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President Donald Trump’s Climate Policies Can Shift US Jobs to China, say Experts

Experts suggest that Trump's Climate policies will shift US jobs to China

Donald Trump at Press Conference- Image Courtesy- Wikimedia

Environmentalists are reeling when they envisage what impact on climate change President-elect Donald Trump might have.

“A gut punch to the planet” is how environmental group Friends of the Earth described his upset victory.

But despite candidate Trump’s promises to reopen coal mines, pull out of the Paris climate treaty and roll back environmental regulations, there’s only so much the president-elect can do once he begins governing next year.

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Energy markets are shifting away from fossil fuels, according to economists, and the market for renewable energy is growing steadily. So, ironically, for all of Trump’s vows to create new American jobs, if he keeps his promises on environmental issues, he could wind up shipping even more U.S. jobs to China.

Managing the unavoidable

“The election of Donald Trump could be devastating to our climate and our future,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. Trump is the only world leader “to reject the scientific consensus that climate change is real and mankind is the cause,” he added.

Earth’s average temperature has already risen about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. Global warming of 2 degrees Celsius is the point at which at which humankind can “avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable” impacts of climate change, says University of California-Berkeley public policy professor Dan Kammen.

At the current rate of warming, temperatures will hit the 2-degrees-warmer benchmark before 2050.

At a time when aggressive emissions cuts are needed, Trump’s proposals point in the opposite direction.

FILE - Machines dig for brown coal in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in Germany.
Machines dig for brown coal in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in Germany. VOA

FILE – Machines dig for brown coal in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in Germany.

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Cheaper than gas?

In recent years, there has been “an alignment of the climate movement and the marketplace that is unprecedented,” Brune noted.

The United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas. As the price of natural gas has fallen, it has helped push coal out of the power generation market.

“Coal is not coming back,” Brune said.

That’s not just his opinion. The president of the largest electric utility in West Virginia, the nation’s number-two coal producer, agrees.

“You just can’t go with new coal [plants] at this point in time,” Appalachian Power President Charles Patton told the state’s Energy Summit last October, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “It is just not economically feasible to do so.”

But as far as natural gas prices have fallen, the costs of renewable energy have plummeted even further. Wind power is 60 percent cheaper than it was just seven years ago. Large-scale solar is 80 percent cheaper. In many cases, wind and solar power are now cheaper than natural gas.

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Last year, the United States added more power-generating capacity from wind than from any other source. Natural gas was second, followed by solar. The largest share of wind power came from Texas, where members of Congress are vocal opponents of climate-change legislation.

“Texas is a leader in renewable energy even though it hasn’t necessarily been a leader in supporting climate action … because it’s good for the economy,” said World Resources Institute President Andrew Steer.

Power companies around the world are responding to dropping prices for renewables. Dubai recently announced it is building a large-scale solar plant that will produce electricity for less than a new natural gas-fired plant would – in a country that produces natural gas, Kammen notes.

FILE - A photovoltaic solar park situated on the outskirts of the coastal town of Lamberts Bay, South Africa.
A photovoltaic solar park situated on the outskirts of the coastal town of Lamberts Bay, South Africa. VOA

FILE – A photovoltaic solar park situated on the outskirts of the coastal town of Lamberts Bay, South Africa.

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‘Complete folly’

The growth opportunities for American companies and American jobs are in renewables, Kammen says, and if Trump makes rebuilding the coal industry his top priority, that would “fly in the face of economic opportunity.”

“It would be complete folly to do anything but accelerate these plans” to expand the renewable energy industry, he adds.

Energy demand in the industrialized world is only expected to grow 18 percent by 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For the developing world, that figure is 71 percent.

These countries want renewables, Kammen says. And they want American-made renewables.

Kammen is a U.S. State Department science envoy for the Middle East and Africa. He says he has met with more than 20 national delegations at the latest round of climate talks in Morocco. “These are all countries that have clean-energy targets of 50 percent or more by 2030. And they all want to buy U.S.-made technology.”

“If these solar, wind and efficiency (products) are not available from the U.S., they will go elsewhere,” he adds.

Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean companies dominate the solar-panel industry. A Chinese company took over the top of the wind-turbine market last year, pushing out a U.S. company.

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No slackening

The next big opportunity is in energy storage, Kammen says. The U.S. government has made major investments in storage technology research.

“If we shut down our interest here,” he says, “we are going to choose to give those jobs to China.”

While Trump once said on Twitter that China invented the concept of global warming to undermine US manufacturing, “China is taking quite serious action on climate change right now,” says the World Resources Institute’s Andrew Steer. With pollution choking Chinese cities, Beijing “believes it is very much in its own interest to do so. We see no reason or evidence to expect any slackening of that,” even with Trump’s threats to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Furthermore, he adds, “It’s certainly true that China would benefit competitively if the United States falls behind.” (VOA)

Next Story

Mueller Report Confirms Intelligence Findings About Russia’s Interference in 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections

"President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial," Trump said at a joint news conference."President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be."

russia-us, 2020 presidential election
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are seen during the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina Nov. 30, 2018. VOA

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference is providing current and former U.S. intelligence officials with a sense of vindication, affirming many of the conclusions they drew following the 2016 election.

