Eco­nomic op­ti­mism bal­ances with­drawal

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND BEN WOLFGANG

Green groups blasted Pres­i­dent Trump for with­draw­ing from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment Thurs­day, but pre­dicted the U.S. econ­omy and much of the rest of the world are al­ready locked into a lower-emis­sion model, even with­out the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment.

That op­ti­mism seemed to tem­per some of the more dire warn­ings about Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw.

Elon Musk, a high-pro­file tech en­tre­pre­neur, an­nounced he was quit­ting sev­eral of Mr. Trump’s pres­i­den­tial coun­cils in re­tal­i­a­tion for the de­ci­sion, say­ing on Twit­ter that leav­ing Paris “is not good for Amer­ica or the world.”

But he also pointed to news that In­dia has al­ready com­mit­ted to sell only elec­tric cars by 2030, and is “al­ready the largest mar­ket for so­lar power.”

In the U.S., the wind and so­lar in­dus­tries are al­ready cre­at­ing jobs at 12 times the rate of the rest of the econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to a re­port ear­lier this year by the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund.

Over­all, clean-pow­ered ve­hi­cles ac­count for 174,000 jobs, re­new­able en­ergy another 769,000, and 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple are em­ployed in ad­vanc­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, the EDF said, cred­it­ing busi­nesses, phi­lan­thropists and non­profit foun­da­tions for the

rapid growth.

The shift from coal to gas-fired power plants has also helped the U.S. cut green­house gas emis­sions, which peaked near the end of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion at above 7 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon, and dropped to about 6.5 mil­lion met­ric tons by 2015.

Con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing an­a­lysts said none of that dis­ap­pears, re­gard­less of Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sions.

“Be­cause of our pri­vate in­vest­ments in tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, Amer­ica leads the world in re­duc­ing car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from power plants. We did that with­out Paris, and we will con­tinue our ex­em­plary lead­er­ship with­out it,” said Pa­trick J. Michaels, a cli­mate ex­pert at the Cato In­sti­tute.

Tech in­dus­try lead­ers were par­tic­u­larly torn, see­ing both half-empty and half-full glasses on the ta­ble.

David Hart, a se­nior fel­low at the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy & In­no­va­tion Foun­da­tion, called with­drawal an “ab­di­ca­tion of global lead­er­ship” and said he feared it would prompt other na­tions to squir­rel out of their com­mit­ments.

“But leav­ing Paris doesn’t mean that all hope is lost,” he said. “If the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress fo­cus on in­no­va­tion, the United States can still be a global leader — both in the fight against cli­mate change and in the bur­geon­ing mar­ket for clean en­ergy.”

He said public-pri­vate part­ner­ships and up­grad­ing the U.S. en­ergy grid are start­ing points.

Con­gres­sional Democrats fret­ted that the lack of gov­ern­ment pres­sure would stunt the U.S., and said other coun­tries may re­tal­i­ate against Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion by shut­ting Amer­i­cans out of their clean en­ergy mar­kets.

Yet Demo­cratic gov­er­nors vowed to keep their states pointed to­ward a green fu­ture, and Fred Krupp, pres­i­dent of the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund, said he ex­pected a back­lash to Mr. Trump’s de­ci­sion, and said that back­lash will so­lid­ify the green econ­omy.

“As these women and men stand up for their chil­dren and adopt clean en­ergy in their own lives, they will join the myr­iad cities, states, com­pa­nies and na­tions around the world who are lead­ing the way to a cleaner, health­ier fu­ture even as the pres­i­dent tries to go back­ward,” he said.

Per­haps the big­gest cham­pion of the no­tion that the U.S. econ­omy is locked into a clean en­ergy boom is former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

De­spite lash­ing Mr. Trump on Thurs­day for join­ing “a small hand­ful of na­tions that re­ject the fu­ture,” Mr. Obama in­sisted the gains he made dur­ing his ten­ure will con­tinue re­gard­less of his suc­ces­sor.

“Sim­ply put, the pri­vate sec­tor al­ready chose a low-car­bon fu­ture,” he said. “And for the na­tions that com­mit­ted them­selves to that fu­ture, the Paris Agree­ment opened the flood­gates for busi­nesses, sci­en­tists and engi­neers to un­leash high-tech, low­car­bon in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion on an un­prece­dented scale.”

Michael McKenna, an en­ergy strate­gist, said green groups have tried to have their ar­gu­ment both ways for months, say­ing that with­drawal from Paris would be a dis­as­ter of epic pro­por­tions while also pre­dict­ing the con­tin­ued pres­sure from com­pa­nies and the public would spur low-emis­sion de­vel­op­ments no mat­ter what Mr. Trump de­cided.

“They ar­gue both, be­cause they count on no­body ask­ing any ques­tions,” he said.

But Mr. McKenna said the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists were wrong on both counts. He said Mr. Trump’s an­nounce­ment isn’t a catas­tro­phe, but he also dis­puted the health of low-emis­sion eco­nomics, say­ing the drop in emis­sions over the last decade had more to do with a stag­nant Amer­i­can econ­omy.

“In places where you have no eco­nomic growth, car­bon emis­sions have been go­ing down,” he said, adding that’s not true in In­dia and China, where growth is still heav­ily car­bon-fu­eled.

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