Opinion: Republicans Should Embrace Renewable Energy Freedom

The energy plans of the candidates of the two big parties will not shock anyone: Donald Trump aims to open every square inch of land in the United States to the extraction of fossil fuels, while Hillary Clinton wants to invest in renewable energy programs and energy conservation. What is more interesting about these two shots? Clinton’s plan should be by far the most attractive to Republicans.

The pursuit of fossil fuels will continue and most likely increase America’s dependence on foreign nations, a trajectory that should be deeply distressing for Republicans who embrace protectionism and individual freedom.

Donald Trump’s claim that the United States will eventually become independent from oil is simply wrong for two reasons.

First, we just don’t have the oil. The Energy Information Administration provides that U.S. consumption of oil and other liquid fuels will be around 6.8 billion barrels of oil per year by 2020, while domestic production will only cover about half, at 3.6 billion barrels of oil per year. Some might ask: what about hydraulic fracturing and all this new oil? Bad news: it is included in these 3.6 billion barrels of production.

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Second, even if we discover massive new oil resources, oil producers will have to sell oil in a world market, where it will reach world prices. The US economy would remain vulnerable to global price volatility. This exposure cannot be underestimated; Spikes in oil prices have been found time and again to trigger recessions. Some argue that low oil prices could also be the source of recessions.

Perhaps most troubling about the Republican fossil-fueled energy agenda is the utter lack of energy conservation policy. One would think that the party that prides itself on fiscal conservatism would fully embrace energy conservatism; so far the party has failed to see this alignment.

Energy saving measures aim to solve energy problems by reducing demand rather than increasing supply. In other words, an increase in energy demand (usually due to economic growth) can be met in one of two ways: an increase in the energy supply to meet that demand or by the efficiency with which we use energy.

Both offer paths for the United States to follow, but the effectiveness is much cheaper – something that should resonate with Republicans. A recent report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the cost of energy efficiency programs is typically half the cost of traditional energy sources like coal.

In addition to a favorable economy, the potential energy savings from these programs are simply astounding. The National Academy of Sciences reported that energy saving programs could reduce energy use in the United States by 30%, which would completely negate the need to build new power generation facilities: that means no new power plants in the United States. coal, natural gas or nuclear. And the efficiency cuts in the transportation sector would also make the United States less dependent on foreign oil, a big bonus.

The cheapest barrel of oil is the one we don’t have to buy, so it makes more sense to invest in conservation measures that save oil than to spend billions of dollars to produce oil from. expensive shale.

Beyond energy saving measures, the United States will still need to produce a lot of energy, and here too, renewable energies are completely in line with Republican values. What better expression of individual freedom could there be than generating your own electricity from a rooftop solar photovoltaic system or a wind turbine in the forties?

Households adopting rooftop solar power are changing the landscape of the energy grid and utility sector, turning consumer owners into “prosumers” who generate some of their own electricity and engage in two-way transactions with their customers. public services. In addition to increasing self-reliance and resilience, this transformation helps keep more money in the local community, rather than going to fossil fuel producers and bullies in other states and countries.

Republicans concerned about jobs should consider this report: There is now more solar jobs in the United States there are jobs in oil and gas extraction and many more jobs than in coal mining. And although there are still more jobs in the entire fossil fuel sector than in solar, the gap is closing rapidly as the solar industry grew 12 times faster than the overall economy in 2015. .

There is no doubt that Republicans are receiving help from major donors, such as the Koch brothers, who have a vested interest in fossil fuel projects. And, perhaps part of the answer to why Republicans are reluctant to embrace renewables has to do with campaign finance.

Whatever the reason, it’s time for Republican voters to realize that renewables are fully aligned with Republican values.

Over time – and with appropriate energy conservation measures – renewables in the United States can respond all our energy needs. No longer importing oil from unstable regions of the world, no longer exposing our economy to price volatility. To borrow a phrase from Donald Trump, it’s a “beautiful, beautiful thing.”

About Alma Ackerman

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