I am white…a woman…pro-choice… educated…The government needs to run
like a corporation, simple as that.
In the age of Trump, all sustainability programs and policies will not be equal. Proven technologies and designs will surely be easier to market to the incoming administration than environmental regulation.
Donald’s surrogates would have us believe that he follows in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan. In fact, he patters the path of our 30th president — a man remembered mostly for having said:
After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned
with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.
Coolidge—given the moniker of Silent Cal—was a progressive union-busting governor from Massachusetts. He became the darling of conservatives.
As president, he appointed regulators who would not regulate, pared back the federal budget, reduced taxes and did his best to keep government out of people’s lives—even the ones who might have benefitted from it. But for the Silent part, Mr. Trump appears anxious to emulate Coolidge and follow his mantra: the business of government is business.
Fortunately for solar, wind and efficiency measures and designs, there is business to be had. The business of many businesses today is sustainability. Not simply pandering to left leaning liberals, corporate America is learning that renewable energy and increased efficiency in its many forms, e.g. manufacturing and product design, is profitable in many ways.
Let me count some of them: job creation; investment opportunity; reduced corporate costs; higher corporate profits; lower monthly utility bills; increased consumer savings and/or greater discretionary spending; technological innovation leading to new product development and manufacturing processes; reduced risk of respiratory problems particularly in the most vulnerable populations; lower health entitlement costs; exportable products leading to improved trade balances; and, the respect of other nations.
These are not wishes nor exaggerations; they are facts. Though truth may fail to convert a denier, it rarely fails to convince an investor. Renewable energy and efficiency projects are everywhere. Their reality cannot be denied; their tires can be kicked.
A key issue of the 2016 campaigns was jobs. Losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors have weighed heavily on the minds of American workers, while rising on the list of promised political solutions. Some things, however, cannot be fixed by legislation.
The coal industry cannot be enacted back to health. Many of the manufacturing jobs travelling overseas have done so on a one-way ticket. Locking
American industry in and foreign manufacturers out is not going to work. Like it or not, globalization is here to stay. Trade wars have no victors; there
are no spoils to collect.
You can no more hold on to American jobs when the economics are elsewhere than you can hold quicksilver in your hand. President-elect Trump knows this; why else has he put a massive infrastructure program near the top of his priority list? Why, because he knows the future of the nation is intimately tied to innovation and domestic construction.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are proven job creators. The clean energy industry in the U.S. currently employs over 2.5 million people, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a nonpartisan business group.
Today the coal industry employs some 56,700 coal miners across the U.S., down 11,200 from March 2015. Compare this to a recent study by E2 and BW Research in which 89,000 clean energy jobs, in 7,200 businesses, were identified in Ohio alone.
According to the report more than 56,000 Ohioans (63.5 percent of the total state clean energy workforce) are employed by firms focused on energy efficiency (EE), including residential and commercial efficiency-related activities, “smart grid” work, and energy storage. These strong results have been achieved even as Ohio was ranked only 25th among the states in energy efficiency for 2014 by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Coal mining jobs peaked at 823,000 in 1923—the year Warren G. Harding died and Silent Cal was sworn in as president. The last time the number of coal miners equaled the number of Ohioans working in the clean energy/efficiency industry was 1995.
In the battle ground states of Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio, the number of jobs attributable to clean energy, including transportation,
is between 1 and 1.5 percent of total employment in each of the states. For Vermont, Massachusetts and California, that range jumps to between 2.4
and 4.3 percent.
Mr. Trump and his troop of Republicans need to understand that a rollback of federal and state policies, e.g. tax credits and RPS, could throw out of work more people than the Clean Power Plan ever would. More to the point, clean energy jobs will continue to grow in the future, unlike coal, which is on a very slippery downward slope—with or without deregulation. On our current path, renewables will account for 50 percent of the U.S. power fleet in 2040.
Jobs are not the only source of vitality that clean energy brings to the U.S. economy. The American Wind Energy Association has released figures showing that in 2015, total capital investment in the industry was $32.7 billion, while annual land lease payments of >$50 million creating an additional income stream for many farmers.
