Donald Trump’s Presidency will be largely defined by his commitment to rolling back clean energy initiatives launched over the past eight years. The Republican President may scrap the Clean Power Plan. He may also nix several CO2 regulations that Obama has put in place. “I will eliminate all needless and job-killing regulations now on the books—and there are plenty of them,” Trump had said hinting at clean energy policies.
Trump considers the decisions to develop alternative forms of energy “a big mistake”. According to him, solar energy is an “unproven technology” with little return on investment. While a climate change believer sees a tremendous opportunity in a massive amount of unused wind energy along the coasts, Trump calls it a “very poor source of energy” that is “destroying shorelines all over the world”.
His unflinching support for traditional energy sources is equally worrisome, especially his repeated commitments to “save the coal industry”. He has stated his support for more domestic excavation of oil and gas, specifically in the Outer Continental Shelf. Hence, it is not hard to imagine emissions rising under his Presidency.
There’s a fear that the Trump government would ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline project, whose fourth phase was rejected by the Obama government. Moreover, it would also try to accelerate the process of developing a five-year proposal (2017-2022) to guide extraction.
Trump’s entry into the White House couldn’t have happened at a least opportune time for the US when the coal market has been witnessing a sustained decline due to shale gas revolution and tighter environmental standards for coal power plants.
Trump’s intervention doesn’t augur well with the renewable energy sector that witnessed a surge in the United States in the first half of 2016. Production of the wind, solar and geothermal energy is on the rise. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy will account for about one-third of new power generation added to the US grid over the next three years.
Wind energy is leading the way with 19,500 MW of installed capacity at mid-year. In Texas alone, more than 4,200 MW of wind capacity has been installed in 2016 or is currently under construction. Geothermal energy is also expanding, albeit at a slower rate. Nearly 3,000 MW is currently installed, and about 4,000 MW more is under development.
Trump has his eyes fixed on the coal industry. He wants to prop it up by bringing in more “clean coal” to the market. “We need much more than wind and solar. There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for a thousand years in this country,” Trump had said in one of his campaigns. Clean coal is the outcome of chemically washing coal to remove pollutants while improving efficiency. But neither washing nor gasifier technology does anything about CO2, the greenhouse gas (GHG) produced in large quantities by coal-burning power plants. It doesn’t look promising, especially when cheaper and renewable alternatives are available.
Donald Trump: The climate change denier
The Americans are staring at coal-heavy and fossil-driven years since the man at the helm of affairs doesn’t “buy” the fact that carbon emissions are causing global climate change. He doesn’t accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real and wants to dismantle the Paris Agreement, something that nearly 200 countries agreed to last December.
In the “New Deal for Black America” plan, which Trump released, he promised to cut all federal spending on the climate change issue to save $100 billion during terms in office. He pledges to “cancel all wasteful climate change spending.” To save that amount, the government has to reduce funding for climate science research and helping the US communities deal with climate-related changes. More importantly, it has to cut all the money the Department of Energy spends on technology development. According to Trump, the US shouldn’t waste money on climate change and “instead use it to provide for infrastructure, including clean water, clean air, and safety.”
If not the climate scientists, Trump should pay heed to the words of senior US military and national security experts who have warned that the effects of climate change present “a strategically significant risk” to the US national security. The US has already seen climate refugees in their country. Sea level rise threatens coastal populations; residents of South Florida are already experiencing seawater flooding in streets; hurricanes and storm surge have become more intense and frequent.
In Alaska, lakes are getting smaller due to increased evaporation caused by warmer temperatures and shrubs are expanding. On the other hand, drought conditions are worsening in the southeastern part of the country.
Despite these signs of climate change, Donald Trump administration can derail the modest progress that the US has made. “Donald Trump has promised to halt the Obama administration’s programmes on climate change. He would have considerable ability to do that. It would be very time-consuming to repeal existing regulations, but Trump could order a halt to enforcement of them. There would certainly be many lawsuits challenging this action, but they could take years to resolve,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.
“Should Trump become President, international arrangements for trade, collective security and nuclear proliferation will all be threatened. The Paris Agreement will continue to be supported by other countries, but the willingness of these countries to take action to limit emissions will be weakened. It will be a riskier, more fragmented and less secure world,” said Scott Barrett, Professor of Natural Resource Economics at the Columbia University.
It is only a matter of decade or two before the world’s 1.5°C carbon budget is blown. Hence, the impact of decisions made over the next four years will last much longer. Trump can do a lot to alter the course of the country and set it on a path of destruction by not working towards a transition to a zero-carbon economy.
His campaign motto has been “Make America Great Again”. But does a great country choose economic growth over the well-being of its people?
Putting economy before environment
Here’s a look at some of the remarks Donald Trump had made over the course of his presidential campaign.
“We should be focused on clean and beautiful air-not expensive and business closing GLOBAL WARMING-a total hoax!
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
“There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of climate change.”
“I believe so much in the environment. Believe it or not, people are shocked — I’ve won many environmental awards. But the Paris deal, supported by Hillary, will cost our country another US$5.3 trillion over a period and skyrocket electricity prices.”
“We will cancel this deal so that our companies can compete. We want beautiful, clean air. We want crystal clear water. That’s what we want. We want to be able to do business throughout the world, not so that we can’t compete because of these crazy deals that our president is making.”
Clean and Renewable Energy
“American Energy Policy is putting a lot of people out of work and they are a disaster.”
“If I am elected president I will immediately approve the keystone xl pipeline. No impact on the environment and lots of jobs for the US.”
“I would lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas. We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.”
“According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States has the largest recoverable coal resources in the world. We’re talking clean coal – beautiful, clean coal … Over 90 percent of U.S. coal is used for electricity. In other words, my plan will make your energy bill much less expensive – much, much cheaper. Hillary Clinton’s anti-energy agenda is a massive tax on the poor.”
“Hillary Clinton wants to shut down energy production and shut down the mines, and she wants to shut down – she said it just recently – she wants to shut down the miners. I want to do exactly the opposite.”
Pollution and Clean Power Plan
“We would eliminate the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.”
“We would scale back the latest regulations on ozone pollution and eliminate the EPA’s Renewable Identification Number program, which is part of the Renewable Fuel Standard programme.”
(The views expressed are strictly those of Down to Earth.)