The Real 'Energy Week' News

In May, the Trump administration began staging weekly policy themes like “jobs,” “technology,” and “infrastructure.” Not a bad idea, but inevitably each topic has been eclipsed by the self-generated cloud of chaos that is the hallmark of this presidency. Last week, while the president occupied himself with insulting the appearance and intelligence of a television news host, the administration’s official theme was “Energy Week.” Of course, it would have been more accurate to call it “Dirty Fuels Week,” since that’s the only energy source this administration actually cares about (President Trump’s plagiarized solar wall idea notwithstanding).

Fortunately, real-world energy news has little to do with the dirty-fuels-first boosterism coming from the White House. On Monday of “Energy Week,” for instance, President Trump met with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Although Trump is keen to export more dirty fuels to India, that nation has announced that it plans to get nearly 60 percent of its energy from non–fossil fuel sources by 2027. In fact, India is not only on track to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement, it will probably exceed them. That’s because India — like China — is aggressively moving away from burning coal for electricity.

Of course, coal isn’t faring too well as a power source in this country, either, despite the Trump administration’s efforts. That was underlined in the middle of “Energy Week” by an announcement from the Atlanta-based Southern Company that it is giving up on its financially disastrous carbon capture and coal-gasification plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. This was the plant that was supposed to demonstrate the feasibility of reducing carbon emissions while still burning coal. Instead it’s done the opposite, while forcing ratepayers to cover $800 million of about $4 billion in cost overruns. “Energy Week” is now the official last gasp for the myth of “clean coal.”

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and his attempt to roll back the Clean Power Plan are obviously out of step with reality both here and abroad, not to mention with what majorities of Americans in all 50 states want. An AP poll released just before “Energy Week” found that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling climate change. Fortunately, “Energy Week” has brought still more evidence that if the federal government refuses to act on clean energy and climate, then local governments are ready to take the lead.

In Miami Beach, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which represents 1,481 cities with populations between 30,000 and 8,000,000) unanimously approved a resolution establishing a policy framework supporting the goal of 100 percent clean and renewable energy in cities nationwide by 2035.

That’s a big deal, and here’s why: According to a new Sierra Club analysis, if the cities represented at the U.S. Conference of Mayors — which represent 148 million people and account for 41.8 percent of national electricity use — transition to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity, it would be roughly equivalent to eliminating just over a third of carbon emissions from the U.S. electric sector.

The mayors also voiced their support for both the Paris agreement and coordinating on climate action. As New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put it, “If we don’t do it, who’s going to do it, right? Cities and states around the country are now doing the kinds of things the national government should do.”

Seems like some serious energy got generated during “Energy Week” after all — but in Miami Beach, not Washington, D.C.