Renewable Energy in the US Policy of Energy Dominance

UDC 327
Publication date: 30.04.2019
International Journal of Professional Science №4-2019

Renewable Energy in the US Policy of Energy Dominance

Khlopov Oleg Anatolyevich
PhD, Political Science, Associate Professor,
Department of American Studies
Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow)
Abstract: The article reviles the problems of the energy policy of the administration of D. Trump that focus on the goal - to make America «energy dominant». To increase hydrocarbon production and exports has become the main component of US foreign policy and US national security. But this strategy faces the criticism while the oppositions groups offer further programs to develop renewable energy sources that have expensive but inevitable solution in order to protect environment and not to lose the technological advantages that America has. The implementation of these projects leads to intense collisions with environmentalists. Critics of Trump's energy policy are trying to influence the decisions taken in this area to further development of renewable energy sources and to remake the U.S. economy and drastically reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Keywords: renewable energy, energy security, USA, D. Trump, USA, Green New Deal


The article provides an analysis of new aspects of the energy strategy of the D. Trump administration and its relationship with US foreign policy and the global economy.  Despite harsh criticism within the US of Trump’s actions, the US government implements new energy policy within the «America First», which has elements of continuity and novelty, as well as critical assessments from experts and analysts.

Sources for the analysis are documents, reports, statements and  speeches by top US officials on energy security and renewable energy issues, as well as the work of experts and researchers revealing various US approaches to implementing a plan to transform America into an energy dominance country.

Over the past decades, the practical aspects of the US energy strategy have been constantly updated and expanded, depending on the situation on the world energy market and the international arena as a whole.  At the same time, the fundamental goals of US energy policy remains generally unchanged — reducing the dependence of the US economy on the import of hydrocarbon resources and improving energy efficiency inside the country.

President of the USA B. Obama in 2009, initiated the development of alternative energy sources and continued to reduce dependence of the United States  on imported hydrocarbons.  The «Energy Plan» adopted in 2014 was aimed at providing financial support to «clean” energy technologies, combating adverse climate changes, further reducing dependence on imported oil and gas»  [9].   As a result of B. Obama’s energy policy, the structure of the US energy balance has gradually began to change and renewable energy sources started to be widely used.

Soon after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the White House published on its website the «America First Energy Plan» [10] .  Despite the fact that the plan lacks the specifics of its implementation, it creates the basis for the US energy policy for the next four years. The key points of this plan are: 1) the elimination of «harmful and unnecessary programs such as the US Climate Action Plan and Water Regulation» and other laws that had been adopted by the previous B. Obama administration;  2) to use shale, oil and gas reserves in the United States at the amount of  $ 50 trillion dollars as additional financial resources after the long years of existence of the debt;  3) to commit to the introduction of clean technologies in the coal industry and resume coal mining (practically all the mines in West Virginia and Pennsylvania);  4) increase the production of all types of energy and achieve energy independence from the OPEC cartel and «any countries hostile to US interests»;  5) protect the environment of North America.

The energy doctrine of the Trump’s administration, based on his pre-election promises has three main components: 1) increase in the production of fossil fuels in the United States in order to create jobs and achieve energy independence;  2) the revival of the declining US coal industry;  3) the revision of the B. Obama administration’s climate policy and the abolition of the «Climate Action Plan» [1] .


Turning the United States into an Energy Superpower

In mid of 2017 the Trump administration announced that it wants America  be  an  «energy dominant».  In his speech, Trump announced the beginning of the «golden era»» of US energy, which would  be approved through the rapid growth of natural gas production in the US, coal and the export of oil and oil products.

According to US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, “America’s energy dominance means independence and self-confidence, state security, and freedom from geopolitical upheavals in other countries that seek to use energy as an economic weapon.  An energy dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and our influence” [2].

The development of shale technologies has led to the fact that oil production in the United States has doubled in 11 years, reaching 9.782 million bar per day by the end of 2017.  According to the estimates of the US Department of Energy, by the end of 2018, the United States will produce 10.23 million bar per day, and 11 million bar per day in 2019, thus ahead of Saudi Arabia.  According to the forecast of the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2025 oil and gas condensate production will reach 16.9 million bar  per  day, which will make the United States a leader in the market of energy producers [16 P.4-8].

The Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Ensuring Bureau (BOEM), a division of the United States Department of the Interior, has published a draft plan for the allocation and lease of sites on the American shelf for exploration, drilling and production of oil and gas based on the decree signed by Tramp in   April of 2017  The US administration is expected to provide 47 oil fields with a total area of ​​4 million square meters to US oil and gas companies by 2024 which are estimated at 90 billion barrels of oil and 319 trillion cubic meters of gas [17] .

Critical Approaches to US Fossil Energy Sources

However, there are critics of D. Trump’s energy policy who  believe that putting fossil fuels onto  the basis of national security policies in order to turn America into an independent producer and “energy dominant” may  seem  a very attractive goal, but this approach is clearly doomed.  As the professor of the  Hampshire College  Michael Klare  notes: “The further we look into the future, the more likely it is that international leadership will fall on the shoulders of those who can efficiently and effectively supply renewable energy sources, rather than those  who can provide climate-friendly fossil fuels.  At the same time, no one in the world  in Davos or anywhere else said that we are endowed with “the essential ability to provide people of the whole world with a better quality of life using fossil fuels” [8].

