On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at promoting energy independence and economic growth. At its core, the order targets “regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth and prevent job creation.”
Media coverage of the order focused on the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan and its alleged impact on the U.S. coal industry and coal jobs. It’s hard not to take this view when President Trump, surrounded by coal miners at the signing of the order, said that he made a promise to coal miners that “we will put our miners back to work.”
Most experts agree the order will not achieve Trump’s stated promise of bringing back coal jobs, including Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the country. Murray told Fox Business, “You can’t bring the coal industry back to where it was.” Bloomberg also interviewed him on his outlook for the industry, and when asked about job growth after the order, he admitted that he has “no immediate plans to re-open mines or hire miners after the order is signed.”
Other parts of the order are aimed at repealing “job-killing” restrictions on oil and gas production, including easing limits on fracking on federal lands and methane emissions. As noted by Platts, these “rules were already being undone through court cases and by actions still moving through Congress. Obama-era regulations were always seen as having a marginal impact on oil and gas production, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in supply, which occurred during Obama’s second White House term.”
With nearly 50,000 utility-scale wind turbines producing power for over 20 million homes across the U.S., wind energy has become the fastest-growing form of clean energy in the country, and the Department of Energy (DOE) predicts wind power capacity will rise to nearly 160 GW by 2030. Wind power and other renewables have been firmly established as the future of American energy, and momentum in the industry shows few signs of waning.
According to The Wall Street Journal, several major utilities across the country have pledged to “continue long-term investments to generate more power from gas, wind and solar” in spite of the recent regulatory efforts designed to revitalize coal.
The latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance report from The Business Council for Sustainable Energy found that power from renewables now comprises almost a quarter of all energy generation in the U.S. The U.S. saw a 12% increase in renewable power generation from 2015 to 2016, and the International Energy Agency expects worldwide growth to increase, as well, even raising its previous growth forecasts this past October.
The strength of the renewables industry has rewarded U.S. customers, who saw their electric bills drop almost 4% in the last five years, while the growth of renewables has also proved extremely beneficial for ongoing innovation in the field; market forces will continue to advance cleaner energy supply and efficiency technologies.
The growth of the renewables industry is also good news for our economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing job in the U.S. is wind technician, on track to grow by 108% over the next decade. And, according to a DOE report, a total of more than 100,000 American workers now manufacture, construct and maintain the U.S. wind turbine fleet. The expansion of American wind power is poised to create 248,000 new jobs and generate $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years, according to the American Wind Energy Association, citing a new report from Navigant Consulting.
With members of the coal industry skeptical about an uptick in coal-related jobs and no anticipated incremental increase in oil and gas production, the free market will be the real driver behind energy independence, with renewable energy continuing to serve as the engine for new energy production, economic growth and job creation.
David Halligan is CEO at Goldwind Americas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.