Renewables vs. Fossil Fuels and Nuclear: Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Energy?

by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator

As we get deeper into the presidential election season, each candidate's position becomes more distinct. Interestingly, the current candidates offer very clear and differing views on what is the right energy path for America. There are two extreme ends of the spectrum:

  • One extreme, represented by Bernie Sanders, is that the U.S. needs to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, move to 100% renewables, and take strong action on climate change.
  • The polar opposite, represented by Donald Trump, is that America can only become strong again by focusing on fossil fuels and nuclear power and recognizing that the concept of man-made climate change is a “hoax”.

Here is where the candidates sit on the spectrum: 

presidential candidate views on energy

Following is more detail on the candidates’ positions, issue by issue, as taken from their campaign websites, public statements, voting records, and debate responses.

Issue 1: Overall Policy

  • Sanders — Supports 100% renewables including phase out of nuclear power
  • Clinton — Strongly favors clean energy development, but also supports ongoing use of traditional sources with appropriate regulation
  • Kasich Believes in mix of fossil fuels and clean energy
  • Cruz Welcomes all energy sources, but opposes regulation and subsidies; wants government policy to encourage fossil fuel production
  • Trump Believes in expanding fossil fuel production and nuclear power

Issue 2: Renewables

  • Sanders — States goal is to drive America to 100% clean energy; supports the Production Tax Credit (PTC)
  • Clinton — Strongly supports; policy calls for 50 million solar panels in first term (seven-fold increase over existing) and within 10 years enough renewable energy to power every home in America; supports PTC
  • Kasich OK with renewables subsidies; supported Ohio’s current renewable portfolio standard (RPS), but he doesn’t make renewables a big piece of his platform
  • Cruz Says we should pursue but only when it makes economic sense without any subsidy
  • Trump Believes clean energy initiatives endanger lower- and middle-class jobs by increasing the cost of energy; at times says he’s OK with subsidies; sued to block offshore wind projects near one of his golf courses in Scotland; often belittles renewables in speeches

Issue 3: Ethanol mandate

  • Sanders — Supports
  • Clinton — Supports
  • Kasich Supports
  • Cruz Proposes five-year phase out
  • Trump Supports

Issue 4: Fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil)

  • Sanders — Opposes hydraulic fracturing and supports end of fossil fuel leases on public land
  • Clinton — Has stated support for natural gas and said hydraulic fracturing is acceptable if appropriately regulated; recently stated, however, that once hydraulic fracturing is regulated, there may be very few places left for drilling; wants to update infrastructure such as gas pipelines; wants to increase fees and royalties on fossil fuel production
  • Kasich Strong supporter of hydraulic fracturing but as governor did propose additional taxes on gas and oil
  • Cruz Wants to foster a “Great American Energy Renaissance” by removing federal obstacles to energy development and removing regulations on fossil fuels; wants to eliminate regulations that adversely impact the coal industry
  • Trump Supports increased use of fossil fuels and hydraulic fracturing; hopes to resuscitate the coal industry by removing barriers to mining

Issue 5: Nuclear

  • Sanders — Wants to progressively halt nuclear license renewals to ultimately phase out nuclear power
  • Clinton — Says she is agnostic (neither supports nor opposes)
  • Kasich Position unknown
  • Cruz Position unknown
  • Trump Believes nuclear is underutilized resource; strong supporter of further development

Issue 6: Energy efficiency

  • Sanders — Strongly supports as a key part of energy policy
  • Clinton — Favors cutting energy waste by 30%; wants to bring efficiency to low-income citizens
  • Kasich Has stated support for energy efficiency
  • Cruz Position unknown
  • Trump Position unknown

Issue 7: Climate change regulation

  • Sanders — Favors the Clean Power Plan (CPP); wants to implement a national carbon tax
  • Clinton — Favors the CPP; plans to create $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge; supports a
    North American Climate compact with Canada and Mexico
  • Kasich Only remaining Republican candidate to acknowledge the human influence on climate change but opposes the CPP
  • Cruz Does not believe in man-made climate change; favors repeal of the CPP
  • Trump Does not believe in man-made climate change; opposes any regulation on carbon emissions including the CPP

From these positions, the point is clear. If you want to make your voting decision based on a candidates’ energy views, you have a very distinct choice to make.

Want to do your own research on candidates' stances on energy? Here are some online resources that may help: