Now that the election is over, scientists and environmentalists around the country are trying to discern how a Trump presidency will affect the energy sector. It’s tough to make any calls at this stage. After all, what someone says on the campaign trail doesn’t always match what they execute in office!
One thing is clear: Trump wants to make America energy independent (though he’s not the first to bring up energy independence—the phrase goes as far back as Richard Nixon’s presidency, when he addressed fuel shortages during the early 1970s). However, Trump’s focus seems primarily directed at U.S. energy producers. He hopes to bring back jobs—particularly in the domestic fossil fuel industry—and grow the economy through tax cuts, pro-business policies and infrastructure projects. Trump also said that, for every new energy regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated in an effort to preserve jobs on American soil.
This is great news for fossil fuel producers and steel and concrete suppliers. Coal miners can breathe a sigh of relief: it’s less likely they’ll be burdened by a federal carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, are showing some concern. Trump has also pledged to eliminate the Obama Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan, which were initially created to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the Paris Climate Action Plan, which aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures under control. Trump argues that such measures would only increase Americans’ electric bills by double digits without doing much to affect the Earth’s climate. Instead he wants to lift energy restrictions to achieve more jobs, more revenues, more wealth, higher wages and lower energy prices—all in an effort to put America first.
Of course, we can’t decisively say what Trump’s plans will accomplish, especially since we don’t yet know the details. There are some roadblocks in place that could prevent him from scrapping existing climate change regulations. And, regardless of how much he decides to invest in renewable energy, wind and solar appear to be getting cheaper and may soon overtake fossil fuels.
It’s also important to remember that folks in Washington don’t wield 100% of the power. State governments play a role in clean energy production, too. Nearly 30 states, including North Carolina, have renewable electricity standards that require utilities to use renewable energy. That number will likely increase as clean energy increases in popularity and feasibility.
Perhaps Trump will help us reach energy independence and keep jobs intact without ruling out renewables and energy efficiency. The International Energy Agency predicts that, based on current policies, the U.S. could reduce its oil import needs and become energy independent by 2040 (only importing from Canada and Mexico). We could reach that goal sooner, as long as our elected officials continue to make clean energy a priority.