Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on Energy Issues: Hillary Clinton

This post is the second in a series of blogs examining where 2016 candidates for President or Governor of North Carolina stand on key energy issues.  Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools.

As the Democratic National Convention wrapped up in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic party’s nominee for President of the United States. Clinton has a long paper trail regarding her positions on energy issues, from her time as First Lady of the United States, Senator from New York, 2008 presidential candidate, Secretary of State and now the democratic standard-bearer. While this blog is not meant to be a comprehensive assessment of Secretary Clinton’s stance on energy issues, we hope it provides a general overview for evaluating where she may stand on issues of interest to energy-focused voters: coal, climate change, renewables, efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and drilling.

Clinton and Climate Change

“I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.” Hillary Clinton, November 29, 2015

Clinton recognizes that 97% of climate scientists agree – that climate change is real and humans have an impact on the global climate, predominately through the use of fossil fuels emitting greenhouse gases. Clinton support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Clinton and Renewable Energy

“Clinton is bullish on renewable power, particularly solar. Her goals include increasing solar energy 700 percent by the end of her first term and producing enough electricity from renewable sources to power every American home within 10 years of taking office.” Denver Post, June 25, 2016

Clinton has a fairly robust plan on expanding renewable energy; however, her goals have been targeted as unrealistic, especially with a hostile Congress. Her plan to deploy a “half billion solar panels” could result in about 100 gigawatts of new solar capacity. But, by 2021, projections already suggest about 70 gigawatts of new solar power could already be in the works.

Clinton and Energy Efficiency

“An important leading element of Clinton’s Clean Energy Challenge proposal to tackle climate change and modernize America’s energy infrastructure, Clinton’s Advanced Buildings plan sets a goal to ‘cut energy waste in American homes, schools, stores, municipal buildings, hospitals and offices by a third within ten years of taking office.’” – Alliance to Save Energy, March 31, 2016

Energy efficiency represents an important tool in reducing ratepayer bills and reducing emissions from the power sector. Clinton’s energy efficiency plan focuses on improving building codes, benchmarking and transparency, energy efficient mortgages, as well as improving the EPA ENERGY STAR program.

Clinton and Coal

“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.” – Hillary Clinton, March 13, 2016

Clinton’s quote regarding coal miners and companies may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and effectively lost her the West Virginia democratic primary. Some question still remains whether Clinton has or will accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests.

Clinton and Natural Gas

“Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy, creating good paying jobs and careers, lowering energy costs for American families and businesses, and reducing air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color.” – Hillary Clinton Factsheet

“Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel.” – Mother Jones, September 2014

Clinton’s position on natural gas appears to be fairly supportive, if not measured. When taken with her position on coal, it appears Clinton views natural gas as a bridge fuel that would reduce reliance on coal. However, her position on fracking became a wedge issue between her and Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Sanders opposed fracking, while Clinton’s position appears to give some qualified support.

Clinton and Nuclear

“Clinton has switched her answer several times on the question of nuclear power. She was pro-nuclear power in 2007, when she began her first campaign for the Democratic nomination, changed her mind in the midst of that campaign in 2008 and stated that she was against it—’I have a comprehensive energy plan that does not rely on nuclear power,’ she declared that year. Clinton continued to argue against nuclear power until this most recent election season. As of February 2016, her campaign platform states that she is once again in favor of it.” – Common Dreams, March 21, 2016

As shown by the snippet, Clinton’s position on nuclear energy isn’t settled. Her vice presidential pick, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), previously considered nuclear energy in a state energy plan when he was governor.

Clinton and Oil

“We have to move away from fossil fuels including gas, but that gas can be a useful bridge, especially as we move away from coal, and we move away from dirtier oil and some of the really bad alternatives. And we want to keep more fossil fuels under the ocean and in the ground. That’s why I’m against arctic drilling and why I’m against offshore drilling because I don’t think we should start that.” – Hillary Clinton, October 16, 2015

“I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone.” – Hillary Clinton, October 13, 2015

Clinton’s position on offshore oil drilling could be described as fairly moderate. In 2006, she voted for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened up some areas for offshore oil drilling off Florida. Kaine previously supported additional drilling off Virginia’s coast.

But perhaps the biggest energy issue to garner attention this campaign season was Clinton’s position on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. As Secretary of State, Clinton had direct involvement with evaluating the proposed pipeline, and at one point, indicated she was leaning towards supporting the project. Throughout 2015, Sanders’ campaign opposed the pipeline and it became a flashpoint between the two major democratic candidates. Clinton announced that she opposed the pipeline in September 2015.

Summary

Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton believes in climate change and supports President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. She has a fairly robust plan regarding renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, her previous positions on and relationships with the fossil fuel industry are less clear. Perhaps the most opaque energy issue is Clinton’s position on nuclear energy.

SACE staff will be watching closely when Clinton debates Trump in the upcoming debates this fall and we encourage voters to look for other blogs in this series over the coming months.

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