Not all manufacturing has left the building—there are over 500 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. producing products for the wind industry ranging from blade, tower and turbine assemblies to raw component suppliers. Rather than trying to keep manufacturers at home, risking their competitiveness, why not continue the clean energy transition and expand production facilities in the U.S.?
Renewable energy and energy efficiency fits neatly into Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plans. While government is about the business of encouraging American enterprise to fix and expand roads, bridges, airports, schools, hospitals— basically the built public environment—why not use the opportunity to do it sustainably?
Surely as a real estate typhoon the Donald understands the economic efficiency of building the future into the present. Why invest in obsolescence? The net present value of doing it right far exceeds the cost of doing it wrong.
Proven and soon to be proven possibilities are endless: piezoelectric roads and floors; generators in the water lines; solar panels on the roofs of parking lots; reduced carbon cements; embedded solar heated water pipes under roads and sidewalks creating and capturing thermal energy.
Although I doubt that Trump’s expectation of a no-cost to government infrastructure program is totally realistic, I can see using the tax code through which he intends to attract private investment to also encourage sustainability through innovation. Write the code so that sustainable and innovative designs are rewarded with extra credits.
Shouldn’t the business of government be encouraging business to go forward rather than backward? Why let China profit from the inevitable transition to sustainability?
Even if climate change were a hoax, it’s led to profitable and growing new industries and enterprises. We’ve fallen for lies before. This one, unlike the election, is at least guaranteed to lead to producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.
Look for the next in the series when I will be discussing energy efficiency, environmental justice and offering a concept whereby the private sector picks up a substantial part of the check.
The sustainable energy/environment community is far from powerless to combat climate change or those who would deny its occurrence. The Nov. 8 election has created a different dynamic for pursuing the policy priorities of a clean energy economy and a sustainable global environment.
Over the course of this series I will be putting forth ideas of what a nativist clean energy agenda might look like. Before doing so, however, it is important to consider not just who was elected in November but something of the why.
Democrats greatly underestimated the anger of America and the desire for a change. For that matter, mainstream Republicans did as well. Donald Trump did not; and, neither did Senator Sanders.
DJT, XLV was not the only Republican elected in November. A somewhat historic anomaly, in that voters often vote to check and balance change at the top by supporting down ballot opposition candidates.
Looking beyond the White House, the make-up of selected federal, state and local governments in 2017 will be:
· Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress;
· Republican governors in 34 states;
· Republican majorities in 67 of 98 partisan legislative chambers;
· Republican attorneys general in 24 of the 46 partisan offices; and,
· Democratic mayors in 67 of the nation’s 100 largest cities.
In addition, 49 states have a natural resources commissioner; 50 have public service commissioners, with oversight of their state’s electric utilities. These commissioners achieve office in a variety of ways, with most appointed by the governor and/or the legislature.
I am not suggesting that every Republican denies the science of climate change any more than I would every Democrat supports renewable energy and energy efficiency. What I am suggesting is to be effective advocates, we must first understand our audience of decision makers, their constituents and the policy positions of their party.
With understanding come clues about the arguments likely to resonate—based on an appreciation of why someone holds the positions they do and what might move them. Much has been learned and lost in this year’s elections.
We learned people on both sides of the political aisle are angry and looking for a new way forward. What was lost was any semblance of civility.
Somewhere along the line we—as a nation—have lost the ability to speak to each other. The result of politics by polemics is entrenched division. The hardening of positons serves only to constrain compromise. Without compromise, democracy doesn’t work as intended.
What we end up with is what we saw the morning of Nov. 9—an angry divided nation. Consider why people voted for Trump. The Washington Post recently published a sample of responses it received asking that very question:
I am an independent voter who leans slightly to the left…a small business owner… not an uneducated deplorable redneck….We in the middle are weary of partisan bickering. Trump was our best hope…to compromise.
I am white…a woman…pro-choice… educated…The government needs to run like a corporation, simple as that.
