Solving America’s energy problems, like reducing dependence on foreign oil and moving the country to a lower-carbon economy, will be a major election issue and a top priority for the next president.
Hillary Clinton’s energy plan is thoughtful and detailed, to the level of addressing funding sources. Her campaign has placed a priority on investing in and incentivizing renewable-energy technology to help create jobs and transition the US to a lower-carbon economy.
She mentioned boosting domestic solar power production — which is an increasingly profitable market — as a priority for her campaign, in the first debate in September.
Here’s where Clinton stands.
Clean technology — solar, wind, and hydroelectric — is a rapidly growing sector of the US economy.
Clinton’s campaign has the stated goal of generating half of the US’s electricity from renewable resources by the end of her first term. Her campaign has specific strategies for accomplishing this, including launching a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with local municipalities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean-energy technology to lower-income families.
Clinton also wants to cut oil and gas subsidies and invest in clean-energy research, specifically installing a half-billion solar panels by the end of her first term, according to Science Debate.
Oil drilling is an efficient yet highly destructive and invasive process for obtaining fossil fuel.
In March, the Obama administration announced that it would not open new oil reserves near the southeastern Atlantic coast for drilling. Obama, however, did free up three massive reserves on sensitive habitat in Alaska earlier this year, though environmental activists say the land should never be drilled.
Clinton opposes Arctic drilling and has expressed scepticism for oil production off the southeastern Atlantic coast, according to CFR.
Some experts say that closing the southeastern Atlantic to oil drilling is a smart move.
Installing wind power off of the southeastern Atlantic coast could produce more jobs and more energy over the next two decades than drilling for oil, according to a study from Oceana, a conservation-focused environmental nonprofit.
Lee White pumps water from a natural gas well platform owned by Encana south of Parachute, Colorado, December 8, 2014.
Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’
Fracking is a method of injecting liquid deep into the earth’s crust to release previously inaccessible natural-gas reserves. Fracking has helped the US significantly increase domestic fuel production, and it’s a popular method anywhere there’s shale, like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.
Fracking has also come under intense scrutiny for its environmental impact. It has been shown to contaminate groundwater — used for drinking — in Wyoming, and there have been multiple reports all over the US of similar issues. Wastewater disposal from fracking, which is injected deep into the ground, has also been linked to earthquakes in Texas.
Clinton’s campaign has expressed that domestically produced natural gas can play an “important role in the transition to a clean energy economy.” Her campaign also said that they will focus on creating new standards and safeguards to make fracking safer and less environmentally destructive.
Keystone XL pipeline
The Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed $8 billion oil pipeline that would bring crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas, reports The New York Times. It was the subject of massive protests over the past few years and was ultimately vetoed by the Obama Administration.
Most of the oil produced in Alberta’s oil sands — a process with notorious environmental repercussions — is bought by American companies.
The Clinton campaign opposes construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying that the project, “distracts from U.S. efforts to combat climate change,” according to CFR. Clinton echoed Obama’s comments regarding the pipeline, when he said in a 2015 statement that the pipeline “has occupied what I, frankly, consider an over-inflated role in our political discourse.”
The pipeline, according to Obama, would not lower gas prices for American consumers, nor would it make any “meaningful, long-term contributions,” to the US economy. The Obama Administration rejected Trans Canada’s application last year.
Clinton has remained silent on the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been the subject of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on the border of North and South Dakota in recent weeks. The pipeline could pose a threat to the local environment and water resources.
Coal is one the cheapest and most polluting fuel sources. Coal production has fallen over the past decade, and it’s critical to the economies of many Appalachian and Rust belt states.
Coal power is the US’s top source of carbon dioxide — a primary cause of global warming — in the air, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy organisation.
Clinton’s campaign announced a $30 billion initiative to invest in the “economic diversification” of former coal-mining towns. Clinton’s plan, while supporting long-term healthcare for retired coal miners, will also focus on redeveloping former coal-mine sites for different uses. She’ll finance her plan using “unappropriated” resources from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.
Steam and other emissions are seen coming from a power station.
Reducing harmful emissions from power generation is one of the key tenets of the Paris climate accords, an international agreement ratified by over 60 countries.
Clinton’s campaign called for reducing gas emissions based on the terms set by the Paris agreement by up to 30% by 2025, relative to 2005 levels, and to “put the country on a path” to cutting emissions more than 80% by 2050.
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