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Wind power is a booming part of the American economy, not a bogeyman to fear, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee told CNN Business on Wednesday.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said President Donald Trump’s claim that noise from windmills causes cancer is “ridiculous” and “another symptom of his failure to provide leadership.”

Inslee noted that Trump’s own Labor Department lists wind turbine service technician as America’s second-fastest growing job between 2016 and 2026 – behind only solar installer.

“A person who calls himself Republican and should be pro-business is demeaning one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States,” Inslee said from the sidelines of the Columbia Global Energy Summit in New York.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is the only 2020 presidential candidate running on climate change and he's pushing his state to go adopt carbon-free electricity.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is the only 2020 presidential candidate running on climate change and he's pushing his state to go adopt carbon-free electricity.

Inslee, who will appear at a CNN town hall event on Wednesday, called the wind industry “one of the most successful parts of the economy.”

US wind power supported a record 114,000 domestic jobs in 2018, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Trump raised eyebrows last week when at a fundraiser he said of windmills: “They say the noise causes cancer.”

FactCheck.org concluded that there is no evidence that wind turbines cause cancer and cited an American Cancer Society statement saying it’s “unaware of any credible evidence linking the noise from windmills to cancer.”

Politifact agreed, rating Trump’s statement “Pants on Fire.”

Coal vs. renewables

Trump’s criticism of wind energy puts an exclamation point on his embrace of fossil fuels, most notably the coal industry. The administration slashed environmental regulations and made it easier to open new coal mines in a bid to fulfill Trump’s campaign promises.

Yet Trump has so far been unable to revive the coal industry due to fierce competition from cleaner fuel sources, including natural gas, solar and yes, wind.

US coal consumption dropped in 2018 to the lowest level since 1979, according to government statistics. Renewable energy costs have plunged in recent years to levels that make wind and solar power competitive with, or even cheaper than, fossil fuels.

“Coal is just not economical,” said Inslee, the only 2020 candidate to run on climate change.

The Democrat said Trump not only “failed” to save coal jobs — because it’s not economically feasible — but he failed to create viable alternatives for coal workers.

’Economic wasteland’

Under Inslee, Washington State has moved towards renewable energy and announced plans to close its final coal-fired power plant. He said the state set aside a $65 million fund to help reinvest in the community.

Last month, the state senate passed a clean energy bill that seeks to eliminate fossil fuels from the electricity supply by 2045. A similar proposal is making its way through the assembly.

“My state, according to Donald Trump, should be an economic wasteland right now because we’ve embraced clean energy,” Inslee said at the Columbia energy summit.

But Inslee cited Washington State’s robust GDP and wage growth as evidence that clean energy can be used as a way to boost the economy.

“This is a unique moment because it’s of the utmost peril and greatest promise for a clean energy economy that can grow jobs billions,” said Inslee, who added that he drives a Chevrolet Bolt manufactured at a GM plant in Michigan.

Limits on the shale boom?

While coal is collapsing, America’s oil and natural gas industries have boomed over the last decade thanks to the shale revolution, which has unlocked vast resources trapped underground.

US oil output spiked to an all-time high in 2018, making America the largest oil producer on the planet. Despite the energy boom, US oil prices hit a five-month high this week due in large part to supply cuts by OPEC and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. And gasoline prices have crept higher as well.

Trump plans to sign an executive order aimed at making it easier to build pipelines, freeing up oil and natural gas that has been trapped by a lack of infrastructure.

Inslee, on the other hand, wants to end fracked gas leasing on public lands. And he warned it’s “totally unsustainable” to burn all of America’s oil because of climate change.

“We have to be very scrupulous before we build additional infrastructure that would accelerate the use of fossil fuels,” Inslee said.