Pro­posed cuts to En­ergy De­part­ment are a clear dan­ger

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Mike Carr

In my ear­li­est years grow­ing up in Broom­field, in a rented house just over the hill from the De­part­ment of En­ergy’s Rocky Flats weapons fa­cil­ity, Colorado was an oil and gas state. The state suf­fered acute pain as those in­dus­tries went through one of their fre­quent bust cy­cles in the ‘80s. Since then, I’ve watched my home state trans­form its econ­omy into a more di­verse and vi­brant tech­nol­ogy hub.

Com­pa­nies like Lock­heed Martin, Or­a­cle, IBM, Level 3, and Google have lo­cated ma­jor fa­cil­i­ties here, at­tracted by the scenery and cli­mate and the high-skill work­force and tech­nol­ogy ecosys­tem. The pillars of that ecosys­tem are the re­search uni­ver­si­ties in Boul­der, Ft. Collins, and Denver, and the fed­eral lab­o­ra­to­ries that work with them to push the bound­aries of human knowl­edge and ca­pa­bil­ity.

The farm that was then my home is now the cor­po­rate cam­pus for Or­a­cle. The cleaned up Rocky Flats is now a na­tional wildlife refuge. The hill in be­tween now hosts the Na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory’s Wind Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter, where sci­en­tists keep Colorado at the fore­front of the global tech­nol­ogy race to pro­duce cheap, clean elec­tric­ity.

The fed­eral labs I vis­ited on field trips in my youth, and the re­search uni­ver­si­ties they part­ner with, have cre­ated an in­no­va­tive cul­ture and a pipe­line of tal­ented work­ers. When I joined the lead­er­ship team of the De­part­ment of En­ergy’s Of­fice of En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able En­ergy, I saw first­hand what NREL, our crown jewel lab in Golden, could do. They, and the other fed­eral labs, have cat­alyzed Colorado’s trans­for­ma­tion into a na­tional leader in clean en­ergy tech­nol­ogy.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that Ves­tas, a global leader in wind en­ergy, chose to lo­cate man­u­fac­tur­ing in Colorado, as well as new com­pa­nies in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, smart grid, LED light­ing, elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing and re­lated in­dus­tries, re­sult­ing in over 60,000 jobs.

En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry raved about the eco­nomic growth NREL has cre­ated in Colorado and across the U.S. in a re­cent tweet con­grat­u­lat­ing the lab on its 40th an­niver­sary. I’m sure he’ll have equally complimentary things to say when he vis­its the lab later this year. And all the while, he’ll con­tinue to pub­licly de­fend the Pres­i­dent’s pro­posal to cut DOE’s in­no­va­tion bud­get by 36 per­cent, deal­ing a mas­sive blow to NREL, Colorado, and U.S. com­pet­i­tive­ness.

The reck­less slash­ing to De­part­ment of En­ergy fund­ing is stun­ning. Trump would re­duce the re­new­able en­ergy, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, and clean trans­porta­tion pro­grams that Colorado labs spe­cial­ize in to nearly a quar­ter of their cur­rent size. NREL would be deeply wounded, per­haps mor­tally so, and the ef­fect on Colorado’s en­ergy in­no­va­tion ecosys­tem would be dev­as­tat­ing. Com­pa­nies and in­ven­tors look­ing for solid part­ners and sta­ble mar­kets will choose to op­er­ate these ex­pand­ing in­dus­tries in coun­tries who value them, like China, the EU, and In­dia. Sadly, Pres­i­dent Trump is pay­ing more at­ten­tion to far-right ide­ol­ogy and a hand­ful of donors than to these cold, hard facts.

For­tu­nately, there has been bi­par­ti­san con­sen­sus within Colorado’s fed­eral del­e­ga­tion to sup­port clean en­ergy jobs and to re­sist ef­forts to cut back on in­no­va­tion in the past. In March, these leg­is­la­tors helped beat back an ear­lier at­tempt by the pres­i­dent to gut en­ergy in­no­va­tion pro­grams — and ul­ti­mately se­cured record fund­ing lev­els for en­ergy, sci­en­tific re­search and de­vel­op­ment. And in May, Sen. Cory Gard­ner and five other Repub­li­cans urged the Pres­i­dent to change course in his lat­est bud­get pro­posal and sup­port en­ergy in­no­va­tion fund­ing — ad­vice Trump re­jected.

It’s up to Congress to do what’s right.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed cuts are a dan­ger not only to our health and wel­fare, but to our eco­nomic well-be­ing, par­tic­u­larly here in Colorado. The fight for our chil­dren’s fu­ture, and our econ­omy, is now upon us. I hope and be­lieve our lead­ers are up to the chal­lenge.

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