Trump probably won’t much reverse the current clean energy policies

The reality is that clean energy has been booming in the United States for a whole bunch of reasons that don’t have much to do with climate change. Things such as health, security and innovation, which lead to high levels of support amongst Republicans – yes, Republicans – for harnessing the power of American water, wind and sun.

Those federal tax credits for wind and solar? They were passed last December by a Republican Congress with bipartisan support. Revoking them would require a legislative effort that may not be looked upon kindly by the many Republican lawmakers who have renewable energy manufacturing and development in their states. Lawmakers like Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who said this summer: “If he wants to do away with it, he’ll have to get a bill through Congress, and he’ll do it over my dead body.” He won’t be the only one: looking across the country – and the electoral map – the top-10 wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans.

Besides, much of the renewable energy boom has been driven by state policy. You might recall that back when he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush passed legislation requiring utilities to buy renewable energy.

It led to a building boom that has made the state the largest producer of wind power in the United States. Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota lead the United States in the proportion of electricity generated by wind, and all are led by Republican governors. Ditto North Carolina, which trails only California in the development of new solar projects.

Up in New Hampshire, which also went for Mr. Trump, the newly elected Republican governor won on a platform that included support for the Northern Pass transmission line, which would move clean hydroelectricity from Quebec into New Hampshire and the New England power grid.

…Down in Florida, as Floridians delivered their support to Trump, they also voted to maintain unlimited opportunities for the expansion of rooftop solar. There are hundreds of state-level policies in red states and blue states that aren’t going to disappear, and they are driving significant investment in clean energy.

Just last year, the United States saw $56-billion (U.S.) in clean-energy investment, second only to China. That kind of investment creates a lot of jobs: Almost 210,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, double the 2010 figures. This represents more people than those employed in oil and gas extraction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor notes that wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing occupation in the country. Would Mr. Trump put these good jobs in jeopardy? Doubtful.

Looking at dollars and cents – and customers’ wallets – it’s also worth highlighting that the unsubsidized cost of wind and solar just keeps falling, down 61 per cent and 82 per cent respectively, between 2009 and 2015.

I’m not arguing those policies are good, bad, or “not nearly enough.”  The main point is simply that most of them are unlikely to change.

That is from The Globe and Mail, much more at the link, via Dina Pomeranz.

Comments

I've got nothing against "renewable" energy, except that they need subsidies. One day they won't.

I do think that Trump will end EPA mandates like the enhanced Obama CAFE standards and other controversial regulations made without Congressional approval.

+1 on all points.

Yes. I wouldn't be so sure that Trump won't make some significant changes. Trump is confronting a target-rich environment and the biggest problem will be prioritizing.

Any possibility that California will stop treating its sole nuclear power plant as if it were a coal plant, for the purpose of assessing PG&E's compliance with the renewable energy standard?

Nah...

-DK

Any chance that PG&E's ratepayers won't face a huge bill when the plant is decommissioned?

Nah…

(This is undoubtedly one of the reasons the German nuclear industry was so vehement in opposing the Atomausstieg - in Germany, it is taxpayers that are ultimately on the hook for all the decommissioning costs, not the utilities - talk about a sweetheart deal privatizing the profits and socializing the costs. And one of the best ways to hide the future bills is to keep everything in 'temporary' onsite storage of operating plants - just like at Fukushima, where more spent fuel assemblies were being stored than the actual fuel assemblies in the reactor. That's right, Tepco not only didn't bother to worry about tsunamis, they didn't worry about using the facility as a storage facility either - one can be sure that all the permits were in order, at least - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster#Plant_description )

Maybe Germany should have forced their coal plants to close first.

Clean energy support via tax subsidy, federal research expenditure, or other kinds of public support is not, in any possible universe, controversial or even arguable as to the net benefits to society, even if one does not believe in global warming resulting from a carbon economy. Clean energy gives our economy options, and expands and diversifies the base of industrial and service economy expertise.

Lol, wut?

Yeah, wut?

This is an economics blog, right? What about opportunity cost?

Ultimately, the United States because, well, the United States because of access to cheap energy, particularly oil and its various products.

