American Energy Policy and the 2016 Election

By Clea Schumer '20

The official Donald J. Trump for President of the United States website has an “Energy” section listed under the “Positions” tab that somehow manages to not use the word “environment” once. Trump’s proposition is called An American First Energy Plan, and the words that do appear in the outline include “wealth,” “dominance,” “oil,” and “independent” (Energy 2016).  

97% of climate scientists agree - climate change is real and caused by humans. (Climate Change: How Do We Know 2016). The ongoing warming of the Earth already affects and will continue to impact most if not all living things. There exists a web of interconnectedness that links the trajectory of this climate change to political instability, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts, refugee crises, species extinction, water scarcity, famine, infectious disease, and sea level rise. (Gore 2015).  This web has been called “The Cost of Carbon” and its price appears to be invaluable (2015).

I believe there has never been a more crucial time to act on anything, and, for this reason, environmental issues must be at the forefront of the 2016 American election. It’s been hard to keep in mind.  The drama that has swarmed around personal scandals and Twitter wars has made the race sometimes feel more like an amusing television series than a choice that has serious, serious implications for the future of our home.

I don’t mean to undercut the pressing nature of the issues that the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must also address. Business, economics, social justice, immigration, and foreign policy deserve and demand our attention.  But, in the simplest manner: dollars, guns, and ISIS will all be irrelevant if our cities are underwater, our air is unbreathable, and our agriculture cannot be sustained.

Imagine you’re walking down the street holding an apple. The apple has a small bruise on its skin which concerns you and attracts your attention. Suddenly, however, the apple falls from your hands, rolls into the street, and is crushed by a car driving by. The issue at hand is no longer the apple’s bruise. An apple that no longer exists no longer has a bruise that is worth any concern. When the health of an entity is so fundamental that nothing as we know it exists without it, why is the stewardship of the first entity not absolutely and indefinitely prioritized?

There is only one choice for voters this November if we believe in the necessity of a strong American strategy to address climate change mitigation. Hillary Clinton proposes a plan that engages both the environment and the economy in a productive and progressive manner, countering the zero-sum belief that a choice must be made between the two. The price of alternative energy sources has been on the decline for years, and the clean energy sector has a rapidly increasing demand for employment. (Gore 2015).  Hillary Clinton’s campaign website has a page titled “Climate Change” that outlines goals she intends to meet within 10 years. Building upon the Paris Climate Agreement, Clinton prioritizes investing in clean energy infrastructure and innovation, setting new standards for diminishing pollution and furthering efficiency, and harnessing enough affordable renewable energy so that every home in America can be powered by alternative and clean sources (Climate Change 2016).

On the other hand, we’re still not sure whether or not Donald Trump continues to believe that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” as he indicated on Twitter in 2012. Denial today is utterly and unspeakably indefensible and illogical based upon scientific evidence. Ignorant awareness is potentially worse. Four years after that remark, there is a chance that Trump now knows that climate change is real, but that still doesn’t stop him from explicitly choosing to blatantly ignore it. Donald Trump’s “Energy” platform prioritizes unleashing the $50 billion in untapped oil reserves, ensuring American independence from the OPEC cartel, and “rescind[ing] all job-destroying Obama executive actions” (Make America Great Again! 2016). I most disdain the fear-mongering rhetoric with which Trump refers to his opponent: “Hillary Clinton will escalate the war against American energy, and unleash the EPA to control every aspect of our lives” (2016). Frightening!

The time to act on what we know to be right is now. As Al Gore eloquently puts it: “Political will is a renewable resource” (Gore 2015).



Works Cited

"Climate Change." Hillary Clinton on the Issues. Hillary for America, 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

"Climate Change: How Do We Know?" Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA, 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

"Energy." Make America Great Again! Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016

Gore, Al. "Climate Reality Presentations - Reality Hub." Reality Hub. Climate Reality Project, 2015. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.