Energy issues divide presidential candidates

From oil and gas exploration to climate change, Clinton and Trump have different visions.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are miles apart on many issues, but the gulf between them on environmental and energy strategies is nearly seismic.

On one end is Clinton, who has pushed an extensive environmental and energy agenda that has embraced President Barack Obama’s clean air plan and laid out a proposal for combatting climate change.

On the other end is Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” perpetuated by the Chinese to hurt the U.S. economy — he later said he was joking — and has repeatedly talked about cutting funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the government’s chief environmental regulator, in an effort to spur the economy.

Clinton supports the Paris Accords, an agreement reached among more than 195 countries to reduce carbon emissions.

Trump opposes it.

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Clinton opposes fracking, a process used for underground drilling to capture natural gas.

Trump is in favor, though some in the industry question his commitment.

Clinton says she would also maintain Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Trump wants the pipeline built but wants taxpayers to get a slice of the profits.

“There could not be a greater difference between the candidates on climate,” said David Goldston, government affairs director of the National Resource Defense Council Action Fund. “It’s hard to think of really any campaign on any issue where the difference is quite so stark.”

Here are how the candidates stand on key environmental and energy issues.

Climate

Trump’s now famous statement that global warming was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” came in a 2012 tweet that the Republican nominee says was a joke. But it’s not the only time Trump has questioned the authenticity of climate change.

In 2015, he told a South Carolina rally that climate change was “a hoax” and “a money-making industry. It’s a hoax,” he said. “A lot of it.” A little more than a year earlier, on Jan. 1, 2014, he tweeted that climate change was “bull——.”

Environmentalists are also alarmed over Trump’s position on the Paris Accords. In a North Dakota speech, Trump called for taking the United States out of the agreement, which calls for a worldwide strategy for reducing global warming. In the same speech, Trump promised to “stop all payments” of U.S. tax dollars to United Nations global warming programs.

Clinton, meanwhile, has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and cutting emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050.

In her one-page policy position paper on climate change, she said she has set three goals: to install 500 million new solar panels in the U.S. by 2020; to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America within the next decade and cut energy waste by one-third and reduce oil consumption by one-third.

While Clinton’s plans are well-received by those in the environmental movement, Benjamin Zycher, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said Trump’s skepticism about U.S. efforts to combat climate change are well-placed.

“Frankly, the Obama climate action plan writ large is very, very expensive and would have almost no effect,” he said.

Coal

Clinton infuriated miners in March during a CNN Town Hall when she said she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Clinton later called those remarks a “misstatement,” and said her goal has always been to make sure that coal country has access to job training and other resources to help those communities make a strong economic recovery.

“It didn’t mean that we were going to do it,” she said. “What I said is that is going to happen unless we take action to help and prevent it.”

But Trump has pounced on the statement and said of the coal jobs, “We’re going to bring them back,” though he hasn’t exactly specified how. He has called for scrapping the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which he said would minimize the need for coal and hurt the coal industry.

Clinton’s platform includes a $30 billion job retraining program for those who lose their jobs because of the coal industry’s decline — an amount critics say is inadequate to compensate for Democratic policies they say have been destructive to their industry.

Goldston said Clinton has paid a price for honestly presenting the challenges the industry faces.

“You can either try to mislead and delude miners into saying by fiat you’re going to change the direction of the world’s economy and ignore settled science, or you can say, ‘you know, we’ve got a challenge here to help these people adjust to the facts on the ground that are not going to take away,’” he said.

Fracking

Clinton hasn’t completely shut the door on fracking but says she would support it only under very limited conditions, including whether it can be proven that no methane or water contamination is present and if those doing the drilling disclose exactly what chemicals they are using.

“By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” she has said, adding, “Right now, there are places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated.”

“Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy,” she says in a one-page sheet on natural gas production posted on her campaign website.

Trump says he supports fracking, tweeting that the practice “poses ZERO health risks,” and saying it “will lead to American energy independence.”

But other comments from him have alarmed some in the industry. Last month he told a Denver television station, “I’m in favor of fracking, but I think that voters should have a big say in it.” Of municipalities or states that want to ban fracking, he said, “I can understand that.”

Energy groups, which have generally supported Trump because of his concerns about regulation, do not agree that states or towns should have such power.

Oil and gas

Clinton wants to make the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans off-limits for oil and gas production and has promised to maintain Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, a big wedge issue dividing many Republicans and Democrats.

Trump says he wants the pipeline built but would ask the developer, Trans Canada, to change the terms of the application.

“I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits,” he told the oil industry audience in North Dakota. “That’s how we’re going to make our country rich again.”

To date at least, Trump’s plan to have American taxpayers share in the profits from the pipeline has not drawn much support. Obama rejected the fourth phase of the pipeline last year, angering Republican members of Congress and prompting TransCanada to seek damages under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has also promised to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas and revoke policies that restrict new drilling technologies — moves that he says would “unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”

Nuclear

Neither candidate has focused much on nuclear energy during the campaign.

Although Clinton mentions “advanced reactors” in her clean energy plans, the Nuclear Energy Institute took aim at the proposals, saying they fall short of “recognizing that the current and future workhorse of carbon reduction in the nation’s power generation is nuclear power.”

On her campaign website, Clinton does say those who want to “rapidly shut down our nation’s nuclear power fleet put ideology ahead of science,” making it harder and more costly to build a clean energy future.

Trump has vowed to pursue “all forms of energy.” In his North Dakota speech he said that would include nuclear, wind and solar energy – “but not to the exclusion of other energy.

“The government should not pick winners and losers,” he said. “Instead, it should remove obstacles to exploration.”

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