US renewable energy booms despite Trump vow to quit Paris deal

November 4, 2017 by Jean-Louis Santini
The GE-Alstom Block Island Wind Farm stands off Block Island, Rhode Island, on September 22, 2016
The GE-Alstom Block Island Wind Farm stands off Block Island, Rhode Island, on September 22, 2016

Renewable energy continues to grow in the United States, despite US President Donald Trump's moves to dismantle clean power, deregulate industry and promote fossil fuels like coal, experts say.

Five months after Trump declared the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the Republican leader continues to unravel the environmental legacy of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

A signature piece of Trump's strategy has been to roll back regulations, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut US emissions from power plants for the first time.

"They are trying to put their fingers on the scale in favor of coal and other polluting fossil fuels, and trying to do things to slow down the penetration of clean, , so that is the landscape," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But many state and city governments have pressed on with their fight against climate change, and the job force of those working in renewable energies continues to expand nationwide.

"The trend is very clear," added Meyer.

"To fight Trump, the investment and deployment of renewable and energy efficiency have continued growing."

Employment in the solar industry grew 24.5 percent in 2016 compared to a year earlier, reaching a workforce of nearly 374,000 people, according to an Energy Department report.

Traditional employed just 187,000 people, it said.

Employment in US rose 32 percent to nearly 102,000 people.

"The renewable energy industry is already working here," said Frank Maisano, senior principal at Bracewell, a law and government relations firm serving the energy industry.

"Jobs are growing dramatically in both wind and solar."

With or without Trump

Solar and wind energy combined now produce 10 percent of the total electricity in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

In March, eight percent of the nation's electricity came from wind and two percent from solar.

In like California, renewables made up an even larger proportion of electricity production.

Climate science expert Michael Mann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said it is possible that the United States will reach its commitment to cut emissions under the Paris accord regardless of what Trump says or does.

"There is enough progress now at the local and state level, commitment from major companies, movement toward etc. that most pundits now think we'll reach our Paris targets with or without Trump's explicit complicity," Mann said in an email to AFP.

Elliot Diringer, an expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-governmental organization in Washington, agreed.

"We recently looked at the different analyses and it looks to us like even with the situation at the moment our emissions in 2025 are likely to be 14 to 18 percent below 2005," Diringer said.

Another America

Obama's goal had been to get to a 26 to 28 percent cut, added Diringer.

"There are a lot of opportunities to go further," he said, citing city and state level actions.

"We can achieve that reduction without the federal policies."

A movement called "We Are Still In" was launched in June, shortly after the announcement that the US would pull out of the 190-nation Paris deal.

Organized by billionaire New Yorker and former mayor Michael Bloomberg, it includes some 1,800 businesses and investors, 252 cities and nine states including California—America's largest—and New York.

"I think the 'We Are Still In' initiative is so important because it shows there is another side of America, it's not Trump and you don't even have to wait three or four years to engage with the real America that remains committed to Paris, that is a very important signal," said Meyer.

Numerous participants in the movement are expected to attend the 23rd UN climate conference in Bonn on Monday, and may be even more visible than members of the US delegation led by career diplomat Thomas Shannon, experts say.

"People in the US business community know that is a serious issue and that international engagements are important," said Maisano.

"And I know that there are people in the Trump administration that think that as well."

According to a source close to the White House, the US pullout from Paris cannot come into effect before the end of 2020, and is far from a done deal.

"I think it remains an open question," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Explore further: At climate talks, it's America alone more than America first

Related Stories

UN environment chief: US likely to live up to Paris accord

October 31, 2017

The head of the U.N. environment program said Tuesday the United States is likely to live up to the Paris climate deal despite President Donald Trump's planned pullout, because "all the big American companies" are working ...

