Sarah LadislawDirector and Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

This election is a particularly important turning point for US energy and climate policy, not only because of the stark contrast between the party platforms and the candidates’ positions, but because of the major changes taking place in the US energy landscape.

Diesel trucks and cars pass windmills along the 10 freeway near Banning, California. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.Diesel trucks and cars pass windmills near Banning, California. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • At a time of great change in the US and global energy landscape, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have campaigned on very different energy and climate platforms. Clinton’s vision to make the United States a ‘clean energy superpower’ includes a climate-focused energy plan that will seek to continue the transition to a lower-carbon energy system. In stark contrast, Trump’s ‘America First Energy Plan’ rejects the importance of climate change and embraces exploiting more domestic energy resources – with an emphasis on coal, oil and natural gas – and focusing on rolling back government regulation.
  • The current US and global energy landscape is shifting dramatically. The main causes include the surge in US tight oil and shale gas production; the decline of the coal industry in the US; the current low-oil-price environment and changes to the global oil and gas market; the rapid transformation of the electric power sector driven by new technologies, business models and policy incentives; and the ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to comply with and shape global goals of managing climate change.
  • Regardless of who wins the election, the US will remain divided on energy and climate change, and the next president’s agenda is likely to face significant challenges in execution. Much of US climate policy is moving through the regulatory process and faces tough court challenges. Without the willingness of the administration and congress to work together, major new advancements or resolution of energy and climate policy issues will be difficult. Moreover, a great deal of energy decision-making happens at the state and local levels, which can be both helpful and harmful to any future administration’s desire to drive a particular agenda.
  • The most important global energy issue affected by the US election will be climate change. Whereas a Clinton administration is likely to pursue more robust policies, a Trump one will be less likely to make efforts domestically and internationally in combatting climate change. Four years of lacklustre progress on this front from one of the world’s major emitters could significantly hamper, if not derail, global efforts.