At the same time, however, some suggest the report released on Thursday by the Justice Department should serve as a warning that Moscow’s efforts to degrade and undermine American democracy, already extraordinarily successful, continue unabated.

Specifically, these former intelligence and national security officials warn the evidence in the special counsel report shows Russia was able to find and exploit U.S. citizens who were willing to go along with Moscow’s means, described as “sweeping and systematic,” to achieve their desired results.

“The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome,” the Mueller report said, adding that President Donald Trump’s campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

The January 2017 unclassified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, issued in the aftermath of the presidential election, concluded Russia aimed to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.”

“We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the intelligence agencies wrote at the time, adding, “Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.”

The assessment, though, has been attacked repeatedly by Trump.

FILE - In this May 8, 2017, file photo, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
In this May 8, 2017, file photo, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. VOA

In November 2017, Trump slammed former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Former CIA Director John Brennan as “political hacks,” while deferring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters following a conversation with Putin in Vietnam. “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”

Trump again deferred to Putin following their July 2018 summit in Helsinki.

“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial,” Trump said at a joint news conference.”President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Already, the U.S. has taken action, indicting members of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-based “troll farm” with ties to the Kremlin, as well as charges against 12 Russian military intelligence agents for hacking into Democratic Party computers.

Some former officials worry nonetheless that without a more forceful U.S. response, Russia or other adversaries will seek to get away with such behavior again.

“Those in America who cheered foreign intelligence attacks on our democratic processes, particularly for their own gain, should pay a price,” Larry Pfeiffer, a 32-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community who served as chief of staff to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, told VOA.

But if they do, it will not be in a U.S. court of law. The Mueller report concluded despite numerous contacts between Russians and members of the Trump campaign, and evidence that campaign members “deleted relevant communications,” the evidence, “was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government.”

As frustrating as that may be for some former officials, experts like Frederic Lemieux, a professor of applied intelligence at Georgetown University, warn it was to be expected.

“The report is a traditional criminal investigation,” Lemieux said. “We’re certainly not seeing the counterintelligence investigation.”

“I am mostly certain that there are several intercepts that exist that have been made on Russian targets and those Russian targets were talking about Trump and his associates,” he said. “You don’t see anything what they were reporting back to Russia when we know those individuals are important enough to be under surveillance 24-7.”

Hints of that type of information, which could reveal sources or methods, or harm ongoing intelligence operations, may be contained in parts of the report that have been redacted. But Lemieux said it is just as likely they were not included at all, as many counterintelligence investigations rarely produce the type of “damning evidence” needed for a criminal conviction.

“It’s probably there [in the counterintelligence investigation] that maybe not collusion but maybe a sense of being compromised might emerge,” he said.

Other factors, as well, have complicated U.S. efforts to hold individuals accountable for working with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election. Among them, according to intelligence officials, has been the quality of the Kremlin’s spycraft, which left many Americans in the dark.

“Some IRA employees, posing as US persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the Mueller report said. “The investigation did not identify evidence that any US persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.”

U.S. media outlets and numerous “high-profile” individuals were also taken in by the IRA.

t other times, Russia seemed to proactively play-off of the Trump campaign, such as in July 2017 when then-candidate Trump said he sarcastically challenged Russia to find tens of thousands of missing emails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes remarks at a Pennsylvania Democrats Pittsburgh Organizing Event at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Nov. 4, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes remarks at a Pennsylvania Democrats Pittsburgh Organizing Event at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Nov. 4, 2016. VOA

“Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office,” the Mueller report said.

Despite such findings, some former officials say the Mueller report shows the U.S. intelligence community is not blameless.

“One of the lessons should be, we were pretty sloppy with our counterintelligence and our ability to counter stuff that was going on over the internet,” said Steve Bucci, an assistant to former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy research group in Washington.

“We need to be more sophisticated about that aspect of it, at least more cognizant of it, and at least gin up our counterintelligence efforts a little bit around people that are involved in campaigns to make sure they don’t get caught up in this sort of thing and, regardless of their intent, that they don’t get tricked into doing stuff that’s counter to the general interests of the United States of America as far as us having fair and free elections,” he said.

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That opportunity likely will be coming.

Intelligence and Homeland Security officials have warned that Russia tried to meddle again in the recent 2018 midterm elections, with at least one Russian national connected to the IRA charged as a result.

And some analysts suggest Moscow is saving its best and newest tricks for the next U.S. presidential election in 2020.

Large swaths of redacted information in the Mueller report’s accounts of Russia’s IRAand “Project Lakhta,” would seem to back that up. (VOA)