A 21st century State of the Union should present a vision for a clean energy future
According to the White House, President Trump’s State of the Union address will discuss the challenges of the coming year in an optimistic, forward-looking and bipartisan manner. We support that notion wholeheartedly, but we’re also mindful of his past rhetoric.
According to the White House, President Trump’s State of the Union address will discuss the challenges of the coming year in an optimistic, forward-looking and bipartisan manner. We support that notion wholeheartedly, but we’re also mindful of his past rhetoric. Whether it’s his recently-proposed infrastructure plan, which fails to build the clean energy, clean water and clean transportation future that we need, or his ongoing administrative assault on America’s core environmental protections, it’s been clear over the past year that the president does not consider our environment a priority. We do, and that’s why we’re presenting our own alternative, positive vision for a cleaner, greener world.
In particular, it’s been reported that the president will hit on a theme of “energy dominance” in the speech, a slogan his administration uses repeatedly to describe their energy policy. Based on what those policies have been, however, we’re not so sure it’s a theme worth celebrating.
The president’s definition of energy dominance is about keeping our nation and the world dependent on fossil fuels. This leaves out America’s historic leadership on clean energy, and the potential for the U.S. to lead and dominate the world’s transition to cleaner, healthier energy options. In just over one year, his administration has opened up our precious public lands to drilling and development, they’ve supported construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and they’ve recently proposed opening up virtually all U.S. waters to offshore drilling — just to name a few.
In one of the most egregious examples last year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed that federal regulators enact a rule requiring utility companies to cover the costs of outdated and unnecessary coal and nuclear power plants. This proposal was based on widely debunked claims, including by his own Energy Department, that renewable energy subsidies were driving dirty energy plants out of business, and that renewable energy was a threat to grid reliability.
Fortunately, after looking looking at the facts, and hearing loud bipartisan public outcry — including nearly 34,000 signatures delivered by Environment America — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected the proposal.
It doesn’t need to be this way. We don’t need to be doubling down on dirty energy when we have clean and virtually unlimited alternatives. The overwhelming majority of Americans support more clean sources of energy, like solar and wind, and understand that we need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Instead of wasting valuable time on backwards-looking policies that pollute our air, water and environment, President Trump and his administration should change course and embrace a clean energy future. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely to expect that to happen anytime soon.
That’s why we’re laser-focused on the local level: While the Trump administration pushes for new oil rigs off our coasts, we’re encouraging coastal states to go big on offshore wind, bringing clean energy to our communities that doesn’t threaten our environment; instead of building new pipelines, we’re encouraging mayors and other local officials to implement policies that make it easier for Americans to access solar energy at their homes; and while the administration continues their attempts to subsidize unnecessary, outdated and polluting power plants, we’re pushing states and college campuses to make ambitious commitments to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
Already, we’re seeing tremendous progress. As of today, over 50 U.S. cities, including Salt Lake City and Atlanta, have committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, energy or both. We produce 43 times more solar energy than we did a decade ago, seven times more wind energy, and have six timesmore energy storage capacity. Several Atlantic coast states, from Massachusetts to New York to Maryland, have set goals for offshore wind energy and appear poised for a “race to the top.” All across the country, we’re seeing this type of local, collective action — and that’s reason for optimism.
A greener, healthier society that conserves more, uses the energy we have more efficiently, and relies only on clean, renewable sources that tread lightly on the planet is possible. We’re all in for that future, even if President Trump and his administration are not.