Under President Trump, renewable energy will get a kick in the gut while the fossil fuel industry is set to benefit from favorable policies. On Tuesday, Trump signed several executive orders that could lead to the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, both of which were nixed by the Obama administration.
According to Fox News, Trump sees the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline projects as “a potential boon to construction workers.”
“We’re going to put a lot of… steel workers back to work. We’ll build our own pipelines, we will build our own pipes.”
Although Trump’s actions were widely expected, it is still disappointing to see him reviving outdated technology rather than looking ahead to renewables.
Last summer, Trump declared that he loved solar energy but that it’s “so expensive.” According to a report by NPR, this really isn’t the case. In fact, solar power is the cheapest it’s ever been, and with the technology constantly moving forward, it will continue to get cheaper. Currently, solar is 70 percent cheaper now than it was just 10 years ago.
And while Trump continues to coddle his fossil fuel buddies, who are intent on destroying the environment for the sake of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline projects, China is dedicated to investing $361 billion into renewable energy sources.
Reuters reports that China’s move to invest heavily by the year 2020 will create more than 13 million jobs as the nation creates wind farms, hydropower plants that utilize tidal and geothermal energy, solar, and even nuclear power. Even though renewables will still be only 15 percent of China’s total energy consumption, it indicates a shift away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
Forbes notes that although China plans to build more renewable energy plants, it has also built many more coal plants that burn higher quality, more efficient coal. Yet, demand for coal is dropping; last year, coal consumption dropped 3.7 percent and coal imports went down more than 30 percent. This indicates that the Chinese are looking for ways to use less fossil fuels and more renewable energy.
So, why is Donald Trump intent on reviving the Keystone pipeline? Well, just look at his cabinet. His soon-to-be secretary of state is Rex Tillerson, the former CEO and chairman of ExxonMobil. Other Cabinet picks include former investment bankers, business CEOs, and Republican politicians and donors. Trump’s pick for secretary of energy is former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who until recently was a board member of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the Texas Tribune.
In other words, Trump’s cabinet is heavily slanted toward business people whose focus may primarily be in helping large corporations earn and keep the most money without regard to American workers. Despite Trump’s requirement that the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline projects use American-made steel, the threat to the environment remains real.
President Obama ended the heavily debated Keystone Xl Pipeline at the end of 2015 amid environmental concerns, and on December 4, the assistant Army secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, declined the Dakota Access Pipeline due to concerns about plans to run the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a major source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and millions of people downriver of the lake. The project also threatens historic Native American cultural sites like burial grounds.
Donald Trump is also on friendly terms with Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren, who Reuters reports donated more than $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, which combined Trump’s campaign with the Republican National Committee, and the Arkansas and Connecticut GOP.
Trump has also complained that about subsidies that the renewable energy industry receives, and canceling those tax credits could set it back. Trump has also vowed to end Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which could also harm the renewable industry in favor of such fossil fuel projects like the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
The fossil fuel industry will certainly experience favorable conditions under Donald Trump, and the Keystone XL Pipeline, along with several other hotly contested pipeline projects, will likely be approved despite public outcry. However, Trump should pay attention to China and other countries that are pushing toward renewable energy sources. If he really wants to create jobs and keep the United States competitive on the international stage, he must give a wary eye to fossil fuels and become more amenable to renewable energy and its increasing affordability.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]