The partial 2018 budget plan released by the Trump administration online recently revealed plans for some pretty big changes in the coming future. It proposed completely eliminating Energy Department loan programs and some research funding for energy-efficient technology and electric vehicle development at three automakers, all while the auto industry shifts to more environmentally friendly and autonomous vehicles. The proposed budget doesn’t seem to take into much consideration, the things a lot of people care about and depend on, especially in the automotive industry.
The budget suggests putting an end to the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-e), which gives out $300 million a year in grants for research in technology focused on reducing fossil-fuel use and improvements to energy efficiency. The ten-year-old program created under the Bush administration has supported research into micro-organisms that create replacements for petroleum, battery storage systems, improving window-pane efficiency, and communicative car technology. In addition to getting rid of ARPA-e, the Trump budget seeks to scrap two energy loan programs, claiming the “private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”
Also potentially on the chopping block, would be a U.S. Energy Dept. clean vehicle loan program that helped reignite Nissan Motor Co., Tesla Inc., and Ford Motor Co. during the last downturn in the industry. A new project hasn’t been funded in six years, but the program was first started to help provide some important liquidity to some automakers. In addition to the three aforementioned companies, the program also backed two failed automakers, Fisker Automotive Inc. and Vehicle Program Group. Taxpayers lost a total of $139 million in loans to the two companies.
The budget also stands to do away with another program that has provided loans for solar generation, wind farms, and the first new commercial nuclear power plant built in the U.S. in thirty years. The national Resources Defense Council said the energy loan program is important in bringing
The Obama administration almost halted all green-energy loans after the failure of the solar panel startup Solyndra in 2011, which Republicans began to target. Because a more detailed budget proposal will supposedly be released in May, the Energy Department has declined to answer any questions on the auto loan program. As of now, the auto loan program still has $4.2 billion remaining in subsidies, from $7 billion, that could be used to support $16.6 billion in loans, says a 2014 Government Accountability Office report. As more detailed information comes out over the survival of these programs, a better idea of how the future of the auto industry will end