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Fossil fuels vs. renewable energy: the facts


With the news that US President Donald Trump is considering pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, we take a look at some of the facts and figures surrounding the key issues.

The Paris Climate Agreement went into effect on November 4th, 2016 with the aim of helping to decrease mankind’s effect on climate change across the world, and at this time 197 UNFCCC members have already signed the treaty.

Since Donald Trump’s visit to the G7 Summit, there has been a lot of talk about both the positive and negative impacts that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources can have on the economy so we look to bust up some of the myths.


Obviously one of the biggest arguments made for pulling out of the Paris Accord is that a lot of the American economy and American jobs are tied up in the oil and coal Industry, and that swapping to renewable sources would cut all of this out. The biggest problem with this argument is that fossil fuels are by their very nature a finite resource, and before long we will start to see oil and coal supplies running out.

By placing the entire economy and national power on the availability of fossil fuels it is to take the short-sighted view. There is no argument that this will eventually become a problem and by putting off dealing with it is to create a bigger problem later on.

Another problem that is mentioned a lot is the cost, with renewable energy costing more to produce than fossil fuels. While this was at one time true the costs are constantly coming down and at the beginning of this year it was estimated that globally the costs were now the same.

US electric car maker Tesla has just announced their latest line in solar panel roof tiles, and have done a price comparison, claiming that with the lifetime guarantee of the panels, and the energy that the tiles produce homeowners would save an estimated $8,500 over 30 years.

Having discussed the financial implications of renewable energy sources the next biggest concern is employment. A lot of US jobs rely on the coal and oil markets, so why would the US want to stick to the agreement. Well, a survey from the US Department of Energy showed that from 2015-2016 solar energy in the US employed 374,000 people across the country, compared to 187,117 people in the combined oil, coal and gas industries.

So, as has been seen renewable energy sources actually have a benefit for both the economy and the job market across the United States and the World. If you’re a believer in climate change or not then the benefits of renewable energy are clear. There are, of course, further individual benefits. If you live in a sunny climate with your own solar power, not only can you save on your energy bills, but by storing the power you can save from future blackouts and even sell the energy you’ve generated to your neighbours.

After these facts are considered almost any other argument against the Paris Climate Agreement comes down to political motivations rather than practical ones. Trump has thrown his hat in with big energy companies since the beginning of his campaign and by backing the agreement he could be seen as backing down on his support of these companies, and it is also believed that “Environmental Groups” would use the Paris Agreement to hold these companies to account.


The real question, is are they good enough reasons to back out of an agreement less than a year after it came into effect, and is politics a good reason to potentially alter the environment in which we live?

Barry Tinkler