The Vermont senator who wanted to be president had criticism Thursday for the man who got the job, regarding his environmental policies.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, toured Sandia National Laboratories in Williston, which is one of five regional solar testing centers in the country conducting studies for the U.S. Energy Department.
Primary aims of the centers, according to a sign hanging outside the facility, are to see the cost of solar-generated electricity become more affordable, to grow the nation’s solar industry, and to foster technical innovation in the energy sector.
As part of the research underway in Williston now, Sandia is analyzing the effectiveness of designs that are capable of generating power from both sides of the panels.
That could be big for the northeast, where much of the year, sunlight would reflect off snow and hit the backsides of the cells.
“It’s another example of U.S. ingenuity in the solar market,” Laurie Burnham of Sandia National Labs told reporters.
“We think this is the energy of the future,” Sanders said, gesturing to a large field full of various styles of solar panels from different manufacturers that are being tested at Sandia’s facility. “Our job is to think big.”
Sanders also criticized President Donald Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Scott Pruitt has rejected the views of a vast majority of scientists who say emissions from burning fossil fuels are top contributors to climate change.
Monday, the EPA chief used the words “the war on coal is over,” as he rolled back Obama-era efforts to limit carbon output from coal-fired power plants.
“What we had under the Obama administration with the Clean Power Plan was devastating for the coal industry,” Joe Craft, a coal executive with Alliance Resource Partners said earlier this week when the rollback was announced. “With this repeal or with this withdrawal, I think it gives us the opportunity to protect the coal fleet and hopefully have an opportunity to build new coal-fired powered plants, so we can contribute to the economic development of this country.”
The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, the Associated Press wrote this week. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
"This president has tremendous courage," Pruitt said Monday, according to an AP report. "He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do."
Sanders countered that claim from the Trump administration.
“I think the Trump administration’s attitude toward the environment—toward climate change—is really tragic,” the senator said in response to a question from necn about the change in coal policy.
Sanders called climate change an urgent threat, and pointed to the more intense hurricane season as the latest reason why he believes the nation needs to more aggressively transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to embrace efficiency and sustainability.
“President Trump talks about bringing back coal,” Sanders said in remarks prepared for the visit to the solar research site. “It’s not going to happen. This is the future.”
Sanders also predicted that emerging solar technologies will play a significant role in the future of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, as it looks to rebuild its decimated power grid.