Obama’s Parting Words on Climate and Energy

January 10, 2017

The last literate President?

Ars Technica:

In Science’s Policy Forum column, President Barack Obama has penned an article arguing that the world is quickly replacing fossil fuel-based energy with clean energy. That momentum, he asserts, will not be stopped by “near-term” policy changes from Donald Trump’s incoming administration.

The current president writes that, although climate change is undeniable, the incoming administration might do nothing about it. That would be a political mistake, but it might not effect on the economics of clean energy, Obama argues. “Mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue,” he wrote, adding that “the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.”

Barack Obama in Science (paywalled):

Perhaps the most compelling example is energy efficiency. Government has played a role in encouraging this kind of investment and innovation: My Administration has put in place (i) fuel economy standards that are net beneficial and are projected to cut more than 8 billion tons of carbon pol- lution over the lifetime of new vehicles sold between 2012 and 2029 (10) and (ii) 44 appliance standards and new building codes that are projected to cut 2.4 billion tons of carbon pollution and save $550 billion for consumers by 2030 (11).

But ultimately, these investments are being made by firms that decide to cut their energy waste in order to save money and invest in other areas of their businesses. For example, Alcoa has set a goal of reducing its GHG intensity 30% by 2020 from its 2005 baseline, and General Motors is working to reduce its energy intensity from facilities by 20% from its 2011 baseline over the same timeframe (12). In- vestments like these are contributing to what we are seeing take place across the economy: Total energy consumption in 2015 was 2.5% lower than it was in 2008, whereas the econ- omy was 10% larger (2).

Because the cost of new electricity generation using natural gas is projected to remain low relative to coal, it is unlikely that utilities will change course and choose to build coal-fired power plants, which would be more expensive than natural gas plants, regardless of any near-term changes in federal policy. Although methane emissions from natural gas production are a serious concern, firms have an economic incentive over the long term to put in place waste-reducing measures consistent with standards my Administration has put in place, and states will continue making important progress toward addressing this issue, irrespective of near-term federal policy.

Renewable electricity costs also fell dramatically between 2008 and 2015: the cost of electricity fell 41% for wind, 54% for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, and 64% for utility-scale PV (16). According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2015 was a record year for clean-energy invest- ment, with those energy sources attracting twice as much global capital as fossil fuels (17).

The levelized cost of electricity from new renewables like wind and solar in some parts of the United States is already lower than that for new coal generation, without counting subsidies for renewables (2).

That is why American businesses are making the move toward renewable energy sources. Google, for example, an- nounced last month that, in 2017, it plans to power 100% of its operations using renewable energy—in large part through large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly (18). Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has set a goal of getting 100% of its energy from renewables in the coming years (19). And economy-wide, solar and wind firms now employ more than 360,000 Americans, compared with around 160,000 Americans who work in coal electric generation and support (13).

Were the United States to step away from Paris, it would lose its seat at the table to hold other countries to their commitments, demand transparency, and encourage ambi- tion. This does not mean the next Administration needs to follow identical domestic policies to my Administration’s. There are multiple paths and mechanisms by which this country can achieve—efficiently and economically—the targets we embraced in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement itself is based on a nationally determined structure whereby each country sets and updates its own commit- ments. Regardless of U.S. domestic policies, it would un- dermine our economic interests to walk away from the opportunity to hold countries representing two-thirds of global emissions—including China, India, Mexico, European Union members, and others—accountable.

This should not be a partisan issue. It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends. And it is smart planning to set long- term emission-reduction targets and give American companies, entrepreneurs, and investors certainty so they can invest and manufacture the emission-reducing technologies that we can use domestically and export to the rest of the world. That is why hundreds of major companies—including energy-related companies from ExxonMobil and Shell, to DuPont and Rio Tinto, to Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cal- pine, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company—have supported the Paris process, and leading investors have committed $1 billion in patient, private capital to support clean-energy breakthroughs that could make even greater climate ambi- tion possible.

Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low- carbon future than the United States and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community.

 

 

 

4 Responses to “Obama’s Parting Words on Climate and Energy”

  1. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    China, India, Europe and the rest of the world are already wooping America’s ass on renewables, and the Republicans’ intransigent “ideoilogical” war on sanity will ensure its ass stays wooped until reason returns.

    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany than what Trump has cobbled together in his freak show of a cabinet.


  2. My apologies for going off topic here, but it appears the other shoe has finally dropped.

    Remember how back on on Oct. 30, 2016, Harry Reid had written to Director of the FBI James Comey, “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States.”

    CNN and other news outlets are now explaining what this most likely is. Highlights from the CNN article:

    Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump…. These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government….

    Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him
    By Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein, CNN
    Updated 6:17 PM ET, Tue January 10, 2017
    http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/10/politics/donald-trump-intelligence-report-russia/

    The other shoe has dropped. We owe some of this information to British Intelligence…

    Trump’s many conflicts of interest, including reportedly money owed to European banks with ties to Russian oligarchs who are themselves closely tied to Putin, give Putin leverage over Trump. The reports of chatter and the appearance of coordination between Trump’s team and Putin’s are evidently true.


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