In the fossil-fuel-friendly quarters of financial firms and energy companies, more than a few pints of beer were no doubt raised in celebration on March 28th. That’s when President Trump signed an executive order to begin the rollback of America’s Clean Power Plan.
And yet, odds are that many of those beers were produced by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world’s largest brewer, which announced, on that very same day, its plan to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025.
Now I’ll drink to that.
No Coal-Powered Buds
Controlling more than 500 brands of suds (including Budweiser, Beck’s, and Corona), AB InBev produces over 140 billion pints of beer annually. With 200,000 employees based in more than 50 countries worldwide, it sees renewable energy as good for its bottom line and good for the planet.
So do corporate giants Apple, Mars, Microsoft, Google, Levis Strauss, Staples, IKEA, Wal-mart, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, Kellogg’s, L’Oreal USA, Target and more than 145 other companies who signed the Obama administration’s American Business Act on Climate Change.
Edward Hoover, senior manager of Corporate Communications for Mars, maker of M&Ms, Skittles and Twix, retweeted his company’s response to the president’s order:
It would appear that the President who purports to have a deep understanding of the business world is way behind the curve – or, headed in the opposite direction – when it comes to the smart business approach to renewable energy.
The Private Sector Commits
RE100 companies, which describes itself as “a collaborative, global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity” points out that “the private sector accounts for around half of the world’s electricity consumption. Switching this demand to renewables will accelerate the transformation of the global energy market and aid the transition to a low carbon economy.” Many of the US companies who signed the ABA on Climate Change in 2015 as well as other global companies have signed on to RE100, committing to specific – or somewhat specific – timelines by which they will have switched to renewables.
Of course, even amenable companies might need regulatory inducements to move them along on a schedule that recognizes the critical state of climate change. The market alone cannot substitute for effective government policy.
No Long-Term Victory for Coal
There’s no putting a positive spin on the President’s approach to climate change. But as far as coal is concerned, the economics of coal-powered electricity are continuing to falter. Natural gas, more abundant and cheaper to produce (and yes, presenting its own set of serious problems for our health), has edged out coal as a power producer and as an export. Coal mining jobs were seriously in decline before Obama’s CPP (which, by the way, hasn’t been fully implemented yet), due not only to market forces, but also to automation. Those thousands of jobs Trump promised during his campaign are not coming back.
States are Leading
Additionally, as reported by Reuters, “85 percent of U.S. states are on track to meet the targets [of the CPP],” that according to Bill Becker, director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, a group of state and local air pollution control agencies.
Ultimately, whatever boost deregulation gives to the production side of the coal industry, it will do little to benefit the supply side of the equation. While its last gasp may not be imminent, no executive action can halt the inevitable market forces arrayed against coal.
Still, this is no time for complacency. In the meantime, the reboot of coal will pump millions more tons of green-house gases into our atmosphere, leaving our families gasping for clean air.