Black, blue or green?
How will America prioritize between oil, gas and renewables in the years to come? November's presidential election will play a big part in determining the answer

The projections for America’s energy future could not be more starkly divergent than the campaign positions offered up by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. There is hardly an energy issue on which they agree.
Under a Clinton administration, the US would slash the country’s reliance on oil, dramatically expand investments in renewable energy and wage all-out war on climate change. A Trump administration would advocate opening tens of thousands of new acres of federal land to oil drilling and exploration, abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency and pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.

Environment or not, that is the question

Trump says he would dismantle decades-old environmental protections and fossil fuel industry regulations—many of which were put in place by past Republican presidents. His positions cater to the most anti-environment, pro-industry stances in his party, taking no account of the growing number of moderate Republicans who have moved out of climate change-denier territory. The Republican Party platform disdains the environmental movement as a “self-serving elite.” Clinton, on the other hand, views climate change as one of the nation’s and the world’s most pressing issues, would move the U.S. energy focus to renewable sources, would strengthen regulations on clean air and water and toughen standards for hydraulic fracking and fossil fuel emissions. Regardless of party, however, the next president will likely find it difficult to implement many of their election-year platforms. Clinton’s ambitious plans for cleaning up the environment, weaning the country off fossil fuels and boosting the conversion to renewable sources will hit many of the same political roadblocks President Barack Obama confronted with a Congress so deeply divided that he was forced to rely on executive orders to implement most of his energy policy.
As for Trump’s promises to forge full-steam ahead on fossil fuels and dump the EPA and the Paris climate agreement, he will be up against a rapidly changing marketplace, new sustainability demands by consumers and corporate boards, and the red tape involved in  battling and unravelling behemoth bureaucracies. For the next administration, energy policy may be driven as much by global market trends, domestic consumer demands and changing public attitudes as by the positions of who lives in the White House. In recent years, the rise of hydraulic fracking and other oil and gas field technologies combined with plunging oil prices have upended the best efforts of U.S. experts to accurately project the nation’s energy future. Even so, it is clear that the U.S. energy and environmental policies and actions will be affected dramatically by this year’s presidential election. As U.S. voters head to the ballot boxes in November, here are the candidates’ diametrically opposing views—in their own words and in their party platforms—on some of the greatest energy and environmental issues of the campaign.

Different positions on climate change

Trump says, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change.” He has gone so far as to declare, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” The party’s official platform maintains that climate change is not a proven science and “climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue.”
Clinton states on her website and repeats frequently in speeches: “Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.”  Her goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and to meet current U.S. pledges under the Paris Agreement. Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement and will “forbid the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide.”

Less oil & gas for Dems, oil independence for GOP

The Democrats’ campaign platform calls explicitly for “eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies” and calls for the country to be running entirely on clean energy by midcentury. Democrats advocate “closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the EPA of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing and ensuring tough safeguards are in place.” The party opposes the Keystone XL pipeline. Clinton also opposes drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast and wants to “phase down extraction of fossil fuels from public lands.” She also would support tougher regulations for hydraulic fracking and would ensure communities and states have the right to ban fracking. Trump and the Republican party platform, in contrast, say, “We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable…without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower.” Trump says private capital, not government money, should pay for developing wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal and tidal energy. The Republican platform supports opening public lands and the outer continental shelf “to exploration and responsible production” and will push Congress to give states the authority to manage energy resources on federal lands within their borders.  Trump says he would do away with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which Republican’s describe as “the President’s war on coal.” Trump says he intends to finish the Keystone XL Pipeline, but raised concerns among energy companies when he said he would turn over “a significant piece of the profits” to American citizens. He also advocates ending prohibitions on U.S. energy producers from exporting to foreign markets.

For Trump, goodbye EPA; for Clinton, more incentives for the "green"

Clinton said her policies would make “the United States the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” including generating enough renewable energy to power every home in America. The Democratic Party platform advocates “defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.” Trump has written: “There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy—so-called green energy-from renewable sources. That’s a big mistake.” He went on to describe renewable energy as “just an expensive way of making tree-huggers feel good about themselves.” He would eliminate all subsidies for alternative forms of energy, except nuclear. Trump’s Republican platform calls for transforming “the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” He would strip the federal government of authority over environmental regulation and turn it over to the states. He would also diminish the reach of the Endangered Species Act, which is designed to protect vulnerable species, and often leads to major battles between conservationists and businesses trying to operate in areas where those species live. While the oil and gas industry supports many of Trump’s positions, it also is skeptical of some of his proclamations. “We will become and stay independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel,” Trump has declared. “Under my presidency, we’ll accomplish a complete American energy independence. Complete.” Many industry analysts say that policy would likely only damage U.S. economic interests, prompting increases in oil and gas prices if the country were to cut off all foreign imports. Some of Trump’s positions have the ring of political expediency to placate the most extremist wings of his party. At the same time he calls climate change a hoax, Trump has asked Ireland for permission to build a multi-million dollar seawall to protect his oceanside golf course in County Clare, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland.  In his application to Ireland, Trump’s company wrote: “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland. In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring.” Trump has also made the oil and gas industry nervous. Despite his latest declarations of support, in the past he described the industry as “a special interest” group and alleged that his former GOP primary competitor, Ted Cruz, was “totally controlled by the oil companies." U.S. presidential nominees use their party conventions to lay out their visions and plans for the country should they be elected. Both Trump and Clinton used their speeches to tie their energy and environment positions to jobs and the economy.

Latest news from the national conventions

Trump told Republicans in Cleveland: “We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than USD 20 trillion in job creating economic activity over the next four decades.” In Philadelphia, Clinton told the Democratic convention: “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.” The differences in approach to energy and environmental issues have never been more dramatic in a U.S. presidential election. Trump has taken Republican positions to new extremes and Clinton—egged on by the popular support of her former Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders—has expanded the Democratic platform to even more forcefully embrace curbing climate change and protecting the environment. Either way, U.S. energy and environmental policies are in for big change in the next four years.

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