As expected, reactions to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord perfectly exemplified the boundless hypocrisy of the left. Barely was the move was officially announced than world leaders, environmentalists, and commentators alike were falling over themselves to condemn his decision as an unmitigated disaster for the future of the planet. French President Emmanuel Macron used his American counterpart’s decision as an excuse to launch an absurd publicity stunt in which he disingenuously invited U.S. climate scientists to move to France to continue their work. Meanwhile, members of the mainstream media from the New York Times to Quartz to the Washington Post declared the president was well on his way to “destroying the planet,” and as has become par for the course ever since Trump’s election, pundits reiterated their claims that it’s now China that is the Earth’s green energy savior.
When it was revealed weeks later that China, Japan, and South Korea — all of which are party to the Paris agreement — had been funding new coal-fired energy plants in Indonesia over the past several years, the silence from the green lobby was deafening. It appears that so-called environmentalists are willing to turn a blind eye to China and other countries’ investments in fossil fuels, even as they continue to bash the administration for attempting to shift U.S. energy policy towards natural gas and clean coal.
While it would display a little more evenhandedness if the green lobby were to go after China, Japan, and South Korea with the same gusto as it pursues the White House over its energy policy, it would be equally wrongheaded for it to do so. Like the Trump administration, these countries have been pragmatic enough to accept that the use of fossil fuels will continue for the foreseeable future, particularly in emerging economies. They also acknowledge that new ‘clean coal’ generation technologies have the potential to greatly reduce carbon emissions and provide affordable, reliable power as cleaner energy sources mature. The simple truth of the matter is that clean energy is far too expensive to fully meet the energy needs a nation bigger than Norway at this stage, making the continued development of cleaner fossil fuel power sources critical, as much as green activists hate to admit it.
As a result, the Trump administration has wisely chosen to eschew the maniacal pursuit of immature renewables that stand little chance of meeting the world’s immediate or medium-term energy needs in favor of a strategy that promotes investment in clean coal technology and U.S. exports of natural gas, coal, and petroleum. While the White House’s energy policy may not fit a hysterical media narrative that demands an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels, Trump’s strategy of backing clean coal and other emerging technologies is the only way to ensure the world can affordably meet its energy needs while minimizing pollution.
The U.S. is also taking a fresh approach to global energy policy following the Pollyannaish strategies of the Obama years. Backing up leaders of developing countries such as Nigeria and figures like former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, the White House has called out the West’s rank hypocrisy in blocking poorer economies from leveraging coal resources to meet the needs of the hundreds of millions of people who are still off the grid. Acknowledging their concerns as legitimate, the Trump administration is pushing for a shift in the World Bank’s policy to allow for the construction of new clean coal-powered plants around the world, using its seat on the board of the UN’s Green Climate Fund to promote more investment in clean coal technologies in developing countries.
But while encouraging multilateral development banks to lift restrictions on funding clean coal-fired power plants is a good start, the White House needs to truly invest in its energy vision if it wants to achieve its goals and prove its critics from the green lobby wrong. Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears reluctant to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to financing clean energy innovation, having cut the budget of the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, which researches new technologies that could facilitate the cleaner and safer use of so-called dirty fuels.
However, if the White House doesn’t start to catch up and invest in its energy vision, East Asian powers will start to reap the benefits of every major energy opportunity that arises, whether it be carbon-based or renewable, all the while avoiding the opprobrium heaped on the Trump administration for pursuing similar policies.