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Clinton vs. Trump: How Will Next President Affect Energy Sector, Carbon Emissions?

white-houseChina isn’t the only one calling out presidential candidate Donald Trump for his climate policies.

US carbon emissions would be 16 percent higher — or 3.4 billion tons more — after two terms of a Trump presidency than they would after two terms of Hillary Clinton, according to Lux Research, which also forecast what the candidates’ planned policies would mean for the energy sector.

Analyst Yuan-Sheng Yu makes it clear that Lux Research is not endorsing any candidate in the presidential race, but says the firm’s research shows “that energy policy and the resulting emissions will go in very different directions under Clinton and Trump.”

Clinton’s plans would keep the US emissions on their current downward trajectory, while Trump’s would send them rising again, the research says.

Clinton has set forth an ambitious goal of deploying enough solar capacity to power every home in the US and would use natural gas as a “bridge” in a transition from fossil fuels to renewables. On the other hand, Trump’s vision includes greater production of fossil fuels and criticizes incentives for renewables.

Additionally, Trump has repeatedly vowed to kill the Clean Power Plan and withdraw from the Paris Agreement while Clinton endorsed the global climate deal and intends to follow President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing emissions by 30 percent by 2025.

Lux Research analysts evaluated Clinton’s and Trump’s proposed plans and their likely impact on adoption of various energy sources and technologies. Of course there is still uncertainty about the specifics of each candidate’s policies and how successful they would be in implementing them, but here are Lux Research’s high-level estimates:

  • Coal will continue to play second fiddle to natural gas. Despite Trump’s rallying cry for the coal industry, his plan to lift regulations on gas extraction will only make coal’s comeback even more difficult as fracking expands, keeping down gas prices and disadvantaging coal. Clinton staying the course on the Clean Power Plan would also help to continue coal’s slide.
  • Renewables will spur storage and an entirely new utility value chain. Renewable energy capacity has quickly grown in the US but Clinton’s ambitious target will likely promote a shift from utility-scale to commercial- and residential-scale generation. A new distributed generation value chain is emerging, including energy storage and distributed energy resource management systems to manage renewable intermittency.
  • The oil and gas industry will continue to innovate under either administration. Trump’s plan to open drilling in the Artic is unlikely to result in a surge of Artic drilling due to the capital intensity and complexity of those projects. The largest difference between administrations would be in onshore regulations, where under Clinton, new pipeline mandates and restored water regulations would drastically affect both operators and service companies. Regardless, the industry will still push to reduce emissions in order to maintain competitive operating margins in global markets.
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