Trump should back renewable energy, it's fiscally responsible

Trump should back renewable energy, it's fiscally responsible
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE 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.

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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.

Drill down one step further on the political level and embracing U.S. renewable energy development becomes a Machiavellian play for candidate Trump in 2020. Rural and suburban counties across the country were responsible for electing Trump in 2018 and the vast majority of wind and solar energy projects just so happen to be located in these same U.S. counties.

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In fact, 99 percent of operating wind capacity is found in rural counites. This energy boom is injecting investment and jobs into areas of rural America that are otherwise struggling with shrinking economic opportunities. To date, $100 billion of private investment from wind energy has landed in lower income rural counties where over 70 percent of U.S. wind turbines have been built.

Many farmers view wind energy as a new cash crop with lease payments helping make up for the severe challenges facing U.S. farms right now. In fact, these lease payments for wind turbines across rural America now amount to $250 million last year and are expected to hit $900 million by 2030.

Trump was correct to take a cautious approach on renewable energy development as it grew and evolved into a market competitive energy source. But today, and leading up to 2020, Trump should reassess this position and recognize that market-competitive U.S. renewable energy development is a booming sector that is contributing to a resurgence of U.S. manufacturing, increasing U.S. job growth, and significantly contributing to U.S. energy dominance. Renewable energy development belongs under the tent of Trump’s “America First” success stories.

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, a non-profit dedicated to advancing Republican solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic and environmen