This was the first year on record in which the United States produced more electricity from renewable energy sources than from coal. The landmark accomplishment happened despite the Trump administration doing nearly everything in its power to set the clock back for clean energy alternatives. According to a new report from Grist and nonprofit investigative publication InvestigateWest, the Trump administration has actively tried to bury dozens of studies and research projects that highlight the promise of renewable energy as part of an ongoing effort to prop up the fossil fuel industry.
In total, the investigation found more than 40 studies focusing on clean energy that the Trump administration has largely failed to disclose. Some of the papers have been left in limbo within the agency, blocked from release for the time being. Others were published, but hidden in scientific journals that cannot be accessed by the general public. In some cases, the research has been replaced with presentations that fail to highlight the findings of the studies.
In essentially all cases, it seems as though the intent of the administration is to obfuscate any information that would ramp up excitement for clean energy sources and potentially undermine dirty-burning fossil fuels. The reports published by the Energy Department often play a role in determining areas of investment for the energy sector, and can influence budgetary decisions. By hiding the findings, Trump's team seems to be trying to slow the momentum of clean energy as the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible.
One example of essential research buried by the Trump administration dealt with hydropower and its capability to enhance wind and solar energy. The paper found that storing up water behind a dam and releasing it when the wind isn't blowing or sun isn't shining can help to supplement power. The paper has been unpublished for more than a year, according to the investigation, even as Trump administration officials praised hydroelectric dams as a critical resource for American energy.
In addition to sitting on essential research that could help boost renewable energy and guide the market to produce better, more efficient power sources, the report also found that the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has cut back on publishing market updates, going from quarterly updates to publishing every other year. This change leaves the public, including investors and corporations looking to deploy capital in the energy sector, in the dark about the changing shape of the energy landscape, which could lead to less investment in renewable energy.
The office also reportedly instituted a rule in the spring of this year that requires scientists within the Department of Energy to get political appointees to sign off on research before allowing them to submit the findings for publication in scientific journals.
This type of political meddling in science isn't new for the Trump administration, which has done its damnedest to silence scientific progress at every turn. The EPA under Trump has similarly placed hurdles in front of scientists looking to publish essential research. This is perhaps not surprising for a government headed by a climate denier, but Trump's disdain for science has seeped into the agencies that typically promote it, and his anti-science views have started to have corrosive effects.
Trump and his agency appointees, including coal and oil lobbyists, have done everything they can to stop the growth of wind, solar, and other clean energy projects. They've buried research, held up billions of dollars in funding for clean energy projects, and talked up fossil fuels at every turn. The efforts may have slowed progress, but wind and solar are now more affordable and efficient than coal, and much of the world is making the switch. It'll be America that is left behind.