With Hillary Clinton leading the pack of US presidential hopefuls, the United States could increase its solar capacity by 700% by 2020. The latest CNN poll shows 44% of the voters respondents favourable to her. This is quite a lead over the two next-most-favoured candidates, Republicans Jeb Bush and Donald Trump (who both had 34%). Her Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders, may be “moving up” but has a long way to go with only 24%. If Hilary Clinton is elected, as seems very likely, there may be 500,000,000 panels on US roofs by the end of 2020.
It’s Hard To Believe
“It’s hard to believe there are people running for President who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who would rather remind us they are not scientists than listen to those who are,” says Clinton in the video above.
She has a goal of 140 GW for US solar capacity by 2021.
“Although it’s a big number … it’s not a number that I’d characterize as entirely unreasonable. You would not have been able to say that even four years ago. That fact alone really demonstrates the tremendous progress the solar industry has made,” Francis O’Sullivan, director of research and analysis with the MIT Energy Initiative, told the Washington Examiner. “It shines a light on how solar is no longer this niche business.”
The Clean Energy Challenge
One of Clinton’s top priorities is to fight attempts to roll back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Her campaign’s Vision for Renewable Power Fact Sheet explained, “The Clean Power Plan is a crucial tool in our national strategy to reduce carbon pollution, level the playing field for and increase the deployment of renewable energy, and build a clean energy future. In the face of attacks from climate change deniers, we will need a champion in the White House to defend it and implement it effectively. But smart federal standards set the floor, not the ceiling. We can and must go further.”
Clinton wants to launch a Clean Energy Challenge partnership with states, cities, and rural areas that are ready to lead on clean energy initiatives. This could involve grants and market-based incentives, as well as awards for communities that cut down the red tape that slows solar installations.
Would this lead to more reports of industrial-scale projects being imposed on rural communities? Or will communities be given more of a voice in the decision process?
More “All Of The Above”
Yet even under Clinton, the US would continue to pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy. About 67% of US electricity generation came from fossil fuels in 2014. The principal contributors were coal (39%) and natural gas (27%). Renewables only produced 13.4%.
Clinton wants to increase this to 33% by 2027. Some of this growth will come naturally. Even if no new policies are implemented, the renewable share is expected to rise to 16%, and under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it could reach 25%.
Clinton has yet to make her position on the Keystone XL Pipeline known. She says she’s waiting for President Obama and Secretary Kerry to decide.
The most reasonable-sounding Republican challenger, Jeb Bush, supports the Keystone XL pipeline and claims Obama’s reluctance to accept it “is insulting to our neighbour to the North.”
Bush is against the kind of subsidies that would fuel rapid solar deployment: “I think we should phase out, through tax reform, the tax credits for wind, for solar, for the oil and gas sector, for all that stuff.”
This sounds reasonable — if you are not convinced that human activity is causing warmer temperatures, wildfires, and extreme weather events. Jeb Bush recently acknowledged, “climate change is happening,” but wasn’t sure, “whether men are doing it or not.”
Some Republican candidates — like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — totally deny climate change. They received 24% and 22% approval ratings in the CNN poll.
Though Donald Trump received a stronger rating, it is more difficult to take him seriously. Earlier this year, Trump told Fox News that climate change is a “hoax.” Two years prior to that he tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
Is that a joke? Or is Donald Trump?
Unless there is a drastic change, the US will elect its first female president in 2016, and the Clean Energy Challenge could become a reality.
Photo Credit: Youtube video “Stand For Reality”; screenshot from “Stand For Reality”; :Hilary Clinton, by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on Youtube (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); two graphs from the Clinton campaign; Jeb Bush as the White Knight (from 2012) – courtesy DonkeyHotey (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
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