Second Debate: Is it Nov. 9 yet? Energy policy gets glossed over (again)


As the newest member of the pv magazine staff, I’m apparently undergoing some sort of horrible hazing ritual, in which I am being asked to watch the 2016 presidential debates and report on the devastating wreckage left in each debate’s wake, focusing on the discussion (or not) of energy policy.

Which is why I ask, plaintively: Is it Nov. 9 yet?

Last night’s trainwreck consisted primarily of Donald Trump flailing wildly trying to land a knockout blow, and Secretary Clinton playing rope-a-dope, dodging and weaving like the late Muhammad Ali (whose name she actually referenced when answering a question about what she would do to make Muslims feel more safe in the United States).

By the end, Trump was reduced to speaking fluent “frontier gibberish,” and Clinton was breathing a sigh of relief that none of the women who had accused her husband of sexual assault (invited and paid for by Trump) had asked a question.

Where was I? Oh, right, energy policy. The only real discussion of energy policy came after debate attendee Ken Bone (who others have noted looks suspiciously like corrupt mine owner Don Blankenship, who will soon be off to jail for mine-safety violations) asked the following:

Bone: What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally-friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?

It should have been the perfect opening for the candidates to lay out their plans for U.S. energy policy if they were elected. Unfortunately, both swung and missed, though in entirely different ways.

Clinton made made a passing reference to renewable energy, but didn’t do a great job at what President George H.W. Bush once called “the vision thing.” I suspect most solar energy advocates were disappointed that she failed.

But I want to spend more time on the myth-making of Trump, who brought up the discredited idea of “clean coal” and insisted, again, that he will bring coal jobs back to the United States.

As pv magazine’s Americas editor Christian Roselund has reported relentlessly (here, here and here), Donald Trump is a black hole when it comes to understanding U.S. energy policy. He thinks “solar doesn’t work so good” and “wind will kill all your birds.” He believes coal and shale oil are the energies of the future.

Let’s be clear: Coal jobs are not coming back to the United States. The Age of Coal is over, and the best the United States can do is to do what President Barack Obama is doing for veterans through the Department of Energy — retrain coal workers into other renewable energy jobs, a point Clinton failed to mention overtly last night (to her detriment).

No one is saying it will be easy. But to move into the future of energy production and become, as Clinton called it, a “clean-energy superpower,” we are going to have to burst the myths Trump is peddling as truth — and the sooner the better.

And now there is only one more left. Let’s hope both candidates have better answers on energy policy on Oct. 19 — but I’m not holding my breath.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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