In an alternate universe, President Trump would have seen the Paris Agreement as a deal-maker’s dream.

Instead of exiting the agreement with an empty promise of re-negotiation -- a prospect already made implausible by statements from France, Germany and Italy -- Trump could have used Paris, and the global effort to combat climate change, as the linchpin of an "America First" clean energy strategy.

What would an America First clean energy policy look like in this alternative reality?

Domestically, Trump would have supported a broad expansion of the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program, which has already helped grow manufacturing of everything from fuel-efficient and electric vehicles to carbon capture from methanol production.

He would have redoubled investment in energy research, development and deployment through programs such as ARPA-E and the SunShot Initiative.

He might even have gone further, urging Congress to create and fund a Federal Green Bank dedicated to scaling up new American energy technology through low-risk financing.

Funding priority under these programs would have gone to applicants who could:

  • Scale up manufacturing and/or deployment within the U.S. -- particularly in the regions hardest hit by coal’s decline
  • Export technology or services to foreign markets with growing energy demand
  • Utilize small amounts of public funding to drive much larger private investments

Trump would ensure sufficient demand for these technologies through his infrastructure bill, which would include a healthy dose of energy sector upgrades ranging from electric-vehicle charging networks to resiliency-driven microgrids for military bases and hospitals.   

Armed with confidence that the U.S. would create tomorrow’s energy innovations, Trump would send negotiators around the world, using the Paris umbrella to seek bilateral agreements like the one President Obama signed with India in 2016.

Each of these deals would include an agreement to export U.S. clean energy technology, often with the support of existing agencies such as the Export-Import Bank. American companies would build solar and wind farms in Africa, support grid modernization in Asia, and sell electric vehicles to the Middle East.

Whether or not the U.S. participates in Paris, the rest of the world will. And global energy demand will continue to shift toward low-carbon resources. That's the actual reality today.

Without any comprehensive plan in America, China may step up as the world’s dominant supplier of clean energy technology. And that’s no way to make America great again.


Shayle Kann is the senior vice president at Greentech Media and head of GTM Research.