In  February 2019 Congress member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and veteran lawmaker Sen. Edward Markey introduced  a resolution spelling out congressional support for a Green New Deal — an ambitious plan to remake the U.S. economy and drastically reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions that calls for a “10-year national mobilization”  among whose primary goals would be:

— guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;

— providing all people of the United States with 1) high-quality health care, 2) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; 3) economic security; 4) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature;

— providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States;

— meeting 100 % of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources;

— overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in – 1) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; 2) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; 3) high-speed rail [12].

US President Donald Trump compared the proposals of some Democrats to carry out transformations for the sake of ecology with the destruction of the armed forces and the economy.  About this politician wrote on his Twitter page: «I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called “Carbon Footprint” to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military — even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant !» [3].

Despite that disdain, the goals of the far-reaching plan to tackle climate change and economic inequality are within the realm of technological possibility. Getting there will cost trillions of dollars, most agreed, and require expansive new taxes and federal programs. It certainly could not be accomplished within the 10-year time frame that supporters say is necessary.

The Green New Deal, in other words, is an exciting idea for many liberals and an enticing political target for conservatives. But, most of all, it is an extraordinarily complicated series of trade-offs that could be realized, experts say, with extensive sacrifices that people are only starting to understand [5].

Proposals for a Green New Deal — which would aim to slow climate change and catapult myriad industries into cutting-edge, low-carbon technologies — have been debated for more than a decade. But the subject was given new urgency last year by a high-profile United Nations report that said the Earth was on track to experience food shortages, fatal heat waves and mass die-offs of coral reefs by 2040, sooner than earlier projections. The report called for staggering changes to the global energy economy [6].

The Role and of the Renewable Energy

For two centuries, the geographic concentration of oil, natural gas and coal reserves helped shape the international geopolitical landscape.  Coal and steam power engineering led to an industrial revolution that, in turn, shaped geopolitics in the 19th century.  Since then, control over oil production and trade has become  key features of the power politics of the 20th century.  The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources can transform global energy relations no less than historical changes from wood to coal and from coal to oil.

Thus, the rapid growth in the use of renewable energy sources is likely to change the strength and influence of some states and regions compared to others, and also change the geopolitical map in the XXI century.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which is an intergovernmental organization, established in 2009, headquarters in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, makes a major contribution to the development of renewable energy sources.  The agency supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future and serves as the main platform for international cooperation, a center of policies, technologies, resources and finance.  knowledge about renewable energy.  IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, sun and wind, to ensure sustainable development, access to energy, energy security and economic growth and prosperity with low carbon emissions.

Expanding the use of renewable energy sources in conjunction with increased electrification could be a decisive factor for the world to achieve key climate goals by 2050. A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) emphasizes the possibility of immediately introducing cost-effective options for countries to meet climate commitments in order to limit the growth of global temperatures.  The envisaged energy conversion, according to experts at IRENA, will reduce net costs and bring significant socioeconomic benefits, such as accelerated economic growth, job creation and overall growth in welfare [1].

The latest report provides evidence of the need to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C in order to prevent irreversible changes on Earth.  But if urgent steps are not taken to decarbonize the energy sector, the world will remain far from this goal.  This is due to the fact that the path to a low-carbon economy requires the rapid deployment of renewable energy sources and a doubling of energy efficiency, given that the energy sector accounts for two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report covers technological paths and policy implications for a sustainable energy future.  Increasing electricity to more than half of global energy consumption (compared to one-fifth now), combined with renewable energy sources, will reduce the use of fossil fuels, which accounts for most greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewable energy already accounts for more than half of the newly installed electricity generation capacity.  Nevertheless, as the analysis of IRENA shows, their total share in the structure of energy consumption (including electricity, heat and transport) should increase six times.

Renewables have the added potential to mitigate the effects of wider socio-economic stresses and shocks that can also lead to conflicts: by improving access to energy for 1 billion people suffering from energy shortages, by creating jobs, reducing local pollution, promoting  sustainable development and mitigation of competition for limited natural resources.

There are many discussions about the breakdown of the energy transition, and for policy makers and decision makers, they need to understand how the transition to renewable energy will affect everyone. For example, the renewable energy sector has reached a number of stages and currently employs over 10 million people worldwide. But at the same time there are problems associated with the global transition of energy that need to be considered —  to protect those who are currently working in fossil fuel industries.

If energy conversion begins to penetrate into industrial sectors where energy from fossil fuels traditionally dominates, this can lead to serious social upheavals, and we are currently seeing the fear of this destruction in the coal industry.  However, there are some innovative models, such as the model that recently appeared in Spain to ensure a fair transition in the coal sector.  Social measures were taken to locate Spanish coal workers in the future, when the country is moving towards a transition to renewable energy.

