Michael Liebreich: As the world struggles to absorb the implications of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the US general election, no one is facing the future with more trepidation than those working on clean energy, clean transportation, climate and the environment. Hillary Clinton had promised to build on Obama’s substantial progress in this area; now they worry that it may be reversed, and then some. What does the future hold, under a Trump government, and how worried should we be? The first thing to note is that Trump’s comments on energy during his campaign do not add up to a coherent policy. He promised that if he were elected, “the shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for America, and we will end the war on coal and the war on miners” – even though the two energy sources are in fact in competition. He dismissed wind and solar as expensive, ignoring all evidence that this is no longer the case. He is pro-nuclear. And, like almost every president since Richard Nixon, he promised US energy independence. On climate change, Trump famously claimed that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. There is no question, then, that we are entering a time of potentially grave peril for the planet and for many of the industries that promise a sustainable long term future. But, just as the election of Obama did not mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”, as he claimed when he was first elected president, nor will Trump’s election mark the opposite. For all the “war on coal” rhetoric, US coal’s biggest problem was never Obama, nor would it have been Hillary Clinton. It is cheap natural gas first, cheap renewable power second and flat electricity demand third. With endless shale gas and aging plants, the economics of US coal will continue to worsen, and individual states will continue to pursue action on reducing emissions. Whatever happens in the US over the next four years, technologies such as wind and solar will continue getting cheaper until they beat out fossil fuels; battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles will keep getting better until they render internal combustion engines old fashioned. So the world will continue its inevitable transition to clean energy and transportation, just at a slower rate than if the US were fully committed to leading the process.
Guardian 12th Nov 2016 read more »