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Budget cuts can’t be gleaned from green

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By Hannah Hayes

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden employs 2,300 and generates many more spinoff jobs as it operates within its budget of $350 million. NREL’s Research Support Facility has won numerous awards as it influences the way energy is consumed. From concept to completion, it is changing commercial building design nationwide. Solar panels, windmill blades, contracts and, uh-oh, progress are all part of NREL.
Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado’s 5th District wants to cut funding for renewable energy here in his home state. Why don’t conservatives ever look at the huge boondoggles given to the oil companies when casting about for places to make cuts? Fossil fuel profits are huge; their tax liabilities small. Their technology is outdated for a climate-changed planet that can no longer afford such disastrous environmental impact.
Don’t you love it when oil addicts attack green energy by habitually describing it as “so-called?” Don’t you want solar panels on your roof? Are you happy with the way you’re being manipulated at the gas pump?
Thirty years of subsidies for wind power is a weak comparison to the subsidies and tax relief the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed for more than 90 years. Oil, gas and coal receive 12 times as much support as renewable energy. Billions in subsidies fuel the huge profits these industries sport.
President Obama hopes that 80 percent of our energy needs will come from clean sources by 2035. Progress is being made. Wind and solar are growing, as evidenced by the multitude of projects you can read about on the NREL.gov website. The University of Colorado reports that $714 million a year boosts our economy from these projects. Our state grew its solar capacity by 91 percent in 2010.
Why can’t Lamborn promote a more level playing field so this new manufacturing sector can develop? His small cut is counterintuitive and would have negative effects on our economic recovery, undermining the crux of the president’s strategy to develop manufacturing at home. Tax credits and grants for overseas fossil fuel production is money moving in the wrong direction.
Lamborn voted for HR1229, Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act, last month, making his efforts to cut alternatives in Colorado even more puzzling. His beloved military-industrial complex’s defense appropriations bill specifies that all solar panels it uses be made in America. NREL is a much-needed resource whose funding must certainly continue.

Hannah B. Hayes is a former Both Sides Now debate columnist, small-business owner and peace activist. She has been a part of the Evergreen community for more than 35 years.