Friends accused Trump supporters of not loving them because they are gay or a woman…a person of color…an immigrant…My stomach dropped knowing if someone found out…I supported him…and they thought I did not love them for that.
I am a gay millennial woman…I voted for Donald Trump…I oppose the political correctness movement…a fascist ideology of silence and ignorance.
If Bernie Sanders had been on the ballot, I would have voted for him, even though I agree with him on virtually nothing…he seems to be honest and stands up for his beliefs and not for enriching himself.
I don’t need my president to be nice to everyone…to give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Get a bathrobe for that...I need him or her to lead the country, provide solutions….
Because the part of America that grows your food, produces your energy and fights your wars believes the country needs a course correction.
The Democrats and the mainstream media had handpicked their candidate and were manipulating us.
I voted for Donald Trump because he will deport illegal immigrants more than Clinton. As a legal immigrant who had to wait….
You need not agree with Trump’s supporters—the gods know I don’t. What you must do, however, is to listen to them and consider what motivated them—what will motivate them.
Their message is mixed. It allows for consideration of and ultimately support for environmental regulation and transition to a sustainable energy economy. Mixed messages are common in politics.
Many Republican dominated plaintiff states opposed to the Clean Power Plan (CPP), continue to devise strategies combatting harmful CO2 emissions, including: Arizona, Colorado, Ohio and Louisiana. Before tripping the light fanatical, consider how sustainability might fit within the four corners of their belief structures.
No one is asking you to compromise your core beliefs, neither should you ask anyone else to do so. I am not suggesting either that the community forgo more strident advocacy measures like law suits and ballot initiatives. There is always time to go nuclear.
The art of compromise is based upon commonalities not differences. The benefits of: reducing harmful emissions to human health; creating new employment and investment opportunities through the development and deployment of new technologies, are not difficult to understand.
Neither is it hard to make the business case for: energy efficiency efficient manufacturing practices; greater reliability of distributed renewable energy systems; or building retrofits that reduce monthly utility bills. Just the other day a syndicated new story carried by newspapers from Albany to Albuquerque told of the 365 major corporations, e.g., Unilever, General Mills and Patagonia, urging Trump to support the Paris Agreement.
The open letter said in part:
Elections change our leadership but they don’t change reality…
Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk…
…implementing the Paris Agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all.
If health and the economy were not enough of an argument, there is the matter of national security. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called climate change a future trend that will affect U.S. national security and how the military executes its missions, including being increasingly called upon to respond to natural disasters.
Hagel, a Republican who served 12 years in the U.S. senate and received a lifetime rating of 84 percent from the American Conservative Union, is not the lone DOD voice. John Conger, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense has said:
There are plenty of things we can do to mitigate the risk, but in order to mitigate risk, you have to recognize that it exists.
Even Bill O’Reilly—who’s show on Feed Our Xenophobia is a mainstay of the right--called just last week on President-elect Trump to keep us in the Paris Climate Agreement. OK, so he did so out of political expediency—but that is my point. There are a lot of reasons for Republicans to support clean energy and lower GHG emissions.
I really don’t care if he wouldn’t let me date his daughter. If I can earn his support, I know there is hope.
Next time, I will begin talking specifics of the nativist agenda. In the meantime, I wish all of you a pleasant Thanksgiving. There is still a lot to be thankful for.
I imagine many in the renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental communities are still trying to wake up from what they are hoping is just
a bad dream. Well, let me tell you, Donald J. Trump is not the result of a piece of bad fish you ate or some incubus who has dropped in to disturb your sleep.
No, indeed, DJT is the next President of these here United States. Deal with it!
By dealing I don’t mean coping or carping. I mean we as a community need to sit down and figure out what can be done--together—to keep the climate
train on the tracks.
Let’s start with something of a probable positive — an observation addressing the President-elect’s oft repeated promise to end the war on coal.
The reality of today’s energy market is that coal is increasingly less competitive. As I have pointed out before, king coal is no longer a merry old soul because
of the operation of the market, not regulations. Nothing—short of heavy federal subsidies or enactment of a fossil portfolio standard—is going to change that.
