President-elect Donald Trump intends to hit the ground running on energy and environment policy. Trump already has an expert team in place drafting important policy changes from the Obama administration.
Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
Here are 10 likely changes that will impact energy production, energy use, and the U.S. economy.
- Goodbye to the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan was political poison for Democrats in the November elections. In 14 Senate races highlighted before the elections by the liberal website Mother Jones as being especially important in the global warming debate, 11 were won by candidates opposing the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan was decisively damaging to Hillary Clinton in Great Lakes battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The American public supports government taking some steps to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause some global warming, but Donald Trump realized expensive, highly partisan, top-down restrictions are an unpopular prescription. Expect Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to retract the Clean Power Plan immediately upon taking office. Don’t be surprised, however, if he extends an olive branch to people concerned about global warming by offering alternative policies that address carbon dioxide emissions in a more affordable, fair, free-market manner.
- Increased energy production on federal lands. Oil and natural gas prices have fallen dramatically thanks to the fracking revolution and increased production. This increased production, however, has occurred in spite of – rather than because of – Obama administration policies. Fortunately for American consumers, increased production on privately owned and state-owned lands has more than compensated for the Obama administration increasing the percentage of federal-owned lands rendered off-limits to oil and gas production. Expect the Trump administration to open up more federal lands to energy production, which will further increase domestic oil and natural gas production. This will in turn lower energy prices, increase royalty payments to offset our national debt, and bolster the American economy.
- Coal gets a reprieve. Restrictions on coal production and coal power have reached unprecedented severity under the Obama administration. Coal is unlikely to be saddled with any new environmental restrictions under the Trump administration. Just as importantly, the Trump administration is likely to rescind many of the restrictions imposed by the Obama administration, such as a new slate of restrictions announced last week. This may not revive coal power, which faces strong competition from inexpensive natural gas. Nevertheless, coal will face fewer regulatory restrictions under the Trump administration.
- Wind power industry loses its free pass to kill bald eagles. Private individuals, oil producers, natural gas producers, and everybody else in America justifiably pay severe penalties for killing bald eagles, even inadvertently. Not so the wind power industry. In the ironic name of environmentalism, wind power gets a free pass on the 1.4 million birds and bats the industry kills each year, including endangered and protected species like the bald eagle. The Obama administration last week dramatically increased the number of bald eagles wind power companies can kill without penalty. Expect the Trump administration to reverse this course and make the wind power industry accountable to the same environmental protections that apply to everyone else.
- Wind and solar power loses disproportionate subsidies. Wind and solar subsidies during the past decade have dwarfed those of all other energy sources, imposing expensive and unreliable power on American consumers. The wind and solar industries claim their products are falling in price and insist they can provide power on a cost-competitive basis with conventional power. Expect the Trump administration to hold the wind and solar industries to their word, reducing subsidies and restoring a level playing field for competing energy sources.
- Ethanol gets closer scrutiny. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, enacted into law with the support of the Bush administration, imposes costly ethanol requirements on America’s gasoline consumers. Since passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act, research has proven ethanol is in many ways worse for air pollution and the environment than gasoline. Consumer advocates, free-marketers, and environmental groups have united in opposition to ethanol, yet the ethanol requirements remain. Not only do they remain, but the Obama administration recently increased the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline. Expect the Trump administration to take a hard look at ethanol and consider rolling back federal ethanol mandates.
- Yucca Mountain finally begins accepting nuclear waste. Nuclear power is currently hampered by strong government headwinds. The Yucca Mountain storage facility for spent nuclear fuel is essentially ready to accept spent fuel but the Obama administration and Obama’s Senate ally Harry Reid have blocked Yucca Mountain from accepting spent fuel. Some states have enacted laws prohibiting the construction of new nuclear power facilities until Yucca Mountain is available to accept spent fuel. Expect the Trump administration to streamline the opening of Yucca Mountain, relieving states and local communities from the burden of storing spent nuclear fuel.
- Next-generation nuclear power surges forward. Nuclear power faces many obstacles in addition to spent fuel issues. Energy economics and excessive government regulation make traditional large nuclear power plants uncompetitive with coal and natural gas power. However, there is substantial promise for small, next-generation nuclear reactors utilizing new technologies. For example, many scientists, economists, and environmentalists see tremendous promise for small molten salt reactors powered by thorium. Any new nuclear technologies, however, must receive government scrutiny and approval. To date, the federal government has been dragging its feet studying and approving new nuclear reactor designs. Expect the Trump administration to prioritize removing government obstacles to new nuclear power designs, which coincidentally would provide more emissions-free power.
- Hydro power reverses its long decline. The Obama administration has presided over the removal of existing hydropower dams despite hydropower providing affordable, emissions-free electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy reports opportunities exist to increase hydropower production by 50 percent in the near future with minimal environmental impact. Expect the Trump administration to reverse federal energy policy that hinders hydropower production. Hydropower could be poised for a major comeback.
- Natural gas exports increase. Natural gas is in high global demand to reduce pollution in an affordable manner. Asia in particular suffers extreme air pollution exacerbated by Chinese coal. In Europe, our friends and allies are overly dependent on Russian natural gas, making them vulnerable to aggressive Russian foreign policy. The Obama administration has blocked the construction of natural gas export terminals that would allow American energy companies to deliver natural gas to countries that need it. Expect the Trump administration to reverse course on this short-sighted policy. More natural gas exports will bring environmental and strategic political relief to countries abroad, while simultaneously providing America economic and strategic political benefits.
What will be the impact of these expected changes in federal energy policy? The answer is more abundant energy, more affordable energy, and environmental policy that addresses true environmental concerns rather than serving as a protection racket for politically favored energy sources.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com.