Energy Executive Order Could Hamper RI's Energy And Emissions Goals

Mar 29, 2017

Wind turbines off the coast of Block Island, the nation's first offshore wind farm.
Credit RIPR FILE

President Donald Trump’s executive orders on energy could have big impacts on states producing fossil fuels. But the order could still affect the Ocean State’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases.

Rhode Island has set the ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions in the state 45 percent below the state’s emissions levels of 1990. Rhode Island will likely maintain that goal no matter what comes out of the White House.

However, Brown University climate policy professor Timmons Roberts said some parts of the executive order – which could reduce emissions standards on cars – will make Rhode Island’s goals harder to reach.

“To have the current administration rolling back expectations that car makers make more efficient cars, makes it more difficult for Rhode Island to meet its future targets,” said Roberts. “So the federal side does matter.”

The state’s clean energy goals could also face new challenges. Earlier this month, the state unveiled ambitious goals to produce 1000 megawatts of clean energy by 2020. Roberts said the executive order will likely bolster fossil fuel producers, making them cheaper.

“If the fossil fuels are given such a boost, if they get sort of an unfair advantage, and it’s going to make it harder for the renewables to compete in the marketplace and we may see more fossil fuels going back onto the electric grid,” said Roberts.

Roberts and other environmental advocates are pushing a statewide carbon tax to help mitigate the effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.