Which Presidential Candidate Will Do More For Renewable Energy?


   Pledging to make America energy independent, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee recently delivered his first major energy policy speech in North Dakota. The welcoming crowd, in a state that is heavily dependent on fracking to surface more U.S. oil supplies, seemed eager to hear Donald Trump describe how he would generate more energy revenues.
   “A Trump administration will develop an America first energy plan,” the New York businessman told about 7,000 people gathered at the annual Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, N.D. “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal.” 
   Trump said he would get rid of bureaucracy to pursue all forms of energy and that “cheaper energy will also boost American Agriculture. 
   His talking points must have been music to the ears of long-time oilman Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources, who has invested heavily in new oil development. Trump introduced Hamm as a longtime friend and a “king of energy”
   But for supporters of renewable forms of energy – including wind, solar, ethanol and biodiesel – there was some head scratching after Trump’s speech. 
   That’s because earlier this year, Trump made a big point of endorsing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – which requires a certain volume of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. He made the announcement just prior to Iowa’s first in the nation’s caucuses and secured backing from renewable fuel advocates, even though he ultimately lost to Sen. Ted Cruz.
   But just prior to his North Dakota speech, Trump appeared less than unequivocal. He was asked by a reporter if he supported continuation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires that increasing amounts of ethanol and biodiesel be blended into the nation’s fuels, beyond 2022.
   “We will be looking at that,” Trump said, while adding that he would be meeting soon with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for advice on ethanol.
   And then he delivered a line that was right out of Sen. Cruz’s list of soundbites. 
   “The government should not pick winners and losers. Instead it should remove obstacles to exploration,” Trump said.
   There was no mention of tax breaks or subsidies for the oil industry. Instead, he was particularly critical of wind and solar energy during a press conference prior to his speech.
   “The problem with solar is it’s very expensive. When you have a 30-year payback that’s not exactly the greatest thing in the world.
   He also said that wind energy is very expensive and killing American eagles – despite research reports to the contrary.  
Clinton embraces renewables
   In contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is very bullish on solar energy, where the production and installation costs have been dropping dramatically 
   She said her goal is to have more than a half a billion solar panels installed in this country by the end of her first term and produce enough clean, renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of taking office. 
   That’s an ambitious goal, given that there were about 22,700 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity operating in the U.S. – enough to power more than 4.6 million average American homes last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 
   "We need to capitalize on rural America's strength in renewable energy,” stated Clinton in her first major policy speech on rural issues last summer. “Over the past decade, American wind power workforce has grown 10-fold and domestic renewable fuels production has expanded more than 350 percent – creating jobs, boosting farm incomes and driving billions of dollars of investment into rural communities.” 
   Clinton was not a champion of the RFS when she served as a U.S. Senator from New York, but embraced the law during her first run for president in 2008. 
   Now, Clinton has proposed strengthening the Renewable Fuels Standard “so that it drives the development of advanced cellulosic and other advanced biofuels, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85 and biodiesel blends, and provides investment certainty.”
   “The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) can continue to be a powerful tool to spur the development of advanced biofuels and expand the overall contribution that renewable fuels make to our national fuel supply,” Clinton wrote in The Gazette, an eastern Iowa newspaper.
   In addition, she called for expanding the Rural Utilities Service and other USDA programs to help provide clean, reliable and affordable energy – not just to rural Americans but to other parts of the country. ∆
   SARA WYANT: Editor of Agri-Pulse, a weekly e-newsletter covering farm and rural policy. To contact her, go to: http://www.agri-pulse.com/

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