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Economics Drive ‘Unstoppable’ Clean Energy Transition

Nenad Kajić/Wikimedia Commons
Nenad Kajić/Wikimedia Commons

The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency won’t turn around that country’s transition from the dirtiest forms of fossil energy to renewables and natural gas, the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) asserted in its fourth annual report on America’s energy use.

“Regardless of partisan ideological differences and even the possibility of climate naysayers in prominent federal roles,” the non-profit writes, “our clean energy transition is unstoppable for all the right reasons: lower bills, more jobs, and cleaner air.” The fundamental reason the shift is now “irresistible”, the organization asserts, is that “clean energy now costs less than dirty energy.”

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“Coal-fired generation is at historic lows, and electricity generated from solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources is at historic highs, thanks mostly to potent economic forces integrated with federal, state and local policy,” NRDC states. As recently as 2008, “coal out-produced natural gas, wind, and solar energy combined by a factor of two,” the report states. “However, in 2015 natural gas, wind, and solar together produced 5% more electricity than coal.”

Meanwhile, states that have stuck to fossil energy “are paying for it with both increased electricity bills and higher power plant pollution emissions from fossil fuel-fired electricity generation.”

Efficiency across the U.S. economy has also played a part. “Annual U.S. energy consumption is about the same now as in 2000, despite growth in the economy of 30% over that period,” NRDC reports. Appliance efficiency standards alone saved enough electricity in 2015 to power almost one-third of American homes.