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The Republican National Convention: No Love for Solar

Despite strong solar numbers, at the RNC it was all about oil.

“Thank God we found this abundance of American energy (through horizontal drilling). No longer will America’s energy-intense manufacturing jobs be shipped overseas to our foreign competitors. No longer will liberal elites be allowed to impose their self-serving agenda and raise the price of energy at the expense of American consumers. Hillary Clinton, for example, wants to eliminate fossil-fuel development in America, which would drive up energy prices for consumers. No longer will America be forced to fund terrorism through the purchase of Middle East oil. Donald Trump understands that oil is the most strategic geopolitical weapon in the world. Embracing this new energy era means saving American lives and making America safe again.”

–Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, fracking pioneer and informal energy advisor to the Trump campaign.

It’s no surprise that Harold Hamm isn’t what you’d call a “greenie.” He has spent his entire life rising through the ranks of the oil industry, from wildcatter to full-fledged, old school oil tycoon.  And it is no accident that he was chosen to talk energy policy on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of discussion about visionary energy policy at the 2016 RNC. Mr. Hamm, speaking in a non-primetime spot, receive polite applause, but didn’t exactly fire up the audience.

As for Mr. Trump’s Thursday night acceptance speech, he barely made mention of America’s energy future…and when he did, it was brief and unfortunately, inaccurate.

“We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job-creating economic activity over the next four decades.”

Trump has used this figure in previous speeches. The source for this $20 trillion figure is a report by the Institute for Energy Research, a Koch brothers front group, which the New York Times has previously debunked. Trump has also stated that; “We will make so much money with energy that we will start to pay down our $19 trillion debt,” he claimed. “We’ll use the revenue from energy for roads, schools, bridges and infrastructure.” Again, the Times points out that the government receives energy dollar through oil and coal leases on government lands, and there simply aren’t enough resources available to make this promise a reality.  The Times article point quotes Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, who pointed to Environmental Protection Agency regulations to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, which require automakers to build vehicles that travel farther on less gasoline.

“The oil supply side will take care of itself, through the market,” Mr. Kloza said. “The demand side is where progress can be made through policy. The best thing a president could do, given the market, would be to lower oil demand.” He added, “I doubt if Trump understands that.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has been almost completely silent on the jobs potential of the solar industry. The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census  shows the solar industry’s growth is creating thousands of new, highly skilled jobs throughout the country.  As of November 2014, the solar industry employs 173,807 workers, representing a growth rate of nearly 22% over the previous year.

Key findings from the census include:

  1. Solar employment has grown by 86% in the past five years alone.

  2. One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. over the past 12 months was created by the solar industry.

  3. The solar industry is adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy.

Meanwhile, due to slumping oil prices, A total of 351,410 jobs have been slashed by oil and gas production companies worldwide, with the oilfield services sector bearing much of this burden, according to statistical analysis by Houston-based Graves & Co.The exploration and production (E&P) sector was the second worst sufferer, registering more than 80,000 layoffs, followed by the drilling sector, which has seen more than 52,000 job cuts. Increasing domestic oil production at this point can only raise supply. According to the basic rules of supply and demand, which we can assume Mr. Trump understands, that will mean lower prices.  Where Mr. Trump sees job growth in the oil and gas industry remains a mystery to energy analysts.

Despite the meteoric growth in the solar industry and the rapidly falling installed price of solar projects, Mr. Trump continues to insist that Solar has a “30 year payback.” As long as he continues to repeat this disinformation, it’s impossible to see how a Trump presidency could be anything but bad news for the solar business.


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