Despite the current political climate, we have been quite busy installing solar panels in San Francisco. President Trump’s ignorant position on energy won’t be able to stop the forward progress our society is making. It turns out that most of us prefer green energy, especially as our technology progresses to make it more efficient. In fact, the results have been so good that just a couple months ago our state passed a great milestone. On March 11, more than half of California’s power needs were met by solar power. This is a huge jump from 2000, when our solar output was so low as to be “negligible.“ As technology improves and the economy of scale begins to have an effect, prices will continue to drop. Solar panels have fallen in price by more than 60 percent, while the rates of new solar installations are skyrocketing. Already California has invented a new problem, with peak solar power creating negative wholesale energy prices.
El TrompasDonald Trump was certainly not the candidate that green energy advocates would have wanted to lead the country. He openly rejects solar and wind energy as he waffles on the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement. Backed with an Energy Secretary that wanted to dismantle the department and a climate-change-denying EPA head that wants to slash more than 50 environmental programs, Trump’s administration could cause the United States some setbacks in the transition to renewable energy. The Trump administration has made it clear that they wish to devote our resources to revitalizing the slowly-dying industries of oil and coal. As countries all around the world make commitments to renewable energy, the U.S. will allow itself to fall behind in the interest of short-term gains in capital. Apparently, soot and oil stains are preferable to the wind and the sun on our face. The United States has long subsidized energy production in the interests of helping the citizens of the nation live a better life and to foster a strong economy. Subsidies help reduce import dependency, create stability in energy markets, and help encourage research and upgrades in technology, helping to develop new energy industries. Energy subsidies can both help and hurt us. Such subsidies, for example, are making California residents have easier access so solar energy, aiding in the transition away from fossil fuels. While that’s great, energy subsidies can also prop up industries or corporations that couldn’t compete, such as coal. Now that a switch to renewable energy is feasible, the world’s leading nations are aiming to roll over their energy programs to more environmentally-friendly solutions. Last year, the G7 nations set a deadline of 2025 to end most subsidies for fossil fuels, thus encouraging the switch to renewables. Trump’s team is now preparing to run the other way now that they have the ball. This administration aims to give the ax to a slew of grants, loans, and research initiatives that aid clean energy. While this is very concerning, the threat has thus far been more bark than bite. Trump aimed for massive cuts to both the EPA and the DoE, but was unable to convince even this lopsided Congress to follow through with his flawed policies on energy. Rather than the 30 percent slash in funding they were facing, the EPA only had their budget reduced by 1 percent. The research arms of the Department of Energy actually received increased funding, despite Trump’s calls to eliminate them. While there may have been ramblings of fire and brimstone from Mar-a-Lago, Congress has learned what the rest of us have already picked up on - Trump is all talk. He will rant incoherently on Twitter, wave his tiny orange hands around, and then Congress is going to do what they want. Some of the nation’s representatives might not understand climate change or just wish that they could set the clock back 60 years, but they have to face the world as it actually is. The realities of climate change, our improvements in science and technology, the wishes of voters, and even the economics of energy all demand a change to clean energy. While we are not out of the woods yet, and there are plenty of unsavory things that this administration will be able to do when backed by a Republican Congress, we have to realize that we’ve already seen the worst they can do. Presidents are the most influential during their first few months in office, and President Trump has a Republican-controlled Congress that could enact his will. While it might be unsettling to think of what might happen in the next few years, it’s unlikely that Trump’s support will increase in time (and it’s already a historic low for a new president). I don’t expect Trump’s support to increase in Congress; that landscape will probably change by the end of next year. From where I sit, those opposed to renewable energy hold as much power and support as they ever will, and they have only been able to move their fossil-fueled agenda forward a very small amount. Most experts agree that coal and other fossil fuels are on the way out the door as wind, solar, and natural gas rise to dominance. Green energy is efficient, clean, and a job-creating machine. The solar industry alone already employs more than 5 times as many people as the dying coal industry does, and it’s only growing.
The Sun is Setting on Fossil FuelsSolar power has already reached the tipping point; it can’t be turned back now. Subsidized or not, it has already reached a point that makes it financially preferable in the long term. Trump and team may try to make things hard for us in the short term, but the future of energy is clearly headed a certain direction. Anheuser-Busch, for example, aims to produce 100 percent of its energy needs through solar. They are among 100 other leading companies like Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, and even Wal-Mart that are committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy, and soon! Our own San Francisco is already one of the leaders in adopting solar power, and many cities coast to coast have already achieved 100 percent reliability. It doesn’t matter if your state is red or blue; clean energy is good for the environment and for the economy. Whatever happens with this administration, solar power and other renewable energy sources are our future.
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