Energy Policies Couldn’t Be More Different–But The Same In Ability To Execute

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In the last week before the 2016 election, it is important to note one last time the key differences between to major party candidates on energy. The candidates’ energy platforms do not seem to represent a major focus for the candidate. Their global political strategies are more focused on other issues such as immigration and foreign policy. Hillary Clinton emphasizes the importance of increasing the share of renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels and she acknowledges that climate change is a real issue; whereas, Donald Trump insists that he is “not a believer on climate change”, claiming that the extreme weather patterns that scientists attribute to man-made actions are simply “weather”. Trump also said “It’s called weather changes and you have storm and you have rain and you have beautiful days”. Trump has vowed to cancel the Paris Climate Accord approved in September of this year if he is elected U.S. president. Doing so would be difficult and certainly unprecedented. Due to the fact that Article 28 of this accord states that once the agreement enters into force, any country that has ratified will have to wait at least three years before it can formally start the process of withdrawing, which would require a further year to be effective. In practical terms, it will take a presidential term.

Hillary Clinton emphasizes the importance of enlarging the share of renewable energy, eying a target of 25 percent of the total U.S. energy mix by 2025 while proposing to cut subsidies for oil and gas producers and toughen fracking regulations. Hillary’s proposal seems to be a comprehensive and detailed extension of current Obama’s energy and climate policies. Her website theme is “taking on the threat of climate change and making America the world’s clean energy superpower.” Clinton plans to do so by cutting one third of U.S. oil consumption, and installing 500 million solar panels by the end of a hypothetical eight-year presidency. Perhaps the most prominent part of her policy is a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge aimed at expanding the role of renewables; including transitioning communities that have relied on traditional energy production for jobs, such as coal. Donald Trump has pledged to make the United States fully energy-independent by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and rolling back environmental regulations, restricting oil and natural gas exploration. Trump has also vowed in his campaign to save the U.S. coal industry after years of bankruptcies and worsening job prospects for coal miners. Donald Trump claims miners have one “last shot” in this presidential election, insisting that the coal industry will be nonexistent if Hillary Clinton wins the election. The coal market, however, is competing directly with natural gas and renewable energy sources, even as federal regulations push the U.S. away from fossil fuels. Saving the coal industry and putting oil and gas workers back to work will be hard to achieve while natural gas continues to take market share from coal. U.S. mines for example produced around 900 million tons of coal last year, indicating a steep decline of nearly 25 percent since 2008. Coal production in the U.S. is now at its lowest level since 1986 according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

The differences between the two candidates policies on Energy couldn’t be starker. But the one thing in common is that both may find it hard to achieve all that they promise.