Trump and Perry Place Clean Energy in Their Crosshairs

The Trump administration has largely failed at accomplishing any of the major goals that Mr. Trump campaigned on—his travel ban has been blocked, the treaty with Iran remains in effect, and the GOP efforts to “repeal and replace Obamacare” are in utter shambles.

The one area where Trump and his GOP colleagues have been effective: Gutting programs that protect the environment, and repealing rules that keep our skies clear and our waters safe.

When I looked at the Trump Administrations inchoate efforts late last year, I was deeply troubled to see the rogue’s gallery that he had put in charge of shaping climate policy and running the EPA—and they haven’t disappointed those who favor profits over the environment.

The one bright spot I saw was that federal subsidies for clean energy seemed safe—but now it looks like that will change. The New York Times reports today that the Department of Energy has begun a study to examine the impact of wind energy subsidies on the grid—and if the early moves of the Trump administration and Secretary Perry are any indication, advocates of clean power should start girding for a fight.

Particularly disturbing is the person in charge of the study: Travis Fisher, who wrote that clean energy policies are a greater threat than terrorism. Even Republican Senators, such as Chuck Grassley, are concerned by the seemingly slap-dash nature of these “research” efforts.

Why fight for clean energy subsidies like the PTC and ITC? Simple: Because fossil fuels continue to gobble up a staggering amount of subsidies, even as the cost us billions in healthcare and environmental damage.

Estimates by the International Monetary Fund find that fossil fuels continue to take over $5.3 trillion a year globally in tax payer money—despite all the damage they do to our lungs and environment. Although renewables also do receive subsidies (for the moment) the most rigorous independent study finds that worldwide, fossil fuels still receive more than four-times the support of renewables.

Don’t be fooled by the obfuscation: Wind, solar and so-called “intermittent” sources of renewable energy, when properly balanced and integrated, have not harmed grid reliability—they have improved it.

Grid reliability improves as wind power grows

And although wind power is approaching cost-parity with natural gas in some places, the industry needs a few more years of assistance to be fully competitive. The broader point is that clean power plants improve public health and the health of the American environment.

Some researchers who have modeled different scenarios point out that the combination of a carbon tax with renewable energy subsidies would be the most effective way to make producers of dirty energy pay their fair share—and allow clean sources of power to be competitive with their pollution spewing cousins.

So if any conservatives are in favor of a 1-to-1 switch—let’s work with them and make the change. However, if the only goal of the current administration is to favor the dirty power producers of year’s past, then we should get ready to fight back by making a clear public case: Investing in clean energy creates high-paying American jobs, reduces asthma and protects public health, lower power costs for consumers, and protects our environment.


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