This post is part of WRI’s blog series, The Trump Administration. The series analyzes policies and actions by the administration and their implications for climate change, energy, economics and more.
With the selection of Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE), President Trump continued an unmistakable pattern of picking individuals with close ties to the fossil fuel industry. But Governor Perry, who is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks, has also demonstrated a wider view on energy, including strong support for wind power.
If the Trump administration wants to create jobs, protect people’s health and support American competitiveness, it would do well to embrace Americans’ most popular energy choices — renewable energy use and energy efficiency.
The new cabinet has work to do to overcome President Trump’s skepticism when it comes to clean energy. President Trump apparently doesn’t fully grasp the scope of clean energy manufacturing and employment in the United States.
In recent years, clean energy has been surging globally, with more than $285 billion in total global investments in 2015, one of its best years ever. In the United States, investment in renewables jumped by 19 percent in 2015 alone.
The United States can either move to the head of the pack or risk falling behind.
Gov. Perry should recognize the benefits of expanding investment in renewables. During his time as governor of Texas, wind power expanded from 115 megawatts in 2000 to nearly 18,000 megawatts in 2015. Today, Texas is the nation’s top state for wind power, which employs around 25,000 people in the state.
Here are some compelling reasons why the president and his new cabinet should consider clean energy:
1. Renewable energy is already providing hundreds of thousands of good quality jobs for Americans. Clean energy is the fastest-growing energy sector in the United States, with more new electricity from wind and solar than any other source since 2014. Wind and solar power now support hundreds of thousands of workers, including more than 21,000 factory workers who make the majority of domestic wind farm components in states like Florida, Kansas and Colorado.
Compared to overall job creation, the solar industry had 12 times faster job growth last year. Solar jobs now outnumber those for oil and natural gas extraction.
2. Clean energy is popular across the political spectrum. There is strong, bipartisan support for wind and solar power, which provides people with greater flexibility and independence. That’s why renewable energy is expanding in states from Texas to Maine and Iowa to Florida.
In Gov. Perry’s home state of Texas, 85 percent of registered voters, including 78 percent of Republicans, favor more clean energy deployment. A post-election survey found that 75 percent of Trump voters support “action to accelerate the deployment and use of clean energy.”
3. American businesses are committed to clean energy. Google recently announced it would draw electricity from 100 percent renewable sources by 2017. Earlier this fall, GM committed to moving all of its operations and manufacturing to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, which its CEO, Mary Barra, said would bring cleaner air and low-cost energy to the business.
Overall, more than 82 major companies have now signaled they are moving to 100 percent renewable energy. Many companies, including those in the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, are working with utilities and regulators to bring more clean energy to the electrical grid.
4. The United States can export clean energy technology to overseas markets. Just recently, Argentina’s government awarded more than 1,200 megawatts of clean energy capacity – the United States can help provide clean tech and expertise to support these projects. Forty-seven countries recently committed to 100 percent renewable energy and 155 countries have government policies that support the deployment of renewables.
5. The U.S. government saves taxpayers between $150-200 million every year through Energy Service Performance Contracts. These programs bring in private sector funding and knowledge to upgrade energy efficiency and supply renewable power at U.S. government facilities at no cost to the American taxpayer.
The DOE plays an important role in supporting innovation that fills a critical gap for U.S. businesses seeking to get new technologies off the ground. For example, the DOE has programs to advance the development of battery storage, solar panels and electric vehicles. These vital initiatives should be expanded, not curtailed by the new administration.
The DOE can also encourage private sector investment and expand federal funding for clean energy research and development. Bill Gates, who announced a new $1 billion clean energy investment fund, has called for the government to triple its energy-related research and development to $18 billion.
The DOE can provide training programs for clean energy workers and support communities that are shifting away from traditional energy sources.
If confirmed, Gov. Perry will have the chance to champion clean energy. With $25 trillion in global energy infrastructure to be built by 2030 and wind and solar becoming cost competitive, a clean energy revolution is underway. The American people and the economy would benefit from joining this movement.