Climate Change

Mr Trump, please don’t set a bad precedent

Despite the signs of climate change, Donald Trump administration can derail the modest progress that the US has made towards tackling it

By Shreeshan Venkatesh, Subhojit Goswami, Umang Jalan
Published: Wednesday 09 November 2016
Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flicker

Possibility of Trump rolling back clean energy initiatives

Donald Trump’s presidency will be largely defined by his commitment to roll back clean energy initiatives launched over the past eight years. The Republican President may scrap the Clean Power Plan. He may also nix several CO2 regulations that Obama has put in place. “I will eliminate all needless and job-killing regulations now on the books—and there are plenty of them,” Trump had said hinting at clean energy policies.

Trump considers the decisions to develop alternative forms of energy “a big mistake”. According to him, solar energy is an “unproven technology” with low return on investment. While a climate change believer sees a huge opportunity in massive amount of unused wind energy along the coasts, Trump calls it a “very poor source of energy” that is “destroying shorelines all over the world”.

His unflinching support for traditional energy sources is equally worrisome, especially his repeated commitments to “save the coal industry”. He has stated his support for more domestic excavation of oil and gas, specifically in the Outer Continental Shelf. Hence, it is not hard to imagine emissions rising under his presidency.

There’s a fear that the Trump government would ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline project, whose fourth phase was rejected by the Obama government. Moreover, it would also try to accelerate the process of developing a five-year proposal (2017-2022) to guide extraction.

Trump’s entry into the White House  couldn’t have happened at a least opportune time for the US when the coal market has been witnessing a sustained decline due to shale gas revolution and tighter environmental standards for coal power plants.


Source: EIA 

Trump’s intervention doesn’t augur well with the renewable energy sector that witnessed a surge in the United States in the first half of 2016. Production of wind, solar and geothermal energy is on the rise. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy will account for about one-third of new power generation added to the US grid over the next three years.

Wind energy is leading the way with 19,500 MW of installed capacity at mid-year. In Texas alone, more than 4,200 MW of wind capacity has been installed in 2016 or is currently under construction. Geothermal energy is also expanding, albeit at a slower rate. Nearly 3,000 MW is currently installed and about 4,000 MW more is under development.

Trump has his eyes fixed on the coal industry. He wants to prop it up by bringing in more “clean coal” to the market. “We need much more than wind and solar. There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for a thousand years in this country,” Trump had said in one of his campaigns. Clean coal is the outcome of chemically washing coal to remove pollutants while improving efficiency. But neither washing nor gasifier technology does anything about CO2, the greenhouse gas (GHG) produced in large quantities by coal-burning power plants. It doesn't look promising, especially when cheaper and renewable alternatives are available.

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