Talk of saving the coal industry is babbling about when elephants learn to fly. Nothing is going to change that—not President Trump and not the maintained Republican majorities in Congress. Not even coal state journals believe this to be other than myth—convenient to get elected, not possible to make good on.
Less mythical and more likely is the impact DJT, XLV is going to have on the Paris Accord. Trump and the Republican Party walked the plank of opposition to
the Obama administration’s commitment to combat global warming and to transition the world away from fossil fuels towards a clean energy economy.
The candidate and his surrogates identified the 2015 Paris Accords as a prominent target of opportunity in their scheme to make America great again.
World leaders were sufficiently worried about a possible Clinton loss, but they managed to ratify the COP21 agreement months ahead of even the
most optimistic projections. As a consequence, the Accord was entered into force on Nov. 4, 2016—mere days ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
I take no pride in having warned about finding solace in the security of the Accords even in the shade of a Republican electoral victory. Unlike other promises
to reverse the emergence of a clean energy economy requiring action, Trump need do nothing in the case of the Paris agreement to make good on
this particular one.
The distinction between the need to act and to ignore will prove an important one. First, however, let’s consider the foundations of enmity felt by DJT towards a cleaner and more sustainable global climate.
Opposition by both the President-elect and significant numbers of Republican members of the House and Senate is minimally based upon:
substantive legal challenges to the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate them in the first place. Much of what President Obama
has accomplished in terms of climate and clean energy has unfortunately been a function of his power as the chief executive.
I say unfortunate, because what one President’s pen hath writ can be erased by his successor. Traditionally, incoming presidents have acceded to an outgoing’s request to maintain some executive continuity. Nothing about this election or the Republican nominee is traditional. Trump’s supporters are expecting significant change in the first 100 days; he is going to disappoint them at his peril.
DJT/XVL has overpromised what he can accomplish quickly; environmental regulations based on executive actions and drafted by an agency itself created by
an order of the president should prove as easy as it is going to get. Even should the courts find the Clean Power Plan and the Water and Ozone
rules constitutional, the new administration can choose not to enforce them.
As I will discuss in future installments, targets like tax credits, state clean energy policies and programs not dependent upon federal funds or authorizations
and growing demand for distributed energy systems, powered by solar and wind and kept running by batteries, will be much harder targets to attack.
The most vulnerable targets of opportunity, beyond Paris and the power, water and ozone regulations already referenced, likely include:
I had written in a column this summer of concern about the growing fissures in the relationships within and between the renewable energy and environmental communities. I gave as an example of my concern the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert — a project opposed for its impact on nature and supported for its production of green electricity.
I had written then:
Big versus little, rich versus poor, strong versus weak, conservationist versus environmentalist, solar versus wind, wind versus
biomass, biomass versus environmentalist… state government versus federal—we are a global community divided.
It is easy to see how an early focus on environmental targets could create negative pressures on already fissured relationships. We have seen it most recently in
the carbon tax initiative in Washington state.
As always, in any given year there will be winners and losers within our community. Do not let what happened on Nov. 8 divide us. Today’s winners could well
be tomorrow’s losers. We have come this far together; to now go it alone, to not chart a course that fights for environmental justice, while recognizing
the requirements of the marketplace is to court defeat.
Throughout this series I will be addressing an agenda I hope accommodative of the concerns of the whole community and able to capture its collective strength. The next installment of the series will describe some of the weapons we have at our disposal, e.g., citizen law suits and community power, for charting a new passage in the book of transition.
Have you noticed something missing from the presidential campaigns lately? I mean other than veracity, high principles and civility.
Global warming seems to have left the building about the time Sanders did. Although the question of climate change has been raised a lot lately, it has been mostly by movie stars, pundits and bloggers like me asking: “why the candidates aren’t talking about it?” Inconvenient though it may be, I don’t think it particularly surprising.
The most prominent mention of the topic since the summer’s nominating conventions was made towards the end of the second presidential debate, when a be-sweatered, beatified and, ultimately, berated Ken Bone asked the candidates:
What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally-friendly and
minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?
