Guest Commentary

Debating Trump’s energy policy: The Clean Power Plan is a good deal for America’s economy

As a businessman who likes good deals, President Donald Trump should embrace the Clean Power Plan, writes Joe Spease of WindSoHy, an Overland Park-based energy company.
As a businessman who likes good deals, President Donald Trump should embrace the Clean Power Plan, writes Joe Spease of WindSoHy, an Overland Park-based energy company. AP

President Donald Trump recently began taking steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the federal road map to spur economic growth and job creation in America by reducing our emission of hazardous greenhouse gases.

There are many reasons Trump should change course and move forward with the Clean Power Plan: environmental protection, public health and national security, to name a few.

But as a businessman who likes to “make the best deals,” he should do so because the Clean Power Plan is a good deal for America’s economy. It will drive increased job growth and additional economic investment across the country by putting people to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change deniers and supporters of fossil fuels would lead us to believe that we should do nothing about our warming planet, especially taking actions to promote the development of clean, renewable sources of energy.

“It will kill jobs!” they cry.

But just like the claims that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant — the overwhelming majority of scientists conclude that greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) emitted by human activities are the primary driver of global climate change — the facts just don’t bear this out.

The clean energy sector is already one of the fastest growing sectors in America. More than 3 million people now work in clean energy in America, according to the Department of Energy. These are hardworking Americans who build and install solar panels and wind turbines; manufacture clean vehicles; and make our homes, offices and schools more efficient with better lighting, heating and insulation.

A recent report by Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs titled “Clean Jobs Midwest” found that there are over 52,000 clean energy and energy efficiency jobs in Missouri, up from 40,000 the year before. In Kansas, there are over 27,000 clean jobs.

Perhaps the most important finding in the Clean Jobs Midwest report is that half of business owners surveyed believe that the Clean Power Plan will lead to even more business opportunities and investment. From a business perspective, the Clean Power Plan provides market clarity to companies on the direction the country is going on energy, which allows them to invest, expand and hire workers to meet the expected demand for clean energy. Indeed, clean energy business owners in Missouri and Kansas predict job growth over the next 12 months.

Compare this data on clean energy jobs to the data on coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Coal Report for 2015, there were 15 Missourians employed at coal mines. For Kansas, that number is seven.

Doubtless, these 22 people work hard to earn a good living for their families. But coal and other fossil fuels are not the energy direction our country is headed. Most attribute the decline in coal jobs to automation in the industry and the increased use of natural gas. But few would argue that the future of American energy is coal.

Trump’s promise to gut the Clean Power Plan won’t bring back the coal industry, but it will worsen the dirty air that makes us sick and drives climate change. And it will throttle the strongest engine of job growth in our country: clean energy.

With countries like China making massive investments in wind, solar and other clean technologies, we can’t afford to lose momentum in the global race for clean energy.

If Trump wants to move our economy forward, he should put an immediate halt to his efforts to gut the Clean Power Plan. Instead of making vague and infeasible promises to bring back the American coal industry, Trump should focus on putting people to work in the rapidly developing clean energy sector, which represents the future of energy in America.

Let’s embrace our changing energy climate and put renewables first. That’s the best deal we can make.

Joe Spease is CEO of WindSoHy, an Overland Park-based energy company developing innovative, large-scale renewable energy projects.