Guest essay by Eric Worrall
One of the great myths promoted by renewables proponents is that government subsidies are not the enablers of renewables, they are simply accelerating a transition which would occur anyway, even without taxpayer help.
Trump: Ugly for world, ugly for climate, ugly for clean energy
Nevertheless, it doesn’t look good. And on any conventional assessment, it is a disaster on many levels – particularly for the efforts to address climate change and for the clean energy industry in the US.
The energy transition to cheaper and cleaner energy is happening, regardless. Trump can slow down the pace in the US, but it will accelerate elsewhere, leaving the US at a significant disadvantage; although it should be noted that US renewable investments are driven to a large extent by state-based targets.
HSBC has noted that Trump’s policies put at risk the decarbonisation and clean energy uptake seen during President Obama’s time in office, with potential to slow both the US energy system transition and domestic measures to mitigate climate change.
But at the same time Trump has no control over the solar market, which is heading towards 2c/kWh, and he has no influence over battery storage, which is heading to below 400/kWh and to its major inflexion point.
This is a crucial point. Wind and solar and their enabling technologies are getting cheaper with or without the Americans, and the fossil industry will be disrupted.
President elect Trump has named his core goal as “energy independence”. He has no problem with renewables, he just wants to remove political impediments to other forms of energy.
From the Trump campaign website;
The Trump Administration will make America energy independent. Our energy policies will make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources. America will unleash an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter, leading to the creation of millions of new jobs, while protecting the country’s most valuable resources – our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats. America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy. In fact, America possesses more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth. These resources represent trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.
Suggesting skeptics don’t like the idea of renewables is nonsense. I and I suspect many other skeptics would love to give a big one finger salute to the local electrical utility company. There are plenty of American Trump supporters who would love to give a big one finger salute to OPEC. But there is a huge gulf between liking the idea of renewables, and believing they are practical.
The problem is lots of household conveniences – in my case 4 x 8Kw air conditioners, several large electric fans and (occasionally) electric heating, my salt water pool, 2 fridges (one for the BBQ area) and a big upright freezer, a large washing machine and a large clothes drier – all rely on the supply of electricity on a scale I could never hope to produce using a few rooftop solar panels.
In my opinion, people who think renewables are currently a viable general replacement for fossil fuels are math challenged. I’m not alone in thinking there are unsolved problems – leading greens such as David Attenborough and Bill Gates have called for “Apollo Projects” and “energy miracles” to make renewables a viable energy option.
But in a free market economy, you don’t have to accept my opinion, you can make your own choices.
If renewables are the genuinely better solution, if they are a disruptive technology which will sweep fossil fuels into the dustbin of history, they don’t need any government help.
President-elect Trump is committed to giving renewables a chance. He certainly has no plans to ban or restrict renewables, but as he made very clear in his policy statement, he just doesn’t see any reason to bankrupt coal miners.
The history of the rise of disruptive technologies is clear. Smart phones, vacuum cleaners, automobiles, home computers, microwave ovens, the one thing they have in common is in most cases nobody subsidised them. A genuine disruptive technology doesn’t need subsidies, or political hostility towards competing technologies. The advantages sell themselves.