Rep. Raul Grijalva: America risks being left behind on clean energy

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to the U.S. offers a stern reminder that even as the Trump administration tries to withdraw our country from the global community, our friends and foes around the world continue to respond to climate change, and those responses will have long-lasting implications.

Economies both large and small have begun a shift from fossil fuels to renewable and low-carbon energy sources. Unfortunately, for ideological reasons, Republicans in Washington are blind to the economic opportunities this creates. Rather than embracing renewable energy as a tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and spur job creation, Republicans are focused on a backward fossil fuel agenda that even many libertarian free market supporters consider wasteful.

A decade ago, the prime excuse was that renewable energy sources couldn’t compete with oil and coal. Today, clean energy sources aren’t just competitive – they’re outperforming dirty fossil fuels. Last year, almost half of all new electricity capacity added to the U.S. grid was from solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower sources. In addition to generating affordable power, the U.S. renewable energy industry employed nearly 3 million people in 2016.

Since 2010, costs of new solar panels have fallen by 70 percent, wind costs have dropped by 25 percent, and battery costs by 40 percent. Over the last decade, worldwide renewable energy deployment has gone from less than $20 billion per year to more than $300 billion per year. But while demand surges, the U.S. risks falling behind our competitors by not supporting clean energy or engaging with our allies in global markets.

At a recent House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing, David Livingston, deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Council, testified that “the U.S. should embrace, rather than retreat from, the broader trends shaping the global energy market in an increasingly climate-conscious world.” He stressed to anyone who would listen – whatever their politics – that it’s “imperative that the United States play a leadership role” in the growing advanced energy sector.

This sentiment is shared even by major energy industry leaders, many of whom typically find themselves allying with Republicans on energy and fiscal policy. According to Meg Gentle, the president and CEO of the natural gas company Tellurian Inc., “The U.S. is positioned to lead a global energy transformation as countries around the globe grapple with an array of energy modernization and climate challenges.” Houston-based Cheniere Energy benefits from “the global drive to reduce emissions, increase diversity of supply and take into account environmental issues,” according to Christopher Smith, a senior vice president at the company.

Both companies support the U.S. remaining in the Paris climate agreement, and both support a rule the Bureau of Land Management instituted in 2016 that requires the oil and gas industry to reduce climate-damaging methane emissions – which the Trump administration is currently rewriting with an eye to weaker standards.

Despite clear global trends, growth in the clean energy sector, and the environmental and economic benefits of reducing emissions, Republican lawmakers have decided to concede the energy future to our competitors. The result will be a polluted environment and diminished American power.

By 2040, China’s public and private sectors are expected to invest more than $6 trillion in clean technology and low-carbon energy. In January 2017, China’s National Energy Agency announced that by investing $360 billion in renewable energy by 2020, they would create more than 13 million jobs. From electric vehicles to solar modules to battery storage systems, China is aiming to capture the global market, drive down costs, and use clean energy exports to challenge America's role as a leader in regional and international alliances.

U.S. energy leadership with an eye toward the future has never been more needed. Unfortunately, President Trump’s cabinet prioritizes fossil fuels at the expense of public health. His most recent policies and budget proposal cut spending for advanced energy research and would cripple our thriving solar industry.

The world’s power sources are changing, and no one stands to benefit more from U.S. leadership during this transition than American consumers. The only question that remains is whether U.S. policymakers will lead our nation in implementing a modern clean energy agenda.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, represents Arizona's 3rd congressional district.

By:  Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
Source: Washington Examiner