longer safe to assume that what the U.S. does is world class).  A new telecommunications infrastructure will also be developed.  Additional sums will be spent on unmanned aerial vehicles which would be used to further our hurricane expertise, and to detect oil spills. 
Now there’s a lot of haggling that needs to take place, probably far too much of it in the public spotlight.  How about just getting down to work without telling us your every move, Speaker Boehner?


With thanks to Climate Central, The Climate Group, and ThinkProgress.


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