Recommended for you

Weather anomalies accelerate the melting of sea ice

January 16, 2018

In the winter of 2015/16, something happened that had never before been seen on this scale: at the end of December, temperatures rose above zero degrees Celsius for several days in parts of the Arctic. Temperatures of up ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2017
Gestures and committments such as the Paris agreement ultimately don't matter, because the technology has to make sense of itself - it has to be profitable of its own. That also applies for subsidies - the best thing the government can do now is to pull all support and take the training wheels off.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2017
Among other things, "alternative energy" is not clean.
In converting wind to electricity, windmills take some of the ability to do work from the wind. And wind does a great deal, including distributing topsoil, moving seed, moderating air temperature. Already, temperature is warmer than usual downwind of windmill farms.
With their large, reflective surfaces, solar farms keep clouds from forming, superheat dust overheat and cause disparities between air and ground temperatures. Already, solar farms are having "heat island" effects like cities.
The Democrats heavily invested in "alternative energy" and are only hedging their investments by condemning "fossil fuels", and trying to ruin Republican profits. Trump is ruining Democrat profits.
In fact, change in the atmosphere is coming from chemtrails.
ugosugo
5 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2017
GOD gave as oil and coal, it would be a sin not to use it! Must be written somewhere in some bible, I guess .....

Arguments to end subsidies would be valid if the coal/oil industry wouldn't get them too, and they have been feeding off them for decades.
@julianpenrod your arguments can even have some basic merit, however we are still order of magnitudes away from affecting climate and winds and it is order of magnitudes better than using fossil fuels. Besides, your arguments are really stretching the reality, solar farms are not reflective, but rather a sink of light, and their sizes is still far away for causing the problems you falsely claim, however it would be wiser to exploit existing roofs for installations.

We live in an era where Democrats have become synonymous of reasonable evolved humans, while republicans are the pinnacle of what means to be human trash.

But you could be just Russian trolls
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2017
Arguments to end subsidies would be valid if the coal/oil industry wouldn't get them too


The argument to end subsidies applies to the coal/oil industry as well.

Or, at least reducing the subsidies to the same level per kWh. That would also see renewable energy subsidies cut to approximately 5% of what they are, or were recieving quite recently.

Many governments are already slashing renewable energy subsidies, with the effect that investment in new projects are beginning to plummet rapidly. Turns out, a lot of the industry was just living off the fat with no intention to advance the technology to become cheaper. They weren't wasting their money on research and development while you could get higher short term profits by simply selling what they already had.
leetennant
5 / 5 (2) Nov 05, 2017
Gestures and committments such as the Paris agreement ultimately don't matter, because the technology has to make sense of itself - it has to be profitable of its own. That also applies for subsidies - the best thing the government can do now is to pull all support and take the training wheels off.


Considering the ridiculous subsiding of fossil fuels, this comment is unintentionally hilarious. I notice that coal, gas and oil isn't expected to "make it on its own", just its competitors. That's weird, huh?
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 07, 2017
Considering the ridiculous subsiding of fossil fuels, this comment is unintentionally hilarious.


On a unit energy basis, fossil fuel subsidies barely exist. Globally, fossil fuels recieve about the same absolute amount of subsidies as renewable energy, but fossil fuels supply more than 90% the energy, while renewables (discounting hydroelectricity) contribute less than 5%. If the subsidies were proportional, renewable energy subsidies would all but dissapear.

https://oilprice....rld.html

I notice that coal, gas and oil isn't expected to "make it on its own", just its competitors. That's weird, huh?


Notice that fossil fuel subsidies are typically miscounted by adding things like loan guarantees (no money is paid), and conflating producer subsidies with consumer subsidies where e.g. a transport company gets a break on fuel taxes, instead of an oil company directly paid by the gov.
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 07, 2017
I notice that coal, gas and oil isn't expected to "make it on its own", just its competitors. That's weird, huh?


Also, you should not be calling hypocrisy where there is none. Fossil fuel subsidies are going down, as countries are dismantling subsidy programs. Example from the previous link:

There has been quite a bit of progress more recently, however. The total level of fossil fuel subsidies appears to have peaked, in both 2008 and 2011-2012. One of the larger sources of reduction came from Mexico, which not only scrapped gasoline and diesel subsidies, but also slapped on a fuel tax. Combined, Mexico managed to reduce subsidies from $18.5 billion in 2012 to just $2.5 billion in 2014. Since then, the tax flows have flipped – Mexico is now taking in net taxation on fossil fuels.


Indeed, the majority of fossil fuel subsidies around the world appears to come from poor countries like Mexico, or Iran, simply from subsidizing energy for the people.
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 07, 2017
Others disagree, claiming global fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5 trillion
https://cleantech...nnually/

But that argument is on the point of counting avoided costs as subsidies, ie. inventing imaginary or indirect costs that the fossil fuel industry or users by some accounts -should- be paying but aren't, and then counting that as money being paid.

But that is apples to oranges.

And in any case, the G20 have already made an agreement in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.