SCF’s 2020 Election Guide: Energy & Climate Change

As we approach the 2020 election cycle, it’s time to look at what is on the table concerning the American energy complex and climate change- two areas that are central to the core mission of SCF. We will also briefly examine several states’ Renewable Portfolio Standards and the progress towards these goals. This article aims to provide current information on what’s at stake and what voters can do as we enter the election.

On a National Scale:

We have two parties with two drastically different goals as it pertains to energy make-up & climate change. Let’s break it down: Donald Trump, Jr: On November 4th, 2020, the U.S. will officially pull out of the Paris climate agreement. The RNC has not adopted a new platform this year. Thus we have to rely on outdated information. A focal point of the platform is to continue Trump’s “deregulatory agenda for energy independence.” (Source Politico) In its’ first term, the Trump administration:
  • Repealed at least 100 environmental rules – including Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).
  • Replaced the CPP with the America First Energy Plan, with a large focus on de-regulating.
  • This roll-back would have a 3% anticipated increase in pollution by 2035 – an estimated 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse emissions than previous projections.
  • Trump himself has often rejected science as it pertains to climate change and has shared his beliefs on its roots. Source (Twitter)
Joseph R Biden: A comprehensive climate, energy & job growth plan utilizing the Green New Deal as a framework.
  • Commit more than $2 trillion in direct government spending on clean energy, U.S. economy to be net-zero in emissions by 2050. Rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Generally, conservative Americans are concerned with increasing the national deficit and identifying where the capital investment will originate.
  • Executive actions addressing new drilling & fracking on public land, curtailing methane emissions and stricter fuel-economy standards, and banning foreign aid for financing coal power plants.
  • Focus on Environmental Justice – invest in low-income communities, tribal lands, communities of color.
Things you can do:
  • Vote, Vote & Vote – https://vote.gov/
  • Become a poll worker – this is quite important as COVID disproportionally affects the elderly who have historically been very active poll volunteers. – https://www.eac.gov/voters/become-poll-worker
  • Volunteer and sign up for phone banking. Educate voters on what is at stake at the state & federal level.

SCOTUS:

The Supreme Court announced earlier this year that it will hear an appeal from fossil fuel companies against a lawsuit by the city of Baltimore demanding restitution for damages resulting from climate change. The result from this case will send ripples throughout the entire American energy complex as we combat climate change and identify the legally responsible players. There is limited action that American voters can do as it pertains to the Supreme Court as justices are appointed through the Senate.

At the State Level:

  • According to Berkeley Labs, RPS requirements have contributed to about half of total U.S. renewable energy growth since 2000. This indicates that Renewable Portfolio Standards have achieved their intended objectives of increasing the prevalence of renewable energy in their energy portfolios.
    • The RPS-portion of new renewable generation capacity has declined over the past few years – a positive sign that renewables are now becoming the norm in new generation. In fact, in 2019, renewable energy consumption surpassed coal for the first time in 130 years.
    • There are still regional discrepancies where RPS have not been set in much of the southeastern states. Below is the current map of states with RPS targets:
    • (Source: National Conference of State Legislatures)
Things you can do:
  • Engage with your state’s legislators and learn about your state’s renewable legislation at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
    • Review your options through your electrical utility provider – are there options to purchase your energy from renewable resources? This can be a great option, particularly for those with limited access to residential solar options.
In general, the future is bright for renewable energy proliferation. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020 has shown that new solar generation is cheaper than natural gas or coal generation in almost every country. There are concerns that it will take additional policy actions to level off emissions beyond 2030. Still, there has never been a clearer path forward, even with the COVID crisis causing an 18% reduction in energy investment. The United States must once again take a leadership role to drive further investment in renewable energy generation & fighting climate change. Your vote is critical to initiate the change. Vote now!

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