Solar farms have popped up around Georgia in recent years, including this one in Athens. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Trump move unlikely to stop ‘green’ business trend

President Donald Trump’s decision to start backing out of the Paris climate pact drew outrage from environmentalists and the alternative energy industry, but some business experts said it may be hard to see local effects.

Trump’s move is based in “ideology and not science,” said James Marlow, president and co-founder of Radiance Solar, an Atlanta-based company that installs big solar power projects for commercial and electric utility customers. “They’re working against innovation and jobs and it’s bad for America.”

Trump’s move is a “climate-denial stunt” that will hurt alternative energy workers, at least temporarily, said Frank Rambo, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, an advocacy group.

“There are more Southerners working in solar energy now than there are miners digging coal,” said Rambo. “The President’s skewed views are a short-term setback for the thousands of renewable-energy workers supporting their families, but they can’t derail this nation’s energy future.”

The Paris pact is largely non-binding on the nearly 200 nations that signed it. The United States wasn’t expected to meet its pollution-cutting goals by the pact’s 2025 deadline, partly because of the challenges to getting big reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from autos, utility plants and other industries.

“We don’t want to overstate what getting out of the Paris accords would mean,” said Roger Tutterow, an economist at Kennesaw State University.

Tutterow said some industries that would get the most relief from the policy reversal — coal mining and oil producers — are bit players in Georgia.

Others that could be affected, like electric utilities, have been phasing out coal-fired power plants for several years, he added, after prices for natural gas, a cleaner-burning competing fuel, plunged.

The bulk of investment in recent years by Georgia Power and its parent, Southern Company, have been in its Vogtle nuclear plant, natural gas operations, and solar and wind energy projects.

Meanwhile, big companies are likely to continue with “go green” efforts anyway because of pressure from customers, said Tutterow.

Southern Company said it plans to keep investing in power plants that don’t produce green house gases.

“Southern Company will continue its commitment to a leadership role in finding environmental solutions that make technological and economic sense,” spokesman Schuyler Baehman said. “The focus of this effort must be on developing and deploying technologies that reduce (green house gases) while ensuring energy remains reliable and affordable.”

One former Georgia business leader, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, said he favored exiting the agreement to keep business’ energy costs down. But his former company said it will still look for ways to reduce its impact on the environment.

“Regardless of the decision, we’ll continue to push forward with our environmental and sustainability efforts, which began long before the accord,” Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said.

Michael E. Kanell contributed to this report.

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