Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter. To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land. In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.”
“Kansas is blessed with tremendous natural resources, from our fertile soil to the oil that lies beneath it. The Kansas economy has long thrived thanks to the natural gifts given to our land. As the global economy changes our energy markets change with it. Kansas has adapted and is on the cutting edge of the American renewable energy revolution.”
There was obvious disappointment among clean energy advocates last Friday when the White House published on its website “An America First Energy Plan” that makes no mention of renewable energy or energy efficiency. President Donald Trump has made it clear since his announcement to seek the presidency in June 2015 that his top energy priority is to boost oil and gas development in this country, and that is what his energy statement emphasizes. It vows to “embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans.” It also calls for “reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.”
Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), is leaving the association to start a firm that will focus on power grid issues. According to AWEA, Grid Strategies LLC will launch on Feb. 15 to provide strategic advice and advocacy services for clients, including AWEA, in the areas of integrating clean energy into the grid; transmission infrastructure policy; and helping renewable energy, storage and transmission interests with grid challenges with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and grid operators.
Last week, the U.S. inaugurated a new president who has vowed to abandon the landmark Paris climate agreement and roll back bedrock American environmental protections. But turn to the states and you’ll find a different story, even in the red states that elected President Trump. In fact, Republican governors in the Midwest are prioritizing economic growth and job creation by accelerating investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the few weeks after the election, leaders in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan have adopted new policies that help tackle climate change and grow the clean energy economy.
There have been no executive orders yet to undo President Barack Obama’s signature climate plan, but many officials and environmental groups consider it as good as dead. The Clean Power Plan is on hold while a legal battle plays out, and even if an appeals court upholds it — a decision could come any day — the Trump administration is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court. The state of New York decided to forge ahead anyway. Like a number of other mostly liberal states, it is continuing with efforts to drive down the carbon emissions that drive climate change.
Only time will tell the true future of electric car sales. As Yogi Berra noted, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But the latest Outlook highlights the need for alternate scenarios to consider a future with far lower electric car prices than currently forecast.
“When you look at the businesses Tesla is in, you see many areas of overlapping interest” with the Trump administration, Mr. Jonas told me. “To the extent the new administration prioritizes the creation of valuable, innovative high tech and manufacturing jobs, Tesla stands at the epicenter of that.” A major fear of investors in solar power was that a Trump administration would end the federal subsidies so reviled by fossil fuel proponents. While that remains a concern, the most recent jobs data suggests that the subsidies have led to a surge in new well-paid jobs, exactly what the president has advocated.
Myron Ebell said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that Trump is likely to seek significant reductions to the agency’s workforce — currently about 15,000 employees nationwide. Ebell, who left the transition team last week, declined to discuss specific numbers of EPA staff that could be targeted for pink slips. Asked what he would personally like to see, however, Ebell said slashing the agency’s size by about half would be a good start.
Every so often, amidst partisan rancor, a glimmer of hope emerges where both sides want the same thing. In these rare instances, it’s an opportunity for all of those legislators who came to Washington to get things done to really get to work. This just happened with infrastructure, and electricity transmission in particular.