Change isn't a spectator sport: Renewable energy can happen without Washington

By Matt Tomich, Contributor to The Hill.

You don't have to invoke any new political divisions to explain President Trump's roll-back of Obama's Clean Power Plan or his reversal of Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.  Feeding fossil fuels and starving clean energy is established orthodoxy; it comes straight out of the Reagan and Bush playbooks.

In fact, the only thing that's new and evolving about Trump's energy policy is the context. Climate change impacts are accelerating visibly; so is the growth of renewable energy. With or without the administration's help, energy policy must evolve to reflect this new reality.

Meanwhile, Trump’s proposals are old energy policy.  His budget plan would gut Obama’s environmental and energy programs just as Reagan did Carter’s. Reagan slashed renewables R&D 85 percent, rolled back fuel efficiency standards and killed the wind investment tax credit, effectively strangling renewables in their cradle.

Trump’s "America First Energy Plan," released last month, is a reprise of the 2001 Bush/Cheney energy plan drafted by oil and gas insiders. Both emphasize increased fossil fuel production on federal lands while doubling down on the most polluting ones. Cheney paid lip service to tax credits for renewables, but dismissed them as “years down the road.” Trump’s plan omits the words “renewable energy” entirely.

Yet renewables are integral to America's energy mix, growing faster and creating more jobs than any other form of energy.  New renewables installations outstrip new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined, more than two to one. Solar creates one of every 50 new American jobs — more than oil, gas and coal extraction combined.  While nuclear, oil and coal are shrinking rapidly and natural gas is growing only slowly, renewables’ are surging. Solar grew twelvefold since 2011 — 17 times faster than the overall economy.