On Sunday, 2016 Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton released a video outlining her position on climate change, as well as a set of two broad clean energy goals. The former Secretary of State and New York Senator aims to bring the total number of solar panels in the US up to 500 million by the end of her first term in January 2021, and to boost US alternative energy to the point that it can power every home in America by 2025.
Given that the United States currently produces about 20,000 Megawatts of solar energy, and that it takes roughly 5 panels to produce a Kilowatt of power, we figure that there are about 100 million solar panels in operation in the United States today. That said, Clinton’s plan reflects a five-fold increase in the nation’s solar usage by 2020. In order to meet her grander goal of producing enough alternative energy to power the residential grid by 2025, we would need to increase our alternative energy output (including solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc.) from its current 1.6 billion BTU level to about 5 billion BTU, or about a three-fold increase.
While many are cheering Clinton for making her stance on climate clearer, her Democratic challengers Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley see it as a small appeasement on top of a spotty environmental record. Bloomberg reports:
“‘I have helped lead the opposition against the Keystone pipeline,’ Sanders told reporters earlier this month as Clinton visited Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. ‘I don’t believe we should be excavating or transporting some of the dirtiest fuel on this planet. I think Secretary Clinton has not been clear on her views on that issue.’ O’Malley’s campaign, meanwhile, prebutted Clinton’s Sunday announcement with a memo on ‘what real climate leadership looks like’ that recaps his opposition to Keystone and to offshore and Arctic drilling, as well as his proposals to create millions of jobs by boosting the clean energy industry.”
Regardless of which Democratic candidate is nominated, it is almost certain that a Democratic president in 2016 would at least acknowledge the realities of climate change, though the candidates’ plans of action may differ.