Donald Trump and Republican energy officials might think they’re talking a good game with proposed boosts in offshore drilling, coal industry jobs, and tariffs on solar panels from China. But worldwide, the new energy construction projects and investment emphasis are concentrated in solar. And it’s a trend where China is far outpacing the United States.
The world installed 98 gigawatts of new solar power projects in 2017, more than the additions of coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined, according to a new report about global trends in renewable energy investment. The report is a joint effort of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management in Germany, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The report reflects not only a strong emphasis on solar energy but also the amount of investment money going into those projects, and where that money is coming from.
Trump has regurgitated tweets with threats about tariffs for weeks, renewing fears of a trade war with China. But as Think Progress put it, “We’re fighting the wrong trade battle with China. The future is clean energy.”
So even as Trump focuses on backward-looking energy sources like coal and backward-looking trade policies such as these latest tariff wars, the forward-looking Chinese have seized the initiative on the core job-creating industries of the future.
There are estimates that renewable energy options such as wind and solar could produce four times as many ongoing jobs as would a fossil fuel investment such as a natural gas power plant. As the report makes clear, the global energy map is changing, and where investors are putting their money is changing along with it—especially when it comes to the developing world.