Besides his shout-out to coal, a discussion on energy and climate change – let alone wind power or any type of renewable energy – was non-existent in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address last night.
Representing a stark contrast to then-President Barack Obama’s final SOTU, which touted the U.S.’ renewable energy progress and fight against climate change, the speech delivered by Trump offered the following sentiment on energy:
“We have ended the war on American Energy – and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.” (Note: The White House’s transcript of the prepared remarks did not include the word “beautiful,” as delivered by the president.) Trump then transitioned to a discussion on car companies’ moves to the U.S.
Two years ago, Obama mentioned wind and solar energy in particular as opportunities for “American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future.”
“In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average,” Obama said.
Notably, the speech came about a month after the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, during which 187 countries agreed on what the White House called “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history,” the Paris Agreement, from which Trump has said the U.S. will be withdrawing. Obama noted in his SOTU that global warming deniers would be “pretty lonely” if they wanted to “dispute the science around climate change” but mentioned that there are still “plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”
Trump’s speech came about a month after he infamously tweeted, in response to the cold spell in the East, that “we could use a little bit of that good old global warming”:
In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017
In response to last night’s SOTU, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proclaimed, “How can a president of the United States give a State of the Union speech and not mention climate change? No, Mr. Trump, climate change is not a ‘hoax.’ It is a reality which is causing devastating harm all over our country and all over the world, and you are dead wrong when you appoint administrators at the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] and other agencies who are trying to decimate environmental protection rules and slow down the transition to sustainable energy.”
The former presidential hopeful added that “we have got to take on the fossil fuel industry; transform our energy system; and move to sustainable energies like wind, solar and geothermal.”
Also responding to Trump’s remarks was U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who laid out the Trump administration’s prior announcements to impose 30% trade tariffs on solar panels and terminate the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan:
“President Trump says he has ended the so-called war on coal, but he’s really declared a war on clean energy,” Markey said in a statement issued after the speech. “Withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, repeal of the Clean Power Plan, opening up pristine coastline to offshore drilling and a job-killing solar tariff are only a few of the litany of sins President Trump has committed against clean air, clean water and climate action. We need the president to embrace a clean energy economy that creates jobs and ensures American climate leadership around the world.”
Trump’s SOTU was delivered the same day the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued its quarterly report, highlighting a strong 2017 for U.S. wind power. AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in the report that the industry “delivered big results for the U.S. economy in 2017” and that the “American success story will continue.”
In response to the president’s speech, AWEA pointed out on Twitter that the president did focus on boosting the country’s infrastructure – a move that would be beneficial to both onshore and offshore wind:
Pres. Trump is right that infrastructure is key to economic growth, along w/ affordable energy. Transmission expansion will bring prosperity & low-cost electricity to rural areas & factory towns that want #windpower. #SOTU
— American Wind Energy (@AWEA) January 31, 2018
Specifically, Trump ordered “both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.” In addition, he called for a bill “that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.”
Another critical part of an #infrastructure plan should include revamping our ports and marine terminals. This will be critical for unlocking America’s vast #offshorewind resources, creating new jobs, opening factories and bringing us closer to #energyindependence. #SOTU
— American Wind Energy (@AWEA) January 31, 2018
Though the president delivered very few words on energy, clean energy advocacy groups have issued poignant remarks in response to the speech. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, says Trump’s energy claims are “emblematic of his presidency, in that the weight of reality and the will of the people are not on his side.”
“Trump again tried to claim that coal is not in decline and spin his attempts to drill, mine and frack our public lands and waters,” Brune says. “The truth is that a coal plant retirement has been announced every 16 days since he was elected, and the American people overwhelmingly oppose his repeated attacks on our public lands.”
Accordingly, following the 2016 SOTU, Brune said it was a “time to celebrate President Obama’s climate legacy” but warned it would be “critically important to ensure the influence of corporate polluters on our government is minimized.”
Environment America, noting there is “no such thing as clean coal,” says in a statement, “It’s foolhardy to prop up outdated, polluting and unnecessary energy sources that pollute our water and air. Renewable energy and the technologies that enable it are growing faster than most people ever imagined – with more and more of our energy needs being met with pollution-free energy which has no fuel costs. In the past decade, we’ve seen 20-fold growth in solar and seven-fold growth in wind power. We should give Americans what they want by building on this tremendous progress with a commitment toward promoting energy savings, clean energy and energy storage technologies.”
Going forward, Environment America urges “leaders to get on board” for the continued transition to renewable energy.
“The future of a strong nation lies squarely in the clean energy and clean transportation revolutions,” the group suggests. “In contrast to the lack of action at the federal level, we can look to the states, where strong bipartisan progress is being made on cutting global warming pollution.”