US renewable energy booms despite Trump vow to quit Paris deal

The GE-Alstom Block Island Wind Farm stands off Block Island, Rhode Island, on September 22, 2016

Renewable energy continues to grow in the United States, despite US President Donald Trump’s moves to dismantle clean power, deregulate industry and promote fossil fuels like coal, experts say.

Five months after Trump declared the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the Republican leader continues to unravel the environmental legacy of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

A signature piece of Trump’s strategy has been to roll back regulations, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut US emissions from power plants for the first time.

“They are trying to put their fingers on the scale in favor of coal and other polluting fossil fuels, and trying to do things to slow down the penetration of clean, , so that is the landscape,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But many state and city governments have pressed on with their fight against climate change, and the job force of those working in renewable energies continues to expand nationwide.

“The trend is very clear,” added Meyer.

“To fight Trump, the investment and deployment of renewable  and energy efficiency have continued growing.”

Employment in the solar industry grew 24.5 percent in 2016 compared to a year earlier, reaching a workforce of nearly 374,000 people, according to an Energy Department report.

Traditional  employed just 187,000 people, it said.

Employment in US  rose 32 percent to nearly 102,000 people.

“The renewable energy industry is already working here,” said Frank Maisano, senior principal at Bracewell, a law and government relations firm serving the energy industry.

“Jobs are growing dramatically in both wind and solar.”

With or without Trump

Solar and wind energy combined now produce 10 percent of the total electricity in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

In March, eight percent of the nation’s electricity came from wind and two percent from solar.

In  like California, renewables made up an even larger proportion of electricity production.

Climate science expert Michael Mann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said it is possible that the United States will reach its commitment to cut emissions under the Paris accord regardless of what Trump says or does.

“There is enough progress now at the local and state level, commitment from major companies, movement toward  etc. that most pundits now think we’ll reach our Paris targets with or without Trump’s explicit complicity,” Mann said in an email to AFP.

Elliot Diringer, an expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-governmental organization in Washington, agreed.

“We recently looked at the different analyses and it looks to us like even with the situation at the moment our emissions in 2025 are likely to be 14 to 18 percent below 2005,” Diringer said.

Another America

Obama’s goal had been to get to a 26 to 28 percent cut, added Diringer.

“There are a lot of opportunities to go further,” he said, citing city and state level actions.

“We can achieve that reduction without the federal policies.”

A movement called “We Are Still In” was launched in June, shortly after the announcement that the US would pull out of the 190-nation Paris deal.

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