Natural gas, solar won’t suffer from Trump’s plan to leave Paris climate accord

Published: June 5, 2017 6:25 p.m. ET

Trump’s decision ‘does not mean that renewable growth is stifled’: Van Horne



The natural gas and solar sectors will survive — and maybe even thrive — in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Trump said Thursday that the U.S. will leave the Paris accord because it is “very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States.” Staying in the agreement would pose “serious obstacles” for the U.S. as it begins “the process of unlocking the restrictions on America’s abundant energy reserves,” he said.

Phil Van Horne, chief executive officer and founder of energy solutions firm BlueRock Energy, said that in the long term, this move would result in a “better deployment of intellectual and financial capital.”

‘Renewables will continue to be a key part of the supply mix due to state level policies and corporate environmental objectives.’

Phil Van Horne, BlueRock Energy

But that “does not mean that renewable [energy] growth is stifled,” he said. “Renewables will continue to be a key part of the supply mix due to state level policies and corporate environmental objectives.”

Production for several industrial sectors would have taken a hit under the pact, hurting the economy and prompting the loss of 6.5 million industrial jobs, Trump claimed. Coal output, in particular under the Paris agreement, would drop 86% by 2040, he said.

“I happen to love the coal miners,” Trump said.

James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics, however, said Trump’s decision may have “little positive impact on coal.”

The president’s “policies on drilling and pipeline construction will likely have more impact on gas NGN17, +1.58% — encouraging more natural-gas production, which could lower prices and keep it competitive with coal.”

Besides, there are many other countries that will feed demand for cleaner energy sources.

“There almost 200 other countries party to it which could provide significant increases to our [liquefied natural gas] exports,” said Beth Sewell, managing partner at Quantum Power & Gas Services. “The U.S. will also be a larger consumer of natural gas due to the number of coal-fired plants being retired over the next couple of years, and wind is a fickle power generator that isn’t all that reliable.”

Meanwhile, solar still isn’t economical without tax subsidies, said Sewell.

But Brien Lundin, co-founder of Natcore Technology Inc. NXT, +2.44% NTCXF, -2.70% a solar research and development company, said that solar technology has generally “advanced to the point where it’s already at parity with conventional power in large swaths of the world.”

“Energy costs are very low in the U.S. compared with the rest of the world, and we tend to believe that’s the case around the globe,” he said.

So the “U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord will have little impact on the growth of solar energy worldwide,” said Lundin.