Energy Dept trolls Trump by pushing clean energy projects
CleanTechnica is trying to track the rapidfire Trump-trolling emitted by the US Energy Department, but it’s hard to keep up. Despite the coal-positive rhetoric of President Trump, his own agency has been relentlessly pounding out mountains of good news about renewables. Among the flood of news this week, two items broke through the clutter: a new round of clean tech projects focusing on tribal lands, and a paean to Rachel Carson.
By Tina Casey
The Rachel Carson reference is particularly interesting because it illustrates how Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been picking up slack from Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. But, let’s start with those clean tech projects…
The new round of funding comes through the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, which has turned its attention to fostering renewable energy and energy efficiency projects “for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
IEPP is a relatively new office. It was established during the Bush Administration in 2005, just in time to dovetail with a new focus on renewables under the Obama Administration.
The new round of funding also comes at a fortuitous time in terms of coal plant closures. Coal plants on or near tribal lands are an important source of good-paying jobs, and a boost for local renewable energy development could help offset those losses.
The current funding round is a “first steps” program involving 19 tribes:
Under these awards, these Native American communities will conduct energy options analyses; establish baseline energy use and efficiency options; develop energy organizations; conduct resiliency planning; establish policy, regulations, and codes; and obtain skills and training to promote energy efficiency and development.
In terms of the Trump energy policy, don’t get too excited about a change of heart. The new round of funding was not initiated under his Administration. It was kicked off in a competitive funding opportunity that launched last summer.
Apparently this is one of those on-going programs that the new Administration is powerless to stop.
Nevertheless, the contrast between the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency is striking.
While EPA chief Scott Pruitt has embraced budget-cutting along with an obsequious attitude toward Trump Administration priorities, Energy Secretary Perry has been giving his staff free reign to express their enthusiasm for renewables.
Heck, it’s almost like they’re all thumbing their noses at the Commander-in-Chief.
Here’s William Bradford, director of IEPP, leading the cheer for the new round of funding:
“Within every challenge can be found the seeds of opportunity, and I believe tribes are well positioned to cultivate these seeds through visionary leadership and strategic energy planning…Our hope is that by funding these initial steps, the foundation will be laid for these Indian tribes to find energy solutions that work for their communities.”
Energy Department support for tribal projects actually predates the establishment of IEPP by a few years.
DOE tracks the funding from 2002, toting up a federal investment of $66.5 million for 217 distinct projects, in addition to technical assistance and other resources.
A Little Goes A Long Way
The new round of funding adds another lump of approximately $3 million to the pot.
That relatively modest amount could go a long way. For example, a grant request of $147,566 will be matched with a cost share of $16,396 for this program in California:
The Bishop Paiute Tribe Youth Solar Job Training Development project will provide opportunities for young adults to become familiar with jobs in the solar industry; increase knowledge of basic skills required for employment in the solar industry, including eligibility requirements for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Solar Installer Exam; and begin to develop a workforce capable of assisting the Tribe in future solar installations.
The program will also leverage a SolarCorps Construction Fellowship from the organization Grid Alternatives.
The Bishop Paiute tribe is an IEPP success story. Here’s an update on their progress on renewables, from earlier this month:
At an Earth Day event held on April 22, the Tribe celebrated the completion of 56 residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations totaling nearly 180 kilowatts rated capacity, co-funded by DOE Office of Indian Energy grants awarded in 2015 and 2016….the Tribe is now a quarter of the way to its goal of installing solar PV on 200 tribal homes—half of the low-income homes on the Reservation—by 2020.
What’s All This About Rachel Carson?
For those of you unfamiliar with the life and times of Rachel Carson, her landmark 1962 opus Silent Spring earned her a spot on the National Historic Chemical Landmark map, a project of the American Chemical Society.
The marker was designated back in 2012 at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.
Here’s the rundown, in an article posted on ACS:
Carson’s scientific perspective and rigor created a work of substantial depth and credibility that sparked widespread debate within the scientific community and the broader public about the effect of pesticides on the natural world. These discussions led to new policies that protect our air, our water, and, ultimately, our health and safety.
But wait, there’s more:
Carson’s book promoted a paradigm shift in how chemists practice their discipline and helped to establish a new role for chemists in investigating the impact of human activity on the environment. The legacy of Silent Spring continues today in the chemistry community’s increased focus on green chemistry practices and the public’s heightened support for sustainability in all areas of our lives.
And, so much more:
…the 21st century owes considerable gratitude to one woman, Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring, published in 1962, revolutionized how people understand their relationship with the natural environment. Specifically, Silent Spring explained how indiscriminate application of agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and other modern chemicals polluted our streams, damaged bird and animal populations, and caused severe medical problems for humans.
Are you listening, Scott Pruitt?
For reasons best known only to itself, just last week on May 27 the Energy Department’s Office of Science tweeted a link to that same ACS article about Rachel Carson:
— DOE Science (@doescience) May 27, 2017
Oh right, the occasion was the anniversary of Carson’s birthday.
If you’re having déjà vu all over again, you might be thinking of a DOE tweet that went out in the closing weeks of the Obama Administration on December 22, 2016, just a few months ago:
So, exactly what signal is Rick Perry’s DOE trying to send, as the clock ticks away on the Trump Administration’s reality show approach to the Paris climate accord?
We’re thinking it’s the same non-partisan warning signal that at least two former EPA chiefs sent to the voting public during last year’s presidential campaign, but that’s just us.
PS — Not for nothing, but CNN is finally on to the reality show angle, which CleanTechnica tagged all the way back on May 13 (ok so they’re calling it a game show but whatever, same idea, just sayin’).
(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter. Rick Perry image by Donkeyhotey.)