Obama budget goes hard on fossil fuel tax cuts and props up clean energy

Angela N., Flickr

President Obama’s latest budget plan, released on Tuesday, March 4, strongly reaffirms his administration’s push to combat climate change by reducing harmful fossil fuel emissions and promoting clean energy technology.

So long, fossil fuel tax breaks

In his FY 15 budget, the president again calls for long overdue cuts to outdated oil and natural gas tax breaks that support our dependence dirty fuels and are incompatible with his goals for reducing carbon pollution and protecting wild places from development. For the fifth straight year, Obama proposes nixing $4 billion in annual oil and natural tax breaks. These spending reductions would bring in $48.8 billion to the Treasury over the course of 10 years, in addition to the removal of other Department of Energy fossil fuel tax cuts.

Investing in a clean energy future

On the clean energy front, the president’s budget would permanently extend the production tax credit for wind electricity, which expired last year after Congress failed to renew it. This important 10 year investment puts emerging clean energy technology on a more equal footing with oil and gas production, and continues our nation's efforts to pivot from fossil fuels to homegrown renewable energy.

Preparing for climate change

Perhaps one of the most welcome budget inclusions is the climate change resiliency fund which underscores the administration’s resolve to address the causes and consequences of climate change. America’s public lands are already feeling the effects of a warming climate in the form of drought, wildfire and unseasonal weather, so it’s imperative for vulnerable wildlands and communities to have dependable preparedness plans for extreme weather hazards. Obama’s climate change resiliency fund would fulfill that need by investing in research to gather data on the impacts of climate change, helping communities prepare for them and supporting innovative technologies and strengthening infrastructure to ready the country for an already changing climate.

As historically unprecedented wildfires continue to consume thousands of acres of wildlands and urban infrastructure each year, President Obama has also proposed to address funding for wildfire suppression in the same way that we address spending for all other natural disasters. Longer and more severe fire seasons are eating into essential U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets, creating a vicious cycle of events as increased spending for fire suppression robs funding that was originally intended to prevent the risk of wildfire.

A step in the right direction

The Wilderness Society applauds President Obama for proposing much needed additional discretionary funding in his spending package. After several years of debilitating budget cuts to conservation programs, these investments are an important step toward restoring funding for natural resources and environmental programs to the levels they need.

As the new “Green Investments” report shows, years of chronic underfunding for conservation and natural resources programs have had significant impacts on the ground in local communities, economies and our environment.

The administration’s proposed budget is a vast improvement over previous years’ damaging funding levels. However, the restoration of important conservation funds should only mark the beginning of returning environmental budgets back to what is needed to protect communities and wildlands from development and climate threats.

Now that the President has released his budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year, we look forward to working with the House and Senate Appropriations committees to ensure that our public lands are robustly funded in the 2015.