White House 'Energy Week' Should Also Support Renewables

The White House has designated this as Energy Week, which will be marked by several events where President Trump or key cabinet members will – as stated on Monday by an administration spokeswoman – speak on the administration’s commitment “to utilizing our abundant domestic energy resources both to create jobs and a growing, prosperous economy at home and to strengthen America’s global influence and leadership abroad.”

While much of the policy in recent decades has aimed at securely powering this nation’s economy with a focus on assuring our “energy independence” – a response to what had become a huge reliance on imported oil from the Middle East and the OPEC oligopoly – a common refrain coming out of the White House this week is “energy dominance,” meaning to make the United States the world’s energy superpower.

As a matter of smart policy, and good business sense, any energy strategy given the full weight of support by the White House must include clean energy and low- to no-carbon power sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, biofuels, hydropower and geothermal.

Energy dominance on the world scale is clearly an aspirational goal given that no U.S. policy maker, business leader or even ordinary citizen who has paid for a tank of gas or their monthly utility bill wants to see a return to times like the previous decade when oil surged from $25 per barrel to almost $150. It was a time when our nation was getting 60 percent of its oil from other nations, including those hostile to the United States, thus increasing U.S. energy vulnerability. Natural gas prices soared from under $2.50 per thousand cubic feet delivered to residential customers in 1998 to nearly $21 in 2008.

An explosion of U.S. exploration and extraction of domestic supplies of oil and gas that came with the advent of “fracking” technologies reversed those trends (oil is now around $45 per barrel and natural gas around $3.00 per thousand cubic feet). And while the increase in domestic supply has helped drop the cost of powering our transportation sector, our businesses, our manufacturers and our homes, advances in renewable energy technologies have put biofuels, wind, solar and other renewable energy costs at or below those of legacy energy sources, further driving down the cost of critical U.S. energy generation.

On Tuesday, at the annual conference of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy Secretary Rick Perry cited a report that is due to be released next month that is the culmination of a two-month “critical review of regulatory burdens” he said had been placed by Obama administration policies on power plants.

Perry said the Trump administration is looking for a mix of energy sources that are clean and affordable, while ensuring the grid is reliable. But he said nothing to reassure renewable energy advocates – a broad group that now includes significant numbers of large corporations, states and cities – that his review was anything but a means toward cutting federal and state clean energy policies and funding mechanisms that promote sustainable energy sources.

Trump, however, reasserted his support for ethanol during some appearances in Iowa last week. Unfortunately, he also mocked wind energy saying– “I don’t want to just hope the wind blows to light up your homes and your factories…as the birds fall to the ground,” he told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Interestingly enough, Iowa produces more wind energy as a percentage of its generation mix than any state in the nation (at 37 percent) and the wind industry is a major player in the state’s economy.

Policy makers cannot be reminded enough how important renewable energy is to this country’s power supply, having grown exponentially over the past decade. For example, in February, wind made up more than 50 percent of the energy consumed in the 14-state Southwest Power Pool, and wind and solar for the first time accounted for more than 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation in March. Renewable energy continues to provide our nation with more and more economic, national security and environmental benefits.

The 25x’25 Alliance urges the Trump administration to remember the promises he made during the campaign last year to support those who live in rural America – a segment of voters that significantly helped get Trump elected. That includes supporting renewable energy, which provides jobs and money – through lease agreements and tax revenues – that support the rural economy in communities across the country that have seen hard times over the past several years.

We call on the Trump administration to make renewable energy a critical part of the policy initiatives it celebrates during Energy Week.

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