PBS Newshour: States step into void left by exit from Paris climate accord

June 2, 2017

An analysis by PBS Newshour explored how cities and states are likely to continue the trend away from coal-powered electricity and toward renewable energy despite President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris deal. ... The cost of renewable energy like wind and solar has also declined in recent years to become more competitive with fossil fuel, and much of America's clean energy is produced in red states that voted for Trump.

Those economic factors matter in most states regardless of the politics, Vicki Arroyo, the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, said in an interview with Newshour.
Arroyo said states began taking more initiative after President George W. Bush announced his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international treaty that set global emissions standards. The Clinton administration signed the treaty the following year but it remains unbinding for the U.S., because the deal hasn’t been ratified by the Senate. The Bush administration said in 2001 that it would not enforce its Kyoto Protocol emissions obligations.

“What you’ve seen is states that have taken a leadership position since the Bush administration [came] in and pulled back from Kyoto,” Arroyo said. Since then, states have “actually seen that moving forward with a clean energy economy brings a lot of local benefits.”

Utah is a good example. Trump won the state by 18 points last year, and it hasn't had a Democratic governor since 1985. Nevertheless, Utah is in the middle of a solar boom. Solar now accounts for about 10 percent of Utah's energy mix; the state's solar industry grew by almost 65 percent from 2015 to 2016. In contrast, the solar industry nationwide grew 25 percent over the same period.

And Utah's story is similar to a number of other red states, which rank among the leaders in renewable energy. Wyoming leads the country in renewable energy development per capita. Texas is the leading U.S. wind energy producer - and now produces more wind energy than the next three states combined. In Kentucky - whose GOP senators Rand Paul and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged President Trump to withdraw from the Paris accord - a coal company is planning to build the state's largest solar farm on a reclaimed coal mine.

Read the full story here.