The game of opposites

The game of opposites

Mattia Ferraresi
Long excluded from the electoral agenda of the two candidates for the White House, energy has briefly returned to make an appearance in the speeches of Trump and Clinton, revealing two antithetical views. According to the Republicans, energy independence "first" at the cost of eliminating any bans on offshore and onshore explorations; for the Democrats, a stop to coal and a race towards renewables

Incentives versus the market, fossil fuels versus renewables, regulations versus explorations across the board, environmental protection versus the race to independence from foreign wells: the visions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the future of energy in America could not be more distant and contrasting. They are the thesis and antithesis in a geopolitical scenario desperately seeking a synthesis. Whoever wins the White House on November 8 will be able to attempt to put into practice their beliefs regarding a topic that has been largely neglected throughout the election campaign, as there was always a sex scandal or some emails stolen by hackers hijacking the debate. It was only thanks to undecided voter Ken Bone, who soon became an idol of the internet, always in search of a new meme, that the candidates dedicated five minutes of three presidential debates to the topic. This was enough to understand that, behind the two candidates’ energy proposals, are very opposing views of the world.

Trump: more hydrocarbons to achieve independence

Consistent with the "America First" approach, a nostalgic form of isolationism, Trump considers the "American energy domination" a foreign policy priority. The Republican candidate’s goal is to become, as soon as possible, "totally independent from the need to import energy from OPEC countries and from other nations that are hostile to our interests". To do this, he promises to "exploit the $50,000 billion we have in our oil and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years of autonomy guaranteed by coal", eliminating all moratoria of onshore and offshore explorations, starting from the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Implementing this plan involving intensive exploitation of resources inevitably implies the removal of all political and legal obstacles between the market players and resources. The "Clean Power Act", the regulation of emissions approved by Barack Obama, will be terminated and the United States’ participation will be withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, which provides for an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2015. In the first hundred days of his presidency, he will approve the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline that connects Canada’s oil fields to the refineries of Texas, a project blocked by Hillary when she was Secretary of State. According to Trump, climate change generated by man is "a hoax" and renewable energy does not even appear on his energy agenda. What does appear, however, is the revival of coal, a strong suit of the candidate who, in the American "coal country", gains consensus even among workers historically linked to the Democratic Party. Although the coal industry has been in decline for decades, it is still the primary resource – on a par with natural gas – for producing electricity for the United States, and the candidate is convinced that if American coal is now marginally used for producing steel, it is only because of the Chinese competition. His promise to create new jobs in the mines, boasted during the election campaign trail between West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, is, first and foremost, a political and symbolic maneuver: in America, only 83,000 miners remain, and when the candidate addresses them, he attempts to intercept a larger portion of the working class that feel betrayed by the political class. Coal is, to a certain extent, only an electoral pretext. With his energy plan, Trump promises to create 500,000 jobs per year, with an increase in turnover of $30 billion.

Clinton: converting the mines and complying with COP21

Hillary’s energy philosophy is summed up by her promise that churned the stomachs of the Rust Belt Democrats and Appalachians: "We will wind up a lot of coal companies and put a lot of miners out of jobs". Immediately after her statement, which caused quite a stir, Hillary outlined her plan to convert the coal areas into laboratories for renewable energies, an ambitious, $30 billion initiative. Hillary promises to defend the regulations implemented by Obama and to comply with the international agreements on pollution. The 30% cut in emissions by 2025 will enable the pace to be kept with the Paris Agreement standards. The cut in subsidies and tax credits granted to oil companies is the top priority for the Democratic candidate who, on the other hand, wants new public investments and incentives granted to companies for infrastructure in the renewables sector. The goal is the diversification of resources, which goes hand in hand with sustainability. The "Clean Energy Challenge" a $60 billion initiative to create a bridge between the state and the local authorities, is expected to spread the word of the cut in emissions, promoting cleaner cities and less environmental impact. By winking at voters who press her from the left, she has borrowed, from the vocabulary of environment activists, the notion of "climate justice". Her position on the exploitation of shale gas is likely Hillary’s most delicate issue: in principle, she supports fracking, but she constantly points out the need to make the practice environmentally compatible and defends the right of the states and municipalities to ban hydraulic fracking. Perhaps the issue of the local autonomies is the only point where Trump and Clinton’s parallel universes converge.