Clinton & Trump Offer Contrasting Visions on Energy Policy

October 20, 2016
Spencer Woody
Hillary Clinton

In just a few weeks Americans will travel to their local voting place (well, unless they’ve participated in early voting opportunities) and select the candidate they believe is best suited to guide the United States for at least the next four years. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both believe their plans and policies will allow America to thrive, but they disagree with one another on a number of key areas, including infrastructure, taxes, defense spending, education, and immigration. Their differences extend to energy policy as well.

The energy industry is not only something Americans rely on for power, but many Americans have jobs and businesses that would be significantly affected by policies suggested by both candidates. It’s important to take a look at the differences and consider the impacts the candidates’ proposals would have on the energy sector and the economy.

Hillary Clinton has presented a number of energy policies that overlap with her plan to improve America’s infrastructure. Clinton has proposed “investing” (i.e., new federal spending) in clean energy by establishing a Clean Energy Challenge Grant program, which would partner with state and local governments to increase the use of clean energy such as solar panels throughout the United States. As she noted repeatedly in the first debate, Clinton hopes to install half a billion solar panels by the end of her first term and hopes reducing regulations on clean energy will make that possible. Overall, Clinton’s grant program would boost federal outlays by $60 billion over ten years. Clinton’s campaign has said this cost would be offset by increasing taxes on the oil and gas industry, which, of course, would be passed on to consumers across the country.

Clinton couples the grant program with increased spending on clean energy research and development, including nuclear power, clean energy storage, and carbon capture. In total, Clinton’s clean energy research and development programs would cost taxpayers $6.4 billion over five years.

The energy plan proposed by Clinton encompasses policies about wildlife and conservation as well. She has proposed expanding the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program to $100 million  per year, which would be a $39 million increase from FY 2016. She also proposes to give $321 million to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that teaches farmers and ranchers conservation practices.  

Perhaps one of the most controversial claims Clinton has made during this election season dealt with her statement that her clean energy plan will, “...put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton has since walked back on those statements and proposed a massive Coal Communities Revitalization program that would spend $30 billion over ten years. This program would attempt to ensure health and retirement security, education, broadband Internet access, job training, upgraded housing, and other benefits to coal miners and coal communities.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Clinton’s energy plan, there can be no doubt that it would increase the size, scope, and role the federal government has over energy policy.

By contrast, Trump’s energy policy would take a more hands-off approach. Rather than having the government create more programs or initiatives to improve America’s energy development, Trump hopes that by removing barriers and reducing regulations that the energy market will thrive.

The perspective from the Trump camp is the opening of additional federal lands to oil and gas leasing would benefit the entire country. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the gross offsetting receipts (classified by the official budget scorekeepers as negative spending, i.e. saving) from these leasing deals could total as much as $7 billion, with a portion of this money shared with the state from which the leasing took place. Based on data from CBO, NTUF’s estimates that expand leasing in federal lands in places such as Alaska, the Outer Continental Shelf, and eastern Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling would generate $1.7 billion over ten years due in offsetting receipts.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, Trump’s energy plan will create nearly $700 billion in economic output over the next thirty years. Donald Trump Senior Economic Advisor, Stephen Moore, has claimed that Trump’s energy policy and energy deregulation plan would increase GDP by 1% per year. Trump’s campaign believes that within the next five to six years the United States can become energy independent and the “energy-dominate country in the world” if America implements Trump’s energy plan.  

Taxpayers can clearly see that Clinton and Trump have different goals in mind when crafting their energy policies. In this election taxpayers must choose between energy policies that will expand not only the federal government’s wallet, but also its role in energy, and policies that will force the government the take a step back and allow energy policy to run its own course based on the free market.

This post is part of a series comparing and contrasting the Presidential candidates on the issues. Previous articles include:

Spencer Woody

Spencer Woody is an Associate Policy Analyst for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation where he primarily conducts tax and budgetary policy research in order to inform and educate taxpayers.

After interning for NTUF in 2015, Spencer returned to NTUF in 2016 in connection with the Charles Koch Institute’s Associate Program. His previous positions include Economic Policy Intern at the Heritage Foundation, Student Ambassador for the Charles Koch Institute, and Center Scholar at the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University.

Originally from Byron, Georgia, Spencer graduated summa cum laude from Cedarville University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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