Presidential Candidates and Renewable Energy: Where Do They Stand?
Renewable energy is a particularly hot issue in this year's presidential election. At the end of 2015, the U.S. joined 195 other nations in signing a UN agreement that committed to an aggressive climate change reduction strategy. Additionally, the Obama Administration is now in the process of defending its much-discussed Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Congress also extended solar and wind tax credits and lifted the U.S. oil export ban in the 2016 spending bill—two controversial policies for today's candidates with their eye on the presidency.
EnergySage graded the 2016 presidential candidates on their support of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy. Our key criteria include:
1. Does the candidate believe in climate change?
2. Has the candidate published an energy plan?
3. Does the candidate's energy plan have specific targets for renewable energy development or energy efficiency initiatives?
4. Does the candidate support incentives for renewable energy?
5. Does the candidate support expanding oil and gas production?
6. Does the candidate want to defund or eliminate government agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy?
With all of these criteria in mind, here's how the 2016 candidates measure up.
Democratic Presidential Candidates and Renewable Energy
Former Sec. of State Clinton's climate change plan proposes to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent by 2050. She presents two strategies to achieve this goal: expand solar energy across the U.S. to 140 gigawatts (the equivalent of installing solar energy systems on 25 million homes) and to power every home in America with renewable energy by 2026. She supports the expansion of renewable energy on federally-owned lands and infrastructure and would restrict, but not eliminate, development of fossil fuel resources on public lands.
Sen. Sanders has a plan to reduce carbon pollution more than 80 percent by 2050, largely through a tax on carbon and investments in energy efficiency, and wind and solar power. He supports banning all future fossil fuel leases on public lands and would cut subsidies for fossil fuel producers in favor of supporting renewable energy development. However, because he has not detailed specific targets for renewable energy growth, we grade him slightly lower than Clinton.
Republican Presidential Candidates and Renewable Energy
In his energy plan, Ohio Gov. John Kasich supports increasing U.S. energy production from all sources, including alternatives and renewables, as well as “removing barriers" for the development of advanced energy technologies. His plan also supports energy efficiency efforts, stating, “the cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy we never have to produce."
Dr. Ben Carson's proposed energy policy doesn't outline specific climate change or renewable energy measures. While he has called global warming “irrelevant," he has advocated for an all-of-the-above approach to energy resources, including expanding renewable energy sources wherever they are economically feasible. He also calls for the elimination of all subsidies for energy markets.
The extent of Sen. Ted Cruz's energy platform is the elimination of the Department of Energy, as well as multiple programs at the Environmental Protection Agency. His energy policy calls for the abolishment of all energy subsidies, but does not oppose renewable energy resources to the extent that they are economically competitive. (Oddly, it is worth noting that several of the “government funded failed companies" listed on Sen. Cruz's website, including First Solar and SunPower Corporation, are successful publicly-traded companies).
Sen. Marco Rubio's proposed energy policies would expand fossil fuel energy development in the U.S. both on land and offshore and would eliminate tax credits and policies that support renewable energy development. While he does believe that climate change is occurring, he doesn't believe that it is caused by human activities—this stance runs counter to the scientific community and assures his failing grade.
Donald Trump has not proposed an energy policy. To the extent that he has commented publicly on energy issues, he supports expanding natural gas and oil resource development in the U.S. Oddly, he also believes that the Chinese invented the concept of global warming “to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive." Like Senators Rubio and Cruz, we grade Mr. Trump as an F.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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