All of these points are arguable. The only major point in support of clean energy is the negative externality from medium- to long-term climate change. And it appears that doesn't really matter that much to the US electorate. (It matters to me, but I think nuclear+solar is the way forward. Wind is more intermittent than nuclear, and has higher maintenance costs than solar.)

Really, Mark? Do you think that climate change is so important that you would cut a tremendous number of trees to change the albedo of earth?

"The only major point in support of clean energy is the negative externality from medium- to long-term climate change."

There are many negative externalities to fossil fuel energy other than just climate change. For example, with coal-fired power plants, there are air emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. There are negative externalities from mining. There can be significant negative externalities from coal combustion residues disposal.

Coal is getting killed by natural gas. It's not the alternative to clean energy.

Is that a permanent situation? Natural gas is cheaper than coal for now and the immediate future, but could that reverse in 10 or 20 years?

Oil and gas prices are affected by short term supply disruption, so intermittently, things can happen. But long term hydraulic fracturing has massively increased accessible supply. And we've hardly begun to explore the world with fracking in mind.

The real concern with natural gas is that it's still a source of CO2. It's better than coal, but it's not perfect.

If global warming turns out to be a serious problem, nuclear power is the 100% certain to work option. There's enough happening in the world of space launch that I wouldn't completely rule out space based solar power long term.

To answer your question more directly, onshore US gas reserves are very large, and extraction costs seem to be steadily improving. There is no analogous improvement in coal costs. It seems difficult to imagine how one might arise over a couple of decades. Though I suppose fracking also came as a major surprise.

If by permanent solution you mean hundreds or thousands of years, I think only moderately advanced fission reactors get us there with straightforward technology. Space based solar power works to very large scales if you assume low launch costs. And of course, we'll get fusion to work out eventually.

None of the points I state are remotely arguable. To suggest otherwise is to court insanity.

Oh, and clean energy is not a cure-all to job creation; it is a plus to job creation, for the reasons just stated in prior post.

Banning cars and replacing them with sedan chairs carried by four stout young men of somewhat darker skin is just a no-brainer as a policy. Not only does it reduce CO2 emissions, it is an enormous job creator and will help bring social justice to the ghetto as well.

If only it wasn't for that horrible arriviste real estate developer.

"....the top-10 wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans."
So all the anti-clean energy is much Hot air about nothing ?

Economics trumps everything else. (Pun not intended)

This is kind of irrelevant. It just so happens that the plains states have wind... and Republicans. Even if there were no subsidies, the plains states would be the most likely places to built wind farms.

The real question is, why won't the Kennedy's and their ilk allow offshore wind farms to be built in states that they own oceanfront property in?

Pork trumps everything else. Republicans are elected from rural places with a lot of wind. Places that tend to be a little poor. Rich people in places that elect Democrats want to hand money over to said Republican voters. There are a whole lot of notional Republicans who have never seen any pork for their districts they did not like. It is sort of a win-win situation - except for the rational voters who do not support irrational energy policies but are out voted by the hicks and the self-described sophisticates.

If anyone is worried about CO2 the solution is nuclear, more nuclear and even more nuclear. Not bird choppers.

A similar sentiment in an analysis at 538.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/its-hard-to-tell-whether-trump-supports-renewable-energy-and-that-may-not-matter-much/

I doubt that he'd roll back any of the subsidies, but he could do a lot to make fossil fuels cheaper, e.g. rolling back the power plant rules currently under review, loosen drilling regulations (especially on public lands), or just give subsidies to the fracking or coal industries.

Is that the problem with fossil fuels right now, they aren't cheap enough? LOL

Perhaps you could mention that the BAU policies aren't sufficient to meet Paris accords, which he has said he would not honor, or to abate global warming, which he said was a hoax.

