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Brouillette dismisses 100% renewables at climate summit


Lesley Clark, E&E News

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette used the year’s chief global climate change conference to criticize 100% renewable electricity and to warn that government-mandated climate initiatives risk raising taxes and don’t take into account “real world” conditions.Speaking yesterday from Texas, where he plans to meet today with independent oil producers, Brouillette told the Clean Energy Transitions Summit, hosted online by the International Energy Agency, that the Trump administration remains committed to free markets, scientific research and “the choices of producers and consumers alike.”He cast the challenge of taming the ravages of a warming globe as a choice between “top down” government mandates or “bottom up” — based on competition.

“I believe the bottom-up approach is fully coherent with who we are as democratic societies and nations,” Brouillette said. “The top-down approach lets governments do the choosing, which can end up with more taxes, more regulation, perhaps imposing climate risk assessments on companies, so that the government can steer people away from certain energy sources and into the direction of others.

“It’s a philosophy which by regulating less lets us innovate more,” he added. “And it’s a philosophy that works in the real world.”

His remarks came as IEA calls on countries to make clean energy investment a central part of their post-pandemic economic recovery efforts and has warned that the globe could otherwise find it impossible to meet climate change targets.

The European Union and South Korea have pledged to do so, but United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the world’s largest economies are spending twice as much money on fossil fuels than on renewable energy in their recovery plans. Guterres urged the countries to end fossil fuel subsidies.

“Some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially,” he noted.

President Trump and Republicans in Congress have sought to aid oil and gas producers amid a price crash caused by slumping demand, and they have largely balked at efforts to include climate and other clean energy provisions in pandemic recovery packages.

House Democrats included billions of dollars for clean energy, including wind and solar tax incentives, in a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, but it faces a steep climb in the Senate, and Trump has threatened to veto the measure, arguing that the legislation is “full of wasteful Green New Deal initiatives.”

During the speech, Brouillette said the U.S. will stay the course, embracing an “all of the above” approach.

“Some would even ban zero-emissions nuclear energy, compelling us to rely on renewable energy alone. Now there is an obvious problem with this approach. Renewables by themselves cannot ensure the reliable flow of electricity in any nation. Simply stated, every nation can benefit from a wider mix of fuels to keep its grid running,” he said. This month, Germany announced plans to phase out coal and nuclear, although Brouillette did not mention the country by name.

He noted that, in 2019, U.S. wind generation surpassed hydropower for the first time, and renewable consumption surpassed coal for the first time in more than 130 years.

In February, Brouillette suggested at a congressional hearing that 100% renewable power may be possible eventually (Energywire, Feb. 28).

Yesterday, he said that the U.S. is “abandoning none of our fuels and not one iota of economic opportunity in the quest for a clean energy world, and that’s why we’re dedicated to an all-fuels, all-technologies energy strategy.”

“I’m proud of the fact that besides being the world’s largest producer of oil, the United States is also its leading natural gas producer, its largest producer of nuclear power, and its second-largest generator of wind and solar power, with the highest year-to-year growth in renewables occurring this past year,” he said.



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