Coal would last ‘a thousand years’ in Trump’s US

With polling day just one month away, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton offered two very different glimpses into the future of US energy policy.

The second presidential debate took place on Sunday night (9 October) at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and was largely centred around the “locker room talk” of sexual assault. But when the debate was finally opened up to the audience, both candidates were asked to outline how new energy polices would allow the nation to meet demand in line with a new global scope on tackling climate change.

Democratic candidate Clinton repeated her desire to turn the US into a “21st century renewable energy superpower”, noting that natural gas could act as a “bridge” to alternative fuels such as solar and wind.

Republican candidate Trump also revealed his admiration for “alternative fuels”, but claimed that the US needed to look beyond renewables. Trump went on to suggest that “coal will last for 1,000 years in this country”.

While the views of the two candidates differ wildly in regards to energy and climate action, a recent report has suggested that regardless of which candidate wins the election, the country is likely to miss its 2025 emissions reduction pledge.

During COP21, the US pledged to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025 against a 2005 baseline. But a study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which uses updated emissions data, suggests that the US would be left with an emissions gap between 550m to 1.8bn tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Washington’s wish

With a month to go until the November ballot is released, a swathe of last-minute initiatives have emerged to place the climate agenda at the forefront of the ballot. Not only has US firm Patagonia launched a new campaign calling on voters to elect sustainability-conscious candidates, but now the state of Washington has made moves to introduce the nation’s first carbon tax.

An option on the November ballot would call on voters to consider imposing a direct carbon tax in the state. The option would encourage businesses to switch to cleaner energy sources, while any revenues from the carbon tax would reduce economic burdens across other policies.

The initiative has been met with some resistance from businesses, and surprisingly some organisations including the Sierra Club, which fear that the tax will put companies in the area at a competitive disadvantage.

If approved, the Washington carbon tax would be introduced in July at $15 per tonne of carbon, before rising to $25 per tonne the year after with scheduled incremental increases to follow.

The appeal of a carbon price isn’t just gaining traction in Washington. Already, 26 governments are part of the Carbon Price Leadership Coalition and 12% of global emissions are currently covered by pricing mechanisms. The new goal is to eventually cover 50% of the world’s carbon emissions with pricing systems by 2050.

While nations such France are already using a carbon price, the call for a global implementation of the tax is gathering pace – as the likes of Exxon and actor Jack Black highlight the potential benefits.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie