In June the United Nations released a report that highlighted the world’s increasingly rapid move to renewable energy. Use of renewables increased 9 percent worldwide from 2015 with solar power leading the way, contributing 47 percent of new renewable energy. Followed by wind energy at 34% and hydroelectricity at 15.5 percent. This increase is driven by drastically reduced prices in the renewable market and a global consensus that green energy is the way forward.
Yet the Republican Party and President Donald Trump do not seem to be part of that global consensus and appear poised to double down on the technology of the past. Going as far as putting former fossil fuel lobbyist and coal executive Andrew Wheeler at the head of the EPA. Showing they’d rather go the direct opposite direction in a time where renewables are more plausible than ever.
This increase in renewables is largely being driven by developed countries like Germany taking great strides away from fossil fuels. For example 50 countries across the globe enacted legislation to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies, an important step toward increasing the market share of renewables. Developed countries also fuel renewable energy in countries that as of now cannot afford it, unfortunately the amount of investment in such countries was only $242 billion dollars in 2016, down by 23 percent since the year before.
This slippage might be a blip in an otherwise green trajectory, or it could be a sign of things to come. With the United States out of the Paris Climate deal and the EPA controlled by a fossil fuel stalwart who has tied its bureaucracies hands, it doesn’t seem clear the United States will lead on this issue anytime in the near future.
Which is unfortunate because the spike in renewables is largely based on sound economics and an increased prevalence in the technology that makes green energy possible. The time is right for politicians to begin advocating for increased adoption of green energy technologies and subsidies to support such an action. At the very least there is ample room for someone to advocate for smart integration of green technology in a way that complements and improves the outcomes of our current energy infrastructure. Yet Donald Trump and company have doubled down on fossil fuels and just to go one step further they have doubled down on coal power in particular. Which just highlights the futility of Republican fossil fuel policy.
Fossil fuels are a dying industry, Hillary Clinton outright said as much when she campaigned in coal country with her now infamous “those jobs are never coming back” line, which was certainly less than politically expedient. Bad politics maybe, but it was a very real look into the future and for many in those industries, or those who depend on campaign contributions from them, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Donald Trump has gutted the EPA and removed international commitments that might steer American energy production toward renewables. Which might temporarily provide a boon for many of his constituencies who refuse to let go of the fossil fuel economies of the past. Still, heavy emphasis on the word temporarily.
The move towards green energy is a global trend driven by forces much bigger than one administration. Fossil fuels and more specifically coal fired power are not going to return to prominence, even if technologies such as fracking find a way to quite literally squeeze more out of the ground. Try as they might the Republican Party is fighting against the tide of history and common sense and while they might win a battle or two in the years to come, they will almost certainly lose the war.
However, that won’t stop them from fighting it. The senate recently confirmed fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to head the EPA. What a Wheeler EPA looks like in the long run is anyone’s guess, but if it’s anything like that of his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, it probably means deregulation, obfuscation, and anything but investment in renewables.