BENZONIA — June 1, yesterday, was miserable and infuriating. President Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It was a decision as foolish and dangerous as the one George W. Bush made on August 6, 2001, when he tossed aside the intelligence briefing — “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US” — that warned of an imminent and monstrous Al-Qaeda attack.
My thoughts on why:
First, I’m heart sick that the president abdicated America’s responsibility to set a high standard and help lead the work of solving a planetary crisis. But I’m not surprised. I travel the world. I spend a lot of time reporting overseas. It was plain to me several years ago that the disorder in Washington and the doctrinaire policymaking in most states were fracturing the authority and unity and opportunity that the world admired about the United States. China and India are more than capable of leading the council of nations in reducing carbon emissions. The American century is over. Rejecting the Paris Climate Agreement, approved by over 190 countries, is more proof of that.
Second, I find the president’s case against the Paris Agreement outrageous. Almost every point he made yesterday is wrong. To cite the agreement as a threat to the American economy because it tilts economic advantages to India and China flat out ignores real world conditions. To assert that the agreement provides space for China and India to increase coal consumption brushes aside what is actually happening in the world.
A core element of China’s strategy to clear its dirty air, solve serious water scarcity, and add to economic strength has been to cancel 300 coal-fired power plants and build the world’s largest clean energy manufacturing sector. China’s coal consumption is declining. It’s economy is growing.
India also is idling coal-fired power plants. India’s coal imports are falling. India’s new national energy plan sets a target of generating nearly 60 percent of the country’s electricity, around 275 gigawatts, from wind, solar, biomass, and small hydropower plants by 2027. That’s 225 more gigawatts than India currently generates from renewable energy sources. It is the most ambitious clean energy development plan in the world outside China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged early in his administration to “achieve energy security for India based on clean fuels.”
And this leads to my third point about President Trump’s decision yesterday. It is a grievous injury to the American economy. The White House allegiance to the fossil fuel sector also is a display of its distaste for renewable energy.
The president’s budget proposal deletes or seriously diminishes much of the U.S. government renewable energy infrastructure — from incentive programs to research to energy efficiency. With its decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump administration is setting up another impediment to U.S. renewable energy development that hurts American competitiveness. That will cost millions of American jobs, a good number of them based in rural America, which desperately needs them.
Solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other renewable energy sources were a nearly $300 billion global business in 2015, according to the most recent United Nations report. That is twice as much money as was spent on fossil fueled power. India’s renewable sector is chasing China’s for global market dominance.
I’ve said this before and repeat it here. If President Trump succeeds in ruining American renewable momentum it would be tantamount to President Teddy Roosevelt in 1900 telling England and France, “Okay, you guys take the vehicle market. We’ll stick with making buggies.”
— Keith Schneider