May 21, 2019
As originally published in The Hill
President Trump has overdelivered on his promise to produce a robust U.S. economy. With historic GDP increases, wage growth rates surpassing 10-year highs, and the lowest unemployment rates since 1969, the U.S. economy is thriving.
The strength of the economy will and should be Trump’s lead argument for reelection in 2020 but the political risk here is that there is little room for these economic figures to go anywhere but down heading into 2020. For that reason, Trump will be hunting for new opportunities to bolster this economic message. There are a few areas of low-hanging fruit that his political team is almost certainly zeroing in on.
U.S. renewable energy development and infrastructure investment is skyrocketing. For a president so focused on the economy and “America First” principles, it is ironic that Trump has not embraced one of the fastest growing domestic industry sectors in the country. Last year, advanced energy sources accounted for 40 percent of U.S. electricity capacity additions, which translated into $64 billion of investment in U.S. renewable energy infrastructure.
Trump’s trepidation over renewable energy development made complete sense 10 years ago. In fact, until recently wind and solar energy was inefficient and expensive and fiscal conservatives rightfully balked at government over-subsidizing these alternative energy sources.
Today, the economic realities of U.S. renewable energy development are markedly different, and conservatives are beginning to embrace renewable energy development based on cost structure alone. In 2019, levelized costs analysis show that wind and solar are market competitive to existing traditional fossil fuel sources and, in most cases, renewables provide the lowest cost option for new generation.
The tipping point may very well have arrived just last month when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that for the first time in history, renewables (hydro, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal), generated more electricity for the month than coal-fired resources. The long-term forecast for the renewable energy economy is even more bullish with EIA forecasting that renewables will make up 31 percent of U.S. electricity generation by 2050.
The political argument for Trump to shift his position and embrace this modern economic driver is compelling. Renewable energy expansion is a rare issue today that is overwhelmingly popular amongst Republicans, Democrats and independents. Nationwide, 95 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans support increased production of renewable energy sources.
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Jon Anderson is a founder of The Western Way, a non-profit organizations focused on free-market solutions to U.S. environmental challenges.
Heather Reams is the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a non-profit dedicated to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.