Energy Shift towards Renewable Sources

Today some countries are successfully moving from a deficit energy system to a system of potential abundance, when one day almost every country will have  energy independence  due to the use of renewable energy.

This shift is a fundamental change for the world, and it will have a profound impact on the global economy.  Therefore this energy transition could  be just as significant, if not great, that the world experienced 200 years ago.

Countries that have benefited from the production of fossil fuels in the past will react to these geopolitical changes in a completely new way, given that this could potentially disrupt the existing dynamics of power and influence, as well as trade relations and the structure of energy exports and imports.

The United States is close to energy self-sufficiency, largely due to the shale revolution.  The United States became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017 and is projected to become a net exporter of oil in the early 2020s.  American companies hold strong positions in new technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence and electric cars.

In 2017, the amount of energy produced in the United States was equal to about 87.5 quadrillion Btu, and this was equal to about 89.6% of U.S. energy consumption. The three major fossil fuels — petroleum, natural gas, and coal- combined accounted for about 77.6% of the U.S. primary energy production in 2017: natural gas- 31.8%, petroleum (crude oil and natural gas plant liquids) — 28.0%, coal — 17.8%,  renewable energy — 12.7%, nuclear electric power -9.6% [13].

North America has some of the world’s richest wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biomass resources.  The region also has a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, abundant funding opportunities and a highly skilled workforce.

The continent relies on renewable energy for large-scale power generation, especially in the form of hydropower.  In Canada, hydroelectric power accounts for 63% of electricity generation, and some dams are more than 100 years old.

The United States, which is home to iconic hydropower projects such as the Hoover Dam, which tames the Colorado River, also pioneered solar energy and remains the engine of new renewable energy technologies.  The country’s solar industry employs more than 260,000 people, and jobs are created 17 times faster than the average in the United States.

Mexico, like its northern neighbors, is largely dependent on hydropower, but also has an abundance of sun and wind, as well as an active geological landscape, which the country seeks to include in its portfolio of renewable energy sources.  Mexico has the world’s sixth largest installed capacity for geothermal energy, its capacity is 951 MW, which exceeds only the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya and New Zealand.

China will benefit from energy transformation in terms of energy security.  It occupies a leading position in production, but also in the field of innovation and the introduction of technologies for the use of renewable energy sources.  This is the largest place to invest in renewable energy, accounting for more than 45% of the global total in 2017 [4].  Currently, it is still heavily dependent on imported oil, which is growing steadily.

Europe and Japan are major economies that are highly dependent on imports of fossil fuels.  They also hold strong positions in the field of renewable technologies.  In Europe, Germany leads with nearly 31,000 renewable energy patents.  Germany’s domestic energy sector, or “energy transition,” has made the country a leader in the use of renewable energy sources.

Over the past few years, India has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, saving millions of people from poverty.  According to forecasts, by 2024 [14] the population of this country will become the largest in the world, and by the end of the 2020s it will overtake China as the world’s largest energy market for growth. India has set an ambitious goal of 175 GW of renewable energy sources 2022, and the total installed capacity of electricity production in India in October 2018 was only 346 GW [7].

Russia, the world’s largest exporter of gas and the second largest exporter of oil, may face difficulties in adapting to a world that is increasingly being stimulated by renewable energy sources. The Russian economy is larger and diversified than any of the Middle Eastern oil producers, but oil and gas rent is a vital component of the state budget, which accounts for about 40% of budget revenues [15. P.38]. Despite the fact that Russia is increasing its deployment of renewable energy sources and investing in research and development, it still lags far behind China and the United States with regard to patents for the use of air technology.


The world is undergoing a transformation of energy from a system based on fossil fuels to a system based on renewable energy sources in order to reduce global  gas emissions and avoid the most serious consequences of climate change. This transition can change the geopolitical landscape.  The latter transition created an energy system based on geographically concentrated resources.  This allowed for geopolitical power to be exercised around the distribution of these resources, which, in turn, had economic advantages for those countries that have these resources.

  1. Trump’s energy plan and other presidential initiatives are aimed at preserving US global leadership and turning the United States into an energy superpower. The implementation of this plan is closely linked to the possibilities of implementing the internal economic program of the American administration, which implies a reduction in corporate tax, liberalization of the extraction and export of energy resources and investments in various objects of infrastructure.

The challenges in the Green New Deal  that promote most democrats,  is that nearly 80 %  of America’s energy now comes from relatively cheap and plentiful fossil fuels.

Replacing them with sources that do not emit greenhouse gasses will cost trillions of dollars; potentially increase energy costs for millions of families; and entail federal intervention in swaths of the economy, like transportation, where there is already a mixed record of government success

Thus, much work remains to be done in terms of developing mutual understanding in the field of industrial policy and social policy.  For example, understanding the scale of this energy transformation, how it will affect significant sectors of the economy, how America can create a workforce suitable for the future. Today these issues should be the focus of attention of politicians and decision makers.

In the Unites States there is an understanding of the scale of this energy transformation, and critics of Trump’s energy policy are trying to influence the decisions taken in this area to develop new areas of energy and not undermine environmental laws in favor of the US geopolitical global goals.


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