Clinton’s energy ‘open borders’ already underway

Source: Umair Irfan and Scott Waldman, E&E reporters • Posted: Friday, October 21, 2016

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said last night that a speech in which she appeared to call for “open borders” was actually referring to energy.

Asked by moderator Chris Wallace during the third and final debate with Republican candidate Donald Trump, “Is that your dream, open borders?” Clinton dove briefly into the weeds of cross-border electricity transmission.

“Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy,” Clinton said. “You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders. I think that would be a great benefit to us.”

The comment aligns with Clinton’s past positions calling for a transnational energy grid, one that allows for more use of green and sustainable energy. But analysts last night pointed out that electricity and fuels currently move freely across borders.

“We already have electricity trade across both of our borders,” said Nathan Serota, a senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “That already happens.”

There is Canadian hydropower imported into states such as New York, and proposed transmission lines would bring more hydropower into New England. The government of Quebec wants to build out hydropower resources, so more clean power could be imported into the United States from its northern neighbor.

The greatest challenge, however, is building out the billions of dollars of transmission lines that would be needed to support such infrastructure.

Less clear is how the United States could export clean energy into Mexico. Presumably, wind power and solar power could be situated in the vast open spaces in rural border states, but renewable energy often relies on incentives. The power might not be able to compete in a cross-border energy market.

With its energy market liberalization last year, Mexico has signaled that it’s open to buying U.S. natural gas and has started construction on several pipelines (ClimateWire, Oct. 24, 2015).

However, trading clean energy could help smaller nations in the Americas meet their climate change objectives.

“The United states is kind of unique in that we have such vast renewable resources,” said Joe Romm, who led the U.S. Department of Energy’s renewable energy division under President Bill Clinton. “For the United States, [energy trading] isn’t as important as it may be for other parts of the Americas where countries don’t have such vast clean energy resources.”

The speech transcript was revealed by WikiLeaks, which originated from the Gmail account of Clinton campaign adviser John Podesta. In remarks to the Brazilian bank Banco Itaú she reportedly said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”