The President’s Climate Change Executive Order: Wrong Pretense

The President announced on Tuesday, March 28th at the Environmental Protection Agency his new Executive Order based on protecting 75,000 US coal jobs by threatening over 3 million US clean energy jobs.

According to MorningConsult:

The order directs officials to review the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on new and existing power plants, withdraw the Obama administration’s “social cost of carbon,” which puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions, end a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land, review regulations on methane emissions from natural gas systems, end a guidance for agencies to consider climate change, and end Bureau of Land Management restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. Full text of the order can be found here.

A December 2016 Brookings Institute report concludes that the ongoing large-scale switch in the electric power sector from coal to cheaper and more abundant natural gas and renewables is driven more by investors and market forces than by environmental regulations. In 2015, 94 coal-fired power plants closed, with the combined net summer capacity of 13,556 megawatts, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.  And another 41 coal plants closed in 2016. The EIA shows that the median-aged coal plant in the United States was built in 1972 and that 91 percent of coal plants were built in the 1980s or earlier.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in its job study reported that renewable energy employment alone (excluding efficiency) grew by nearly 18 percent between Q2 2015 and Q1 2016. And USDOE concludes that 3,384,834 Americans were directly employed by the clean energy industry (which includes the energy efficiency, smart grid, and energy storage industries; electric power generation from the entire portfolio of renewable energy; renewable fuels production; and the electric, hybrid, and hydrogen-based vehicle industries) in Q1 2016. Among the leading U.S. employment sectors were energy-efficient appliances, buildings, solar, wind, and bioenergy.

DOE estimated that 2,989,844 Americans were directly employed by the fossil fuel industry (which includes fuels and electric power generation from coal, natural gas, and petroleum; and the manufacturing of gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles and their component parts) in Q1 2016. More specifically, natural gas and advanced gas technologies provided 398,235 jobs, coal provided 160,119, and petroleum provided 515,518, while gas and diesel vehicles supported 1,915,972 jobs.

The USEER January 13, 2017 report found that the energy efficiency industry directly employed nearly 2,200,000 Americans in its green appliance and green building subsectors. USEER further states that the energy efficiency sector predicts a job growth rate of 9 to 11 percent for 2017.

According to the Solar Foundation’s solar job census, as of November 2016, the solar industry employed 260,077 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 24.5 percent since November 2015. Meanwhile, U.S. businesses added just over 2.07 million jobs at an annual growth rate of 1.45 percent. Over the next 12 months, surveyed employers expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 10 percent —10 times faster than the overall economy is expected to grow—to approximately 286,000 solar workers. On March 28th , The Solar Foundation released it’s state data on the number of solar jobs in every state, metropolitan area, county, and congressional district, revealing the impact of the nation’s historic solar jobs boom down to the local level. This data can be found on an interactive Solar Jobs Map available at


This executive order is as silly as stalling cellular communications transition in order to save jobs manufacturing rotary and push button telephones. The President’s compulsion that he can stall technology and market transitions is fantasy, not matter how much he wants to slow this transition. Global markets are moving faster.

On January 5, 2017, Reuters reported that China’s National Energy Administration will plow 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion US) into renewable power generation by 2020, as the world’s largest energy market continues to shift away from dirty coal power towards cleaner fuels. The investment will create over 13 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said in a blueprint document that lays out its plan to develop the nation’s energy sector during the five-year 2016 to 2020 period.

Trump’s executive order should be no surprise as other outlets have reported that nearly one-third of the Trump team has ties to the Koch brothers and Koch Industries, the very same players that have paid front groups to fight state renewable energy portfolio standards and solar net metering.

What the U.S. Congress has to decide is whether it wants to prop up the U.S. coal industry, which is on the decline centered in four states, or the efficiency and renewable energy industries that are on a dramatic increase in all 50 States, and where global markets will continue to rise, and whether the U.S. will become a major player in seizing them.

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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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