What would a Fiorina presidency mean for solar?
After the Sept. 16th Republican presidential candidates debate, many news sources are calling Carly Fiorina the big winner. Her poll numbers are on the rise, and as woman and a veteran of the tech world, she is an outlier in a race dominated by conservative, career politicians. Does her call for solving problems through innovation include promoting solar energy?
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond writes that, “For the second debate in a row, Fiorina was once again the breakout star of the night, taking on Republican front-runner Donald Trump with finesse and capturing the crowd with polished, zinging answers and an impassioned charge against abortion.” Although there was no mention of renewable energy on the stage during the latest debate, Fiorina has gone on the record as believing that climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed, unlike the majority of Republican candidates who question the scientific findings of many climate change researchers. Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, believes that technological innovation, not anti-carbon legislation is the answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Before pursuing her political aspirations, Carly Fiorina headed up several tech companies headquartered in California, the nation’s biggest solar market. In 2004, while Fiorina was president of Hewlett-Packard, HP’s Boise, ID facility as well as their Vancouver, WA facilities were recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their outstanding commitment to green power. HP has gone on to be a major consumer of solar energy, although the majority of the development happened after Fiorina’s tenure as CEO.
When Fiorina took on Barbara Boxer in the California senate race in 2010, her campaign website stated her energy policy thus: “Carly believes we can both reduce energy costs and improve our environment by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and by investing in clean technology. To do this, we need a national energy policy that promotes the development of all domestic forms of energy, including nuclear, solar, wind and clean coal, and the exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. We have close to a 100-year supply of natural gas and, thanks to improved technologies, it is a safe, cheap and available supply of energy.”
During the senate race, Ms. Fiorina answered that she supports renewable energy tax credits on a 2010 Christian Coalition presidential questionnaire, although more recently, she told the Des Moines Register that, “ the answer is to phase out all subsidies. But we need to do it at the same time. We need to phase out sugar, oil and renewable fuels (subsidies) but do it at the same time so that we’re not disadvantaging any one state or industry,” she said. She made this statement at an agricultural forum, so she may have been referring more specifically to the current renewable fuels standard supporting biofuels, rather than solar.
At this time in the republican race for the presidential nomination, renewable energy development, and solar in particular is not getting a lot of discussion. Ms. Fiorina, who comes from the high-tech business sector, has the opportunity to step away from the pack and show some vision on energy policy as she calls for an increase in innovation. Unfortunately, many Republican candidates choose to throw the solar baby out with the climate change bathwater, ignoring solar’s immense potential for increasing energy independence, creating jobs, benefiting local economies AND improving air and water quality. Perhaps Carly Fiorina’s tech background will give her the ability to bring these facts into a race that has so far been very light on the discussion of science and technology.