Trump's energy policy: is China the real winner?

Just yesterday, the administration announced plans to cut the Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency program budgets by 72 percent according to a leaked draft of the DOE budget for fiscal year 2019. This is the second major blow to the renewable energy industry, coming only days after Trump imposed a 30% tariff on solar imports.

I find this ironic. On Tuesday, Trump stood before our country to deliver his first State of the Union address. It was a story on “America First” and domestic policy took the center stage – tax cuts, trade, the economy, jobs…and more jobs. But as he praised the accomplishments in these issues over the past year, I couldn’t help but see the other side: the opportunities we’re missing and the jobs we’re giving up (now even more so).

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The state of green business? Hopeful, puzzling… and pushing forward

I always look forward to the latest State of Green Business report from GreenBiz. It invigorates me and reminds me that there are a lot of talented people making sure that both business and the planet can thrive– a notion that I’m holding tight as the political atmosphere gets increasingly crazy.

I found two of the trends in the report of particular interest because they signal that smart business leaders are staying the course on climate.

Trend: Corporate Clean Energy Grows Up

The trend toward corporations transitioning to renewable energy has been gaining momentum for years. Today, twenty-two of the Fortune 100 have committed to procuring 100% of their energy from renewables, and 71 have a public target for sustainability or renewable energy.

“Business is a very important advocate for clean energy, because it speaks the language of hard economics,” points out Jim Walker, co-founder of The Climate Group. “It’s sending a strong signal to policymakers and the general public that this is the inevitable direction we’re going to move towards – a 100% clean energy economy.”

When innovative companies like Apple, Amazon, Unilever, and Google show leadership on renewable energy, their suppliers, customers, competitors, and the market respond. Microsoft, for example, is helping lead the way by purchasing 237 megawatts of capacity from projects in Wyoming and Kansas. And, Walmart, a long-time EDF partner, has also made a commitment to source 100% of its electricity from renewable energy. Currently at 25%, they’ve made significant progress on implementation.

With corporate leadership like this in place, it’s clear that business will continue to have an impact on the renewable energy revolution. The recent report from my EDF Climate Corps colleagues is proof of that: the solar power sector is growing quickly, and is a major source of jobs that are a.) impossible to outsource and, b.) available in all 50 states.

Trend – Companies Put Their Money Where Their Suppliers Are

According to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, embedding sustainable business practices in the global food and agriculture industry could deliver $2.3 trillion annually.

“All stakeholders can share in the benefits: smallholder farmers improve their livelihoods; suppliers gain increased security of supply with improved quality; and we reduce volatility and uncertainty with a more secure and sustainable supply chain,” wrote Unilever CEO Paul Polman.

Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, EDF+Business

When a corporation commits to reduce emissions in their supply chain, the results can be powerful.  We’re seeing this firsthand with our work with Walmart. EDF spent 10 years with Walmart to help drive sustainability across its global supply chain. The result? By the end of 2015, through leadership, innovation and a diverse range of projects, Walmart had exceeded its goal to reduce supply chain emissions eliminated 36 MMT of greenhouse gas from its supply chain. Now, they’ve committed to removing 1 Gigaton of emissions by 2030 – the equivalent of the total annual emissions of Germany.

Smithfield Foods is another company that EDF collaborated with in setting a goal to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 across its upstream U.S. supply chain. EDF will continue to help Smithfield improve fertilizer efficiency and soil health, which will reduce nitrous oxide emissions from grain farms.

But to keep moving forward on these sustainability trends and others requires business to use its voice and influence to not backpedal on policies that are a win-win for our environment and our economy. We are at a crucial period where companies need to make the long-term economic case for policy, including the Clean Power Plan, Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and ensuring the U.S remains part of the Paris Agreement.

Businesses will not go backwards on environmental protection. It’s bad for business and the environment. In fact, over 600 businesses have signed the Low Carbon USA letter calling on U.S. elected leaders to stay the course on environmental protection and climate leadership.  Now is the time for unlikely voices to step up and continue to press the case for action; the recent call for a carbon tax is probably most noteworthy because it was brought forth by Republican party faithfuls.

If there was one sentence in the State of Green Business report that captured the feeling of the moment it was this: “It’s hard to imagine a time more hopeful and horrifying for sustainable business.” At EDF, we’re not only hopeful but we’re committed: the economy and the planet can—and must–thrive together. Any conversation that suggests otherwise is a non-starter.

 

As Trump signals a rollback on environmental regulations, a new jobs report indicates that may not be such a good idea

Jobs coverPresident Trump’s regulatory freeze that halted four rules designed to promote greater energy efficiency appears to be just the first salvo in an ongoing plan to roll back environmental protections and slash environmental budgets. While that is obviously foolish from an environmental perspective, it is also problematic from an economic/job creation standpoint.

As program director of EDF Climate Corps, I have daily insight into how businesses are accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy while hiring the next generation of talented, motivated leaders – which is a good thing, because they’re needed.

Our new report, Now Hiring: The Growth of America's Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs, underscores this trend. As the economy becomes more sustainable and energy efficient, a new market for clean energy and sustainability jobs is created. This market is large, growing and intrinsically local. Even better, these jobs span across economic sectors, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and other green goods and services, like local and state government, transportation and corporations.

The report revealed three key trends as sustainability jobs continue to grow across the country:

  1. Sustainability jobs represent a large and growing portion of the U.S. workforce across multiple sectors.

This isn’t a small, niche workforce. In fact, it’s outpacing the rest of the U.S. economy in growth and job creation. Solar employment opportunities alone are currently growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. And, they are generating more jobs per dollar invested–more than double the jobs created from investing in fossil fuels. Sustainability now collectively represents an estimated 4-4.5 million jobs in the U.S., spanning energy efficiency and renewable energy, to waste reduction and environmental education.

  1. Due to the on-site nature of many renewable and energy efficiency jobs, these jobs cannot be outsourced, and can pay above average wages.

 These aren’t just any jobs; they are well-paying, local opportunities that bolster our domestic economy. Most renewable and energy efficiency jobs can be found in small businesses, requiring on-site installation, maintenance and construction, making them local by nature. And, many pay higher than average wages. For example, energy efficiency jobs pay almost $5,000 above the national median, providing rewarding employment options to all Americans–even those without college or advanced degrees.

  1. Clean energy and sustainability jobs are present in every state in America.

The entire country has benefitted from the boom in clean energy and sustainability jobs, which has employed workers in every state. Energy efficiency alone provides 2.2 million jobs, spreading out across the nation.

Continuing the Momentum

So how do we continue this momentum? Investments in clean energy and sustainability pay off in the long run and foster a stronger economy—that equals more jobs and a cleaner future. This is why businesses are increasing their investments in sustainability. A recent survey found that three quarters of firms now have dedicated sustainability budgets, and even more have hired additional sustainability staff. But that doesn’t surprise me. Corporate America understands that prosperity and a low-carbon economy go hand-in-hand, and should continue to support investment in this area.

Policy makers at the local, state and federal level must also recognize the positive economic impacts of this new job class and support the policies and programs that encourage growth and investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green transportation and more. Efforts to roll back or weaken environmental and energy policies will negatively impact current and future U.S. jobs, while slowing clean energy innovation.

If the question is how to help both the environment and the economy, we don’t have to search for the answer: it’s already here. America is transitioning to a clean energy future—we can’t afford to stand in its way.


Additional Reading:

Will the new President flunk the climate business test?

China is going all-in on clean energy while the U.S. waffles. How is that making America great again?


Follow Liz Delaney on Twitter, @lizdelaneylobo