Clinton vs. Trump: Moving the Energy Transition Forwards or Backwards?

The election is fast approaching in the United States. On November 8, Americans will choose President Obama’s successor. The opponents this time are democrat Hillary Clinton and republican Donald Trump. As in many other areas, the candidates disagree on a whole host of energy and climate policy issues. And any political action taken in these areas will have global impact. The rest of the world will feel the effects of whether the USA opts for a future with renewable, carbon-free energy or coal power and fracking.

Renewables in the USA - what will happen after the election, Picture: PantherMedia
Renewables in the USA – what will happen after the election, Picture: PantherMedia

Renewable Energy

Hillary Clinton would like to continue Obama’s plans for renewable energies and has green goals that are even more ambitious: turning the USA into a clean-energy superpower with investments in solar, wind, and hydroelectric power and geothermal heat. One way Clinton wants to do this is by installing half a billion photovoltaic systems on 25 million roofs throughout the country by the end of her first term – that’s just four years. That would mean increasing capacity by nearly six times by 2020, from the current 25 gigawatts to 140 gigawatts. Her aims also include an overall energy supply comprising one third renewable sources by 2025.
Her competitor in the race for the White House, Donald Trump, has traditionally had supporters in the coal and oil industry, and the goals he pursues reflects this. Trump doesn’t see any economic value in solar and wind power at this time and is of the opinion that solar power has not yet fully established itself because solar panels have an amortization period of 32 years. These statements suggest that Trump doesn’t have any intention of expanding renewable energies.

Coal and Oil

Hillary Clinton talks about an end to fossil fuels. But environmental organizations in the USA aren’t entirely convinced she means it. After all, Clinton has also accepted donations from the oil and gas industries.
As president, Trump will continue to promote coal and other environmentally harmful energies, giving them increased prominence rather than phasing them out. As far as he’s concerned, too many jobs are dependent on the industry to consign it to the scrap heap by subjecting it to (environmental) regulations. Trump also wants to resume construction on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.


When it comes to fracking, the two candidates are on the same page: They want to continue pursuing this disputed practice of mining.

Climate Protection

The candidates for the White House have different opinions whether climate change exists or not, Picture: PantherMedia
The candidates for the White House have different opinions whether climate change exists or not, Picture: PantherMedia

As regards climate protection and reducing greenhouse gases, Hillary pursues ambitious aims similar to those in Germany: reducing emissions by at least 80 percent compared to the 2005 values by 2050, primarily through the expansion of renewable energies. Clinton also plans to create a climate map room in the White House, which will illustrate the effects of global warming.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that humans are responsible for climate change. He’s looking to reverse Obama’s Clean Power Plan, among other things, and, at one of the election events, even announced his plans to leave the Paris Agreement.
This overview is by no means complete, though it does provide good insight into the energy policy plans of the two candidates. And, for the good of the climate and for an energy supply generated entirely from renewables, it reveals who should be the next president of the United States: the candidate who understands the importance of protecting our environment.

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