Wishful thinking? Since last Wednesday, when everyone from President Obama to Hillary Clinton to Paul Krugman decided that wishful thinking is our only hope, wishful thinking has spread like a virus. Not everyone, however, is susceptible to the virus. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/clinton-was-too-civilized-in-defeat/2016/11/14/a0b9bf00-aa9e-11e6-8b45-f8e493f06fcd_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-f%3Ahomepage%2Fstory Yesterday I commented that Cowen's new book, about the dangers of complacency, was written on the assumption that Mrs. Clinton would win the election and continue essentially the same policies as President Obama. On reflection, I was wrong: Americans are much too complacent about the risks posed by President Trump. Americans were complacent when Trump normalized outrageous behavior of a presidential candidate. Americans are complacent as president-elect Trump normalizes the appointment of outrageous and unqualified characters as his top advisors. Americans are complacent as president-elect Trump, in his daily statements and actions, normalizes having an ignoramus as president. Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor has America faced such an emergency. And Americans stand . . . complacent. Clean energy policies? That's equivalent to obsessing about the weather forecast while Japanese warplanes closed in on Pearl Harbor.

So let me get this straight....

Despite the fact that Republicans are known to be Luddite science-deniers who hate the environment (it's practically axiomatic), it appears they're actually doing things that favor clean energy and innovation? But but.... that's not what Vox vox-splained to me!

"Almost 210,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, double the 2010 figures. This represents more people than those employed in oil and gas extraction. "

Those numbers beggar belief.

Yeah those are not very favorable numbers for the productivity of the solar industry.

"Lawmakers like Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who said this summer: “If he wants to do away with it, he’ll have to get a bill through Congress, and he’ll do it over my dead body.”"

Grassley, make your choice; do you want your wind subsidy or your ethanol subsidy?

He wants both, of course.

Where is the New Republican Party on farm subsidies in general?

I imagine they will abandon pretense of opposition.

"Up in New Hampshire, which also went for Mr. Trump"

I'm pretty sure New Hampshire went, slightly, for Clinton.

There is much misinformation around "clean energy". Most specifically the idea that it can ever be practical commercially. It must have subsidies and will always require subsidies because it simply cannot produce much power and it is unreliable. Put it to the test. PV has been around for 65 years or so and it seems every few years we read about another breakthrough where PV becomes more efficient or cheaper to manufacture. If this were true it would already be well past the point where it required 70% - 80% subsidies. So let's put it to the test; set a date, say Jan 1, 2017, to end all forms of subsidies and let 'clean power' succeed or fail based on it's actual viability. Do it!!!

"It" has been used since life began. In an industrial sense "it" has been used since the first waterwheel, windmill. Fossil fuels are latecomers. You need a particular myopia to think they are all there ever was.

In terms of PV, a great number of businesses and institutions have peak demand in daytime. Put PV in the parking lot. No storage needed. If they die no decommissioning costs. They become shade.

Anyplace in the US with peak demand from AC is a candidate for this kind of peak reduction.

You have to dispose of PV panels safely. They can't be left around and they can't go to landfills. As the environment eventually breaches them, they'll begin to leach heavy metals.

Clean energy is competitive in lots of places. It just doesn't fill 100% of the needs of the entire energy system. At least, not yet.

I wonder if Prof. Cowen is aware of the solar energy siting law the Republican General Assembly passed this year? It makes finding a location for new ones almost impossible. Having a Republican governor- which Prof. Cowen notes with some wonder- is irrelevant in North Carolina. He has about as much power as a mayor. With veto-proof majorities in both houses, the GOP's real governor is state senate president pro tem Phil Berger. In his district is the town of Woodland, which denied permits to a new solar array after residents testified to their fear it would suck up all the remaining sunlight and cause them all to die. Solar will likely go the way of the film/TV industry in North Carolina, which Republicans exported to Georgia when they first got complete control a few years ago.

Get off your Buzzfeed feed. One local crackpot stood up at a council meeting, which decided against an additional solar array (it already has at least one).

Solar is good for limited applications.

Globe and Mail goofed. In the end, New Hampshire went for Clinton, if just barely.

Oh, but that's expected:

Lower population density areas are more conservative, vote republican.
Lower population density areas have cheaper land, so it's easy to build wind farms and solar power plants which are very land intensive.

We end up with republican governors in states with a lot of clean energy industry which means republican politicians start defending the "jobs" of these industries.

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