The United States is set to enter a difficult period for energy and climate policy, with President-elect Donald Trump about to remove the -elect from his title and step into office with a host of policy promises which could seriously devastate the country’s renewable energy industry. However, new research published in advance of the President-elect’s Inauguration by the government’s own Energy Information Administration, claims that even if the Clean Power Plan is not implemented, natural gas and renewable energy will nevertheless remain the primary sources of new generation capacity.
In addition, and continuing his run of writing for top-flight publications, outgoing President Barack Obama has penned an article for the journal Science in which he claims that “the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.”
According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent publication, the Annual Energy Outlook 2017, the country can expect to be a net energy exporter in most cases through to 2050 — the first time the EIA has included publishing projections through so far. The report presents projections for US energy markets through 2050 based on eight separate cases, including one not-so-exciting-but-distressingly-likely scenario: Reference, Low and High Economic Growth, Low and High Oil Price, Low and High Oil and Gas Resource and Technology, & No Clean Power Plan implementation (emphasis mine).
According to the Outlook, the US becomes a net energy exporter in most of these cases, due primarily to petroleum liquid imports falling and natural gas exports rising.
“EIA’s projections show how advances in technology are driving oil and natural gas production, renewables penetration, and demand-side efficiencies and reshaping the energy future,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski. “The variation across the analysis cases of projected net energy export levels — as well as other findings in AEO2017 — demonstrates the importance of considering the full set of AEO cases.”
Energy consumption remains consistent across all scenarios, while energy production ranges from nearly flat in the Low Oil and Gas Resources and Technology case, to nearly 50% growth over 2016 to 2040 in the High Resource and Technology case.
Energy related carbon dioxide emissions decline in most Outlook cases, with the highest emissions projected, unsurprisingly, in the No Clean Power Plan case.
However, the authors of the report note that “the primary driver for new capacity in the Reference case is the retirement of older, less efficient fossil fuel units — largely spurred by the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — and the near-term availability of renewable energy tax credits.” Fortunately, “Even if the CPP is not implemented, low natural gas prices and the tax credits result in natural gas and renewables as the primary source of new generation capacity.”
This would seem to dovetail nicely with outgoing-President Barack Obama’s belief that “the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.”
Writing in the journal Science this week, President Obama opened his Policy Forum article by taking a not-so-subtle jab at the incoming President-elect: “Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy — a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition.” This can be clearly summed up by Donald Trump’s planned policy agenda for energy and climate, as well as the numerous administration appointments which have been distressingly filled with climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry puppets.
However, Barack Obama sees light at the end of the tunnel — and we can but hope that it isn’t a train.
“But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.”
Barack Obama concludes the way he starts — though the whole article is worth the read if for no other reason than to witness the outgoing-President so succinctly sum up the multiple cases for clean energy and its likely ability to survive the Trump Presidency. President Obama points out that “the economic case for action — and against inaction — is just as clear, the business case for clean energy is growing, and the trend toward a clean power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies.”
What is President Obama’s view for the next four years?
“Of course, one of the great advantages of our system of government is that each president is able to chart his or her own policy course. And President-elect Donald Trump will have the opportunity to do so. The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring, in many cases independent of near-term policy choices, when it comes to combating climate change and transitioning to a clean-energy economy.”
So it appears President Obama has elected to take the high-road. Good for him.
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