A central theme of Donald Trump’s presidency has been his disregard for climate change, epitomised by his decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. Despite changing his tune — flipping from calling climate change a hoax to not a hoax — he has been unambiguous with his thoughts on renewable energy. 

In 2017 he claimed that noise from wind turbines causes cancer, and has regularly propounded worries that transitioning to cleaner energy will lead to lost fossil fuel jobs.

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After three years in office, the Trump administration has also dismantled many Obama-era initiatives, reversing 100 environmental rules seen as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other businesses, according to a recent analysis by The New York Times.

Yet counter to Mr Trump’s dismissal of renewable energy and the environment, the data tells the opposite story: FDI into renewable energy has boomed under his presidency while declining in fossil fuels. 

fDi Markets recorded 193 inbound renewable energy projects in the first three and a half years of Trump’s presidency — more than double the number in the corresponding period of Mr Obama’s second term, and over 70% more than in Obama’s first term. 

Meanwhile, inbound projects in the US coal, oil and gas sector have remained fairly stable between Mr Obama’s second term and Mr Trump’s term, and markedly lower than Mr Obama’s first term, when the shale gas revolution began in the US.

Market forces

The president can take little credit for the boom in renewable energy FDI under his watch. State-level initiatives, investor sentiment and falling renewable energy costs have driven much of the rise.

Nicole Systrom of Sutro Energy Group, a consultancy which aims to accelerate cleantech investment and solutions, says that there has been “a lot of progress” made at the state level around energy policies, citing New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado as good examples.

Texas, a state known for its oil and gas sector, has also emerged as a leading destination for renewable investment attracting 21 inbound FDI projects in 2019, the highest number of any US state, according to fDi Markets.

Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of renewables, with 79% of Americans saying renewables should be prioritised over fossil fuels, according to a recent survey by think tank the Pew Research Center.

Despite Mr Trump’s denial and efforts to curb renewable energy, growing investment in the sector is a trend that will proceed on its own.

Part of a six-part feature that first appeared in the October/November edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here