What does Trump’s presidency mean for energy justice campaigning?

Biofuelwatch statement: What does Trump’s presidency mean for energy justice campaigning?

Within its first week in office, the Trump administration has moved to resurrect and expedite the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, which have been bitterly opposed by environmental justice and Native American organizers on the basis of their threats to water and the climate. Trump’s cabinet, if approved, will be rife with billionaire bankers and shills for the fossil fuel industry, including former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Trump intends to massively expand fossil fuel production and infrastructure while dismantling environmental regulations, through driving a strategic wedge between the “American worker” and those of us seeking a livable planet for current and future generations.

Biofuelwatch joins the call to build a broad, international opposition to Trump’s corporate agenda, uniting behind a vision of human rights and ecological stewardship. We believe that the current moment offers opportunities for powerful, non-traditional alliances, especially between labor, environmental justice campaigners, and communities on the front lines of the extreme energy economy. Trump’s rejection of so-called “green capitalism” clears away the detritus of false solutions advanced under the Obama administration, and offers the opportunity to envision and fight for a fundamentally different energy system based on meeting people’s basic needs in an equitable and sustainable way.

In the next period, Biofuelwatch will mobilize to oppose fossil fuel expansion as well as false solutions like carbon markets and bioenergy, and direct support towards genuinely renewable and low-carbon forms of energy. We also intend to monitor the Trump administration’s energy policy as it relates to bioenergy, offering our assessments and intervening as necessary. To that end, we offer the following analysis of the administration’s reported plans to gut the Department of Energy of all alternative energy and climate-related research and development.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to propose a budget which eliminates the Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy within the Department of Energy. While federal R&D funding for climate change mitigation under these offices was far from perfect, the administration’s actions move us further towards a free-for-all for the fossil fuel industry and towards an unstoppable climate catastrophe.

For years, Biofuelwatch has provided critical analysis of federal programs advanced through these offices, particularly those focused on expanding carbon capture and storage (CCS), and bioenergy from cellulose and algae. Our research has revealed that these technologies, if adopted on a large scale, would fail to mitigate climate change, and in fact may exacerbate the climate crisis. Capturing carbon from fossil fuel or bioenergy sources and attempting to store it underground indefinitely presents a range of insurmountable problems, and ultimately serves to subsidize forms of energy which must be phased out in order to stay within global carbon budgets. Similarly, we have found that land use change due to the large-scale production of bioenergy from cellulose or algae could result in emissions similar to or exceeding fossil fuels – not to mention intensified conflicts over land and resources. Based on these findings, we have long called for an end to federal funding for industrial bioenergy, CCS, and other fossil fuel-related technologies.

Rather than abolishing the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a sensible administration would redirect funding towards measures and technologies which can help mitigate climate change and eliminate poverty, such as R&D into energy storage technologies. Other reforms would involve instituting independent technology and technology impact assessments, and addressing conflicts of interest by removing grant recipients from all positions within the Department of Energy’s programs, including advisory positions.

These reforms will not happen under a Trump administration. However, Trump’s outright rejection of science-based policy offers us the opportunity to radically re-imagine the role of a Department of Energy – one focused on meeting everyone’s basic needs through equitably distributed, genuinely renewable energy. Rather than fighting to restore the flawed policies of the Obama era, our movement must unite behind a political platform that addresses the root causes of climate change, and brings power back to hands of the people, and not the corporations.