To which Donald replied:
Such a great question because energy is under siege by the Obama administration. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, is killing these energy companies. And foreign companies are now coming in. Now I am all for alternative forms of energy including: wind and solar, etc. But we need much more… Hillary…wants to put the miners out of business…I will bring our energy companies back…go to a great place like West Virginia or places like Ohio…or …Pennsylvania…see what they are doing to the people, miners and others in the energy business. It's a disgrace.
To which Hillary responded (emphasis mine):
We are however producing a lot of natural gas that serves as a bridge to more renewable fuels…I think that's an important transition.
We’ve got to remain energy independent…I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change because I think that is a serious problem. And I support moving towards more clean renewable energy as quickly as we can. Because I think we can be the 21st century clean energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses. But I want to be sure that we don't leave people behind. That’s why I'm the only candidate from the very beginning of this campaign who had a plan to help us revitalize coal country.
After which, the campaigns went back to battering each other as usual about things other than global warming and what they would do about it.
Over the past year numerous polls have shown Americans’ willingness to believe the scientists and to pay extra for electricity generated by clean energy sources as well as support for climate action. Senator Sanders and others, including the billionaire activist and political contributor Tom Steyer and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, have spent significant time and resources educating voters about the problem.
President Obama has made it a priority of his last years in office, ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to draft the Clean Power Plan. Pope Francis issued Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, a 200 page encyclical, echoing the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and encouraging Catholics and non-Catholics alike to care for our common home.
So why—with voters indicating their desire to act and all of these heavy hitters extolling, urging and cajoling Americans to recognize global warming as one of the more significant problems facing future generations—have the candidates not addressed this issue more prominently?
The fact is that climate change remains one of the more contentious, divisive and over appreciated issues. According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM):
In 2001, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on whether climate change is real and human-caused was 17 percentage points.
This year, the gap stands at 41 points. Just 43 percent of Republicans now believe climate change is human-caused, compared with 53 percent back then.
This disagrees rather dramatically with a New York Times/Stanford University/Resources for the Future poll conducted in January of 2015
An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming….
And, that voters were:
…more likely to vote for political candidates (in the 2016 election) who campaign on fighting …global warming.
A Stanford University poli-sci professor, and an author of the survey, called this particular conclusion the most powerful finding of the poll. Assuming the recent CSM conclusion is a more accurate reflection of what voters believe today, what caused the finding of the earlier poll to fizzle?
Actually, nothing has happened—that wasn’t already happening. Numerous polls over the years have claimed climate change advocates and the scientific community are making headway in their efforts to educate voters, consumers and political decision makers of the truth and consequences of global warming and to encourage action. Like the January 2015 survey, the difference between fact and opinion was significant.
The fault is not in the finding; it is in failing to understand where on the list of priorities they place the issue and what they are really willing to do about it. Just as the pollsters misread the depth of anger and frustration of voters in the 2016 elections, too much is made of respondents answering “yes” when asked global warming is bad.
This is particularly the case in polls like that reported by the New York Times. Most of the questions were prefaced by words like “assuming it is happening,” and “if nothing is done about it.”
If I asked you: “assuming you have cancer and are going to die tomorrow, how you would feel about it.” I venture you would say: “lousy.”
If nothing were done about global warming:
Like contemplating one’s own death, the size of the universe, if aliens exist and whether Earth could be wiped out by a meteor—some problems are just too personal or too colossal to imagine.
We humans tend to break things down in understandable bits—reconcile big problems by envisioning their consequences as happening sometime in an ill-defined future—putting near-term economics ahead of future problems. Would someone admit that global warming is a serious problem and oppose measures to avoid it—otherwise?
Pollsters do renewable energy and environmental advocates a disservice by glossing over the difference between answers and actions. Why else would the CSM poll show a nation with 78 percent of the population believing global warming a serious problem, also leading the world in its unwillingness to do anything about it?
Take comfort that more people are willing to admit to the possibility of global warming. Do not, however, forget the lesson of the 2016 election—it is not at the top of most people’s list of things to do.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.