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Presidential Candidates and Climate Change: What Energy Pros Can Expect

If New York is a precursor of things to come, then it may be that Democrat Hillary Clinton will be competing against Republican Donald Trump for the office of US presidency. Lots of differences between the two but one of the starkest is that of climate change and whether human-kind has a hand in it.

In the past, the candidates have largely staked out positions based on their parties’ positions and on whom the major contributors have been. As such, the major oil, natural gas and coal companies are big givers to Republicans while the greener and newer energy technologies often give to the Democrats. Still there’s hard and fast rule on that — just a general tendency.

Case in point: In 2014, groups that track such things found three oil-related interests that include Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation, had given $7.3 million, $6.8 million and $3.9 million, respectively.

Meantime, OpenSecrets.org found that in 2014 that coal operators Alliance Resource Partners ( $1,684,850), Alpha Natural Resources ($365,325), Murray Energy ( $332,608), Arch Coal ($304,300) and Peabody Energy ($245,400).

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made her position perfectly clear on a number of occasions, including during her victory speech last night. She says that the burning of fossil fuels is a contributor to global warming and she has espoused investments in clean energy as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

Natural gas, she adds, is a bridge fuel until green energy can take its rightful place in the country’s electricity mix. Unlike Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who says that nothing good can come of fracking and natural gas, Clinton has said that the fuel is necessary to displace coal’s position in the market. Secretary Clinton would also provide $30 billion to coal country to help it revitalize and retrain workers.

Trump is more difficult to pin down. He has said that he is not a “big believer” in climate and he has said criticized publicly financed investments in wind and solar energy. Such amorphous positions, though, will presumably need to be better shaped before the general election.

Trump could also argue that he is self-financed and not dependent on the monies provided the major fossil fuel interests. However, his self-funding promise only extends through the primaries. Moreover, if Trump is to win over such interests — and the constituencies — they bring along, he would need to get firmly on board.

Otherwise, Mrs. Clinton is a true believer — although not to the extent of Bernie Sanders — and she will win over those who want to country move quickly to cleaner fuels.

“The public is demanding action,” says former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, in an interview, referring to those outside the coal regions. “I’d rather see us bring new technologies to those coal states — the kinds that will be built around new energies. The states can start training people and the affected workers can find new jobs.”


Ken Silverstein is editor-in-chief of Business Sector Media, publisher of Environmental Leader and Energy Manager Today.

*Don’t miss our Environmental Leader 2016 Conference  in June. 


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