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The US Presidential Candidates’ view on Energy and Renewables
After increasing in 2014, a 2015 Gallup poll shows that the percentage of Americans concerned about global warming and environmental issues is dropping, but still, related issues remain a key topic of discussion with both presidential candidates.
So the question remains, where do the two presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, stand on renewable energy and environmental issues and what could this possibly mean for the renewable energy sector within the United States?
Trump does not seem to have the same instinctive dislike for subsidies concerning renewable power that some more traditional Republicans are displaying but shows a very strong point of view concerning environmental regulations. As in an interview with Fox News last year, Trump stated he would cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “What … [the EPA does] is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They’re making it impossible.”
Adding to Trump’s strong position against environmental regulations, he has – on several occasions – implied that global warming is a hoax. Although he backed off some of his statements later on, explaining that he was joking, Trump himself has told The Washington Post he is “not a big believer in man-made climate change”, putting him at odds with the vast majority of the world’s scientists, who agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are likely a result of human activity.
Trump has positioned himself as a strong supporter of fossil fuel extraction, especially oil and natural gas deposits unlocked by recent advances in fracking technology.
In his economic speech in Detroit on August 8th of this year (for the full transcript please refer here ), the Republican presidential nominee discussed a set of energy proposals, which would attempt to support traditional industries centered on coal, oil, and natural gas.
Overall, Trump has vocalized his broad dislike toward environmental regulations, claiming such rules would predominantly serve to hamper the economy.
And during his speech in North Dakota on the 26th of May (you can find the full transcript here) Trump stated that “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs”, clearly rejecting both accepted climate science and attempts to reach a global consensus over the past decade concerning greenhouse gas emissions and environmental issues.
Stating via Twitter that “Fracking will lead to American energy independence.” in 2012 his public comments since then have been less concise, but nevertheless overall supportive towards fracking technology. In his one major energy policy speech in North Dakota in May 2016, Trump argued he would “revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies,” indirectly saying he would not regulate methane emissions from fracking rigs, which the Obama administration is currently attempting to do.
It seems that Wind Power is especially unpopular with the Republican Candidate. In a speech on the 26th of May to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Trump stated that “The administration fast-tracked wind projects that kill more than 1 million birds a year.”
But the root of Trump’s antipathy towards wind energy may be more personal than ideological. In 2015, Trump lost a protracted legal battle to prevent the construction of a wind farm off the cost of Aberdeen, Scotland, in which case he argues the ocean views from a luxury golf course he owns in the area would be ruined.
Contrary to the Republican nominee, the former secretary of state and New York senator Hillary Clinton referred to climate change as “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time,” and has promised to build on Obama’s plan to bring the United State’s carbon emissions 17% below their 2005 level by the year 2020.
Though her speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President of the United States on the 28th of July 2016, Secretary Clinton said, “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.”(Transcript of the LA Times your can find here)
But environmentalism has not been one of the hallmarks of her political campaigns or public service in the past.
Although Clinton would likely move forward with Obama’s Clean Power Plan, meeting the Paris targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, the outcome of federal court cases concerning the CPP will also affect future policy implementation.
Unlike Trump, who has never run for political office, Clinton has taken a position on every single environmental issue during her nearly 25 years of life in public. As secretary of state, she promoted fracking overseas, but during a debate in March (for transcript please refer here), Clinton stated that she would drastically change regulations concerning fracking on a nationwide basis, continuing that “[the] places where fracking is going on [currently] … are not sufficiently regulated.”
Clinton has been focusing on three starting points when talking about clean energy and climate change throughout her campaign. Firstly, agreeing with Bernie Sanders that climate change is real. Secondly promoting and furthering progress on climate President Obama has made throughout his time in office and lastly, promoting that the next administration needs to do more, if the United State’s climate goals are to be hit. Her goals therefore include closing the gap, and putting the United States back on track for its 2015 targets, while making sure transitions work for all Americans. Which, according to her campaign, would include a number of things: economic development for coal communities, a focus on low-income households and communities of color, expanding union density in the clean energy space, and helping states figure out net metering and retail rate design issues.
Throughout her campaign, Secretary Clinton has been very outspoken on climate change, carbon pricing, clean energy jobs, and the need to value emerging distributed energy resources. During an economic policy speech in Warren, Michigan on the 11th of August 2016 Secretary Clinton declared,
“Let’s build a cleaner, more resilient power grid with enough renewable energy to power every home in our country as well. Some country is going to be the clean energy super power of the 21st century and create millions of jobs and businesses. It’s probably going to be either China, Germany, or America. I want it to be us. We invent the technology, we should make it, and use it, and export it, which will help to grow our economy.” (for full transcript, please refer here)
If this was a traditional campaign, these issues might attract increasing attention in the run-up to the general election in November, given the candidates’ starkly different visions for the nation’s energy future. But Donald Trump’s propensity for insults and Clinton’s legal peril over the private e-mail account she used while she was secretary of state are likely to overshadow this and other policy discussions.
Nevertheless, the result of this year’s elections will have a profound impact on the United States energy sector, concerning both renewables, and fossil fuels.