Trump vs. Clinton: The Future of U.S. Energy Policy

After months and months of political ads, debates, news reports and projections, the election is only a week away. Regardless of where you stand, one thing is clear: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take very different stances when it comes to energy. As our energy usage evolves, RateAcuity can help you stay on track with accurate, up-to-date electricity tariff data. In the meantime, let’s consider each candidate’s policies and how they might impact our energy future.

While watching the presidential debates, I noticed that sustainable energy came up a few times (though, of course, not as much as other hot topics). In the second debate, Trump said that energy is under siege by the Obama administration and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is so restrictive, it’s killing off energy companies. Trump has long been in favor of what he calls “clean coal” and wants to bring back mining jobs that have been lost, largely due to competition from natural gas.

When asked how he would revive coal jobs, Trump said that he would do so by getting rid of regulations. As a big proponent of oil, he also wants to reduce regulations on hydraulic fracking. This has caused many economists to question his vision since it contains a central contradiction: reviving the coal industry while at the same time boosting the main thing responsible for destroying coal, natural gas.

Trump’s end goal is to make the United States fully energy independent. As far as global warming, he has been dismissive about climate change and renewable energy, claiming the latter is still too expensive for the U.S. to consider at this time. Trump plans to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, cancel the international Paris climate agreement and undo President Obama’s Clean Power Plan—which the EPA estimated would lower electricity bills by 8% in 2030.

Clinton, on the other hand, says that the U.S. is already energy independent. This comment raised some eyebrows, since we still rely on foreign energy sources for about 11% of our consumption needs. We are, however, trending towards energy independence within the next decade or so.

Unlike her opponent, Clinton is very enthusiastic about renewable energy, particularly solar. She hopes to increase solar energy 700% by the end of her first term, and produce enough electricity from renewable sources to power every home in the country within ten years of taking office. Her goal is for America to become the world’s clean energy superpower.

Naturally, boosting renewable energy raises questions about the ability of the grid, which was not built to handle such high levels of variable electricity. A study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that reaching 80% renewable generation would add about 40% to the cost of electricity.

Jürgen Weiss, head of climate change at the Brattle Group consultancy, estimates that preparing the grid for new types of energy—something the Clinton campaign says is a spending priority—could cost as much as $100 billion over the next 10-15 years, roughly a 5-10% increase on current electricity spending. Clinton has also been criticized for focusing too narrowly on solar rather than other energy sources, like nuclear.

It’s hard to say for sure how the next POTUS will affect electricity rates and energy usage in our country. Both candidates have proposed changes to our infrastructure that would be costly. Renewable energy would raise prices, but depending on how seriously you take climate change, that might be a necessary consequence. How can we shift towards sustainability without breaking the bank? I’m thankful that I don’t have to figure that out myself. But I can cast my ballot for the candidate I trust the most.

For more information about the candidates’ views on energy, I found the Brookings Institute, Electric Choice and Business Insider helpful. I encourage you to do your own digging as well!

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