Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord. As it happened, I heard the news while at a restaurant following a day at the Intersolar-ees conference in Munich, Germany. At the next table sat a group of 10-12 Europeans and Chinese, who had also been attending the conference. When they heard the news of Trump’s announcement, one of them stood and offered a toast to his table. This is good news, he said: We all stand to gain market share.
As an American, that toast poured salt on a wound that was already a raw. President Trump said in his announcement that his action was going to stop nations laughing at us. I do not know whether or not that is true. But I do know first-hand that other nations are now toasting America’s apparent withdrawal as a competitor in the increasingly important and increasingly lucrative business of renewable energy.
In a larger sense, Mr. Trump’s announcement is an attempt to withdraw America from the future. That is not as strange or as unusual as it sounds. The future is a scary place. It has risks as well as opportunities. Whether one is inclined to focus on risks or inclined to focus on opportunities determines in large part how one views the future. No one ever accused President Trump of being an optimist.
Renewable energy is the future. How we provide power to an increasingly electronic world without choking ourselves on the byproducts is one of the great challenges of this century. It will also be one of the great business opportunities.
No one succeeds in business by running away from opportunities. The same can be said of nations. President Trump’s effort to turn America away from the future will not succeed. The pursuit of opportunity, and the optimism that drives it, are hard-wired into the American character.
To our European and Chinese friends, let us simply say: America will be back, and with a vengeance. In a curious way, President Trump’s announcement may be just the thing needed to kick new life and new commitment into American scientists and energy entrepreneurs. It is they who will truly make America great again.