The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States sent shivers down the backs of many environmentalists and others deeply concerned about climate change. While the media and the nation were too busy engrossed in Hilary Clinton’s emails, little to no attention was paid to Trump’s energy plans. When the spotlight finally fell on Trump’s wishes for the future of the American energy industry, it was too late. Many consoled themselves that Trump, while powerful, could not single-handedly stop the progress that renewable energy such as solar power and wind energy have made. While this is true, this post will show in the end that instead of focusing on small battles, we should be fighting to win the war (decarbonization).
Trump’s plan for the energy sector (Spoiler alert: he loves fossil fuels)
- Trump is not a big fan of solar energy and wind energy. At an oil industry conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2016, Trump outlined his energy strategy if he became president. While stating that his strategy included nuclear, wind and solar energy, Trump noted that he would not support them at the expense of fossil fuels which are currently working much better. He commented to the press before the speech, “I know a lot about solar. The problem with solar is it’s very expensive.” He further went on to state, “Wind is killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles, one of the most beautiful, one of the most treasured birds, so wind is a problem.”
- Trump once tweeted in 2012 that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese. He said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He has indicated that he wants to do away with many of the Obama regulations that helped in reducing US carbon dioxide emissions. This also includes the Clean Power Plan.
- Trump has expressed his desire to cut federal spending on cleaning energy. This would include cutting funding on R&D for solar power, wind energy, nuclear power and electric vehicles.
- Trump wants the US out of the Paris Climate deal, which came into effect in 2016 and is a valiant global effort to stop global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius.
- Trump is really against renewable energy. In his 2015 book, “Crippled America,” he remarks, “To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that — and I don’t — then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.”
The unstoppable Renewable Energy Revolution
What the Trump administration seems not to have grasped is that renewable energy (solar power and wind energy) have been growing at a record pace. In 2015, the world spent $286 billion on renewable energy. This is double the amount spent on coal and gas. Solar energy and wind power made up 50% of all new electric capacity. Renewable energy (without counting massive hydropower dams) provided 10.3% of the planet’s electricity supply, an increase from the 9.1% of 2014.
The U.S Energy information administration projects that renewable energy consumption will experience the fastest growth spurt than any other form of energy through to 2040. This is likely to happen, because wind farms and solar fields will pop up as capital costs go down, and federal policies become more accommodating.
29 states have renewable fuel standards and have shown no sign of reneging on their commitments. It will, therefore, be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for the Trump administration to interfere with state and local rules. California has recently unveiled a plan to cut carbon emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels. Texas is in the leading position when it comes to wind power generation. Walmart, the biggest retailer on the planet, announced in November 2016 that it would draw 50% of its power from renewable and clean energy sources.
In addition to all the good news in the paragraph above, power plants in America emitted 27% less carbon dioxide as compared to 2005 levels. The Clean Power Plan that is already in the slaughter house was aiming for 30% reduction by 2030. 27% means the country has already achieved the goal of the power plan.
With electric cars moving to the mainstream and solar panels getting cheaper by the day, the renewable energy revolution seems to be unstoppable. Not even ‘The Donald’ can do much to reverse the growth of the industry in the years to come. David Richardson, the global head of marketing at Impax Asset Management remarked, “While the rhetoric is absolutely negative in terms of advocating pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ramping up coal, ramping up fossil fuels and being fairly quiet on the support of renewable energy, we think the reality is different.”
The war is Decarbonization
While the news is good and that we will only become more reliant on renewable energy sources in the coming years, we risk losing sight of the war. Fossil fuel generation is still holding steady, and if it keeps expanding instead of shrinking, then it will be harder and more complicated to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. Emphasis also has to be placed on the transportation sector, cement, steel and other fuel-heavy industries. This is with the understanding that climate change can plunge our world into a place humanity has never experienced before and is incapable of surviving.