Trump’s Road to Jobs and Infrastructure is Clean (and Bipartisan)

World Positive
By Nancy Pfund
December 5, 2016

Clean ener­gy has gar­nered bipar­ti­san sup­port across the coun­try. When we at DBL Part­ners first sat down to con­sid­er pol­i­cy options this sum­mer (with gov­ern­ment, aca­d­e­m­ic, and pri­vate indus­try experts at the Stan­fordPol­i­cy Forum), we believed that our rec­om­men­da­tions could build on these shared objec­tives of build­ing a thriv­ing 21st cen­tu­ry clean ener­gy indus­try in the US that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly fueled eco­nom­ic growth and tack­led the threat of cli­mate change.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, our real­i­ty today looks quite dif­fer­ent. On the evening of Elec­tion Day, we joined pro­po­nents of clean ener­gy across the US in a col­lec­tive state of shock. Dur­ing the cam­paign, now Pres­i­dent-elect Trump had dis­missed glob­al warm­ing as a Chi­nese hoax and promised to rad­i­cal­ly change the direc­tion of fed­er­al ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy. It would obvi­ous­ly be dis­ap­point­ing if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion were to fol­low through on this approach.

How­ev­er, there is no need to despair. The future of clean ener­gy in the US remains bright and we con­tin­ue to believe that there is sub­stan­tial com­mon ground on which to make progress.

We find that many of our pol­i­cy pro­pos­als — designed to encour­age the growth of the clean indus­try ener­gy — are in fact well-aligned with the objec­tives out­lined by the Trump campaign.

First, Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has promised to be “the great­est jobs pres­i­dent.” If he is tru­ly com­mit­ted to this goal, the clean ener­gy indus­try is a vital com­po­nent for Amer­i­can job growth. The solar indus­try alone employs 140,000 more work­ers than the coal min­ing indus­try and is grow­ing rapid­ly. Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has specif­i­cal­ly promised to help the nation’s coal work­ers and we couldn’t agree more. For instance, we pro­posed The Clean Jobs Tran­si­tion Act to help new indus­tries revi­tal­ize coal com­mu­ni­ties. We believe many more jobs can be cre­at­ed by stim­u­lat­ing invest­ment in clean ener­gy and tech­nol­o­gy than by prop­ping up a fuel source that is no longer com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket, regard­less of envi­ron­men­tal regulation.

Sec­ond, Pres­i­dent-elect trump has promised to cut busi­ness reg­u­la­tions to help encour­age growth, an area of align­ment with more tra­di­tion­al Repub­li­can ortho­doxy. While we dis­agree with many of the cuts to envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions that Trump has threat­ened, there are ele­ments of the ener­gy mar­kets that we think would ben­e­fit from a more open-mar­ket approach. One area of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance is data. Today the pub­lic, and there­fore entre­pre­neurs, do not have access to grid data that is crit­i­cal for improv­ing the effi­cien­cy of elec­tric­i­ty trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­b­u­tion. Pur­su­ing an open-mar­ket approach to under­ly­ing grid data — mak­ing it trans­par­ent and acces­si­ble to a wider group of indus­try stake­hold­ers — will help real­ize the promise of a mod­ern­ized grid and pro­vide a plat­form to cre­ate the Ubers, Ama­zons, or Googles of the ener­gy industry.

Third, Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has been a vocal sup­port­er of increas­ing invest­ment in US infra­struc­ture, specif­i­cal­ly call­ing out the need to repair and replace the country’s crum­bling pub­lic roads, bridges, rail­ways, and air­ports. How­ev­er, the infra­struc­ture of the 21st cen­tu­ry is not just high­ways and bridges. It’s also wind farms and solar plants, ener­gy stor­age facil­i­ties, and charg­ing net­works for elec­tric vehi­cles. Upgrad­ing the elec­tric grid will make our ener­gy sys­tem more effi­cient, more afford­able, green­er, and safer from ter­ror­ist attack. Invest­ing in build­ing the clean ener­gy infra­struc­ture, along­side pro­posed trans­porta­tion upgrades, can help cre­ate mil­lions of Amer­i­can jobs across the country.

Final­ly, Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has called for tax cuts across the board. We agree that the tax code can be a pow­er­ful tool for encour­ag­ing busi­ness growth, if and when it’s tar­get­ed at spe­cif­ic desir­able eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty. With this ratio­nale in mind, we pro­posed The Car­bon­less Gains Tax. Sim­i­lar to the cap­i­tal gains tax, we believe there’s great val­ue in rec­og­niz­ing green activ­i­ty and incen­tiviz­ing green deci­sions by giv­ing investors a small tax break.

To read the full arti­cle, vis­it World Pos­i­tive.