March 27, 2017 Categories: Clean Energy Fossil Fuels Low-Carbon Fuel

Making America Fuelish Again

NextGen Policy Center

by Dan Lashof

When a climate denier becomes President and decides to fill his administration with fossil fuel industry BFFs — such as the CEO of the world’s largest private oil company and a “fossil energy Attorney General” who has sued EPA on behalf of polluters fourteen times — it is only reasonable to expect bad policy. Well, President Trump is fulfilling those expectations. Make no mistake, his occasional meetings with Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and Elon Musk are nothing more than a distraction from his actual intentions. This is a tried and true practice of a con man.

Trump’s budget, his pledge to begin unravelling clean car standards, and now his climate change accelerating Executive Order represent a pure distillation of ideology and corporate interests triumphing over facts, reason and the rule of law. We have seen this adventure movie before, in a somewhat less extreme form, during the George W. Bush Administration. It didn’t end well.

Let’s review the bidding:

Trump’s Know Nothing Budget: Trump’s budget blueprint is a disaster on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. The biggest overall cuts are reserved for EPA (31%) and the State Department (29%), and it is not hyperbolic to say these cuts would literally cost lives. The cuts to EPA, if enacted, would undermine the agency’s ability to enforce life-saving standards that protect America’s clean air and water. And cutting off the State Department’s essential disaster relief programs that help areas impacted by climate change — such as the drought threatening South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen with mass starvation right now — would put millions of lives at risk.

Yet some of the most stunning cuts are narrowly targeted to undermine basic climate data collection at NOAA and NASA. One example: eliminating funding for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite (OCO-3). This satellite is necessary not only to improve our understanding of how forests and oceans remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it could also be used to detect whether countries are accurately reporting their emissions under the Climate Convention. Limiting the public’s access to information – another tactic of a con man.

Trump’s Gas Guzzling Car Trip: Trump’s plan to roll back the clean car standards that have reduced our dependence on foreign oil and driven the creation of thousands of good-paying jobs is another testament to his placing the interests of corporate polluters ahead of the American people. Trump claims this move is needed to create manufacturing jobs, but here is the fact Trump doesn’t want you to know: the auto industry is on a roll. As Amory Lovins points out in Forbes “automakers have outperformed their Model Year 2012-15 efficiency targets and innovation pathways while raising sales for seven years running. Over 100 cars and light trucks on the market today meet 2020 or later standards.” The Blue Green Alliance notes that OEMs and suppliers are investing in more than 1200 factories in 48 states to produce more fuel efficient vehicles and that the total employment impacts of the clean car standards will be an additional 500,000 jobs throughout the economy – including both manufacturing jobs and other jobs generated by consumers spending money they save at the pump on more labor-intensive goods and services.

So, not only do clean car standards reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs in automobile innovation, they also save consumers money at the pump. Rolling back these standards will make the United States less secure and will undermine innovation, threatening the future of the U.S. auto industry and manufacturing in this country. That’s why the United Auto Workers, whose jobs are on the line, agree that fuel efficiency standards are essential to the future of the industry and our economy.

Trump’s Do Nothing Executive Order: Finally, this brings us to Trump’s climate-changing Executive Order. We’ve already established that Trump’s move to unravel clean car standards will harm our security and prosperity. His policies on coal: even more so.

Coal contributes to death, disease, and climate disaster, but not at all to replacing oil imports. Increasing coal consumption and production would do absolutely nothing for energy independence. Coal has been displaced by energy efficiency, natural gas, wind, and solar (in that order of importance), all of which are domestic energy sources. They are replacing coal because they are cheaper as well as cleaner. And ongoing improvements in wind and solar technologies are making them increasingly cost-competitive with natural gas. Rescinding the Clean Power Plan may slow down this progress (when we need to accelerate it), but won’t reverse it.

Meanwhile, Trump’s plan to lift the moratorium on new federal coal leases presents even more problems for coal workers. Assuming there are any bidders (which is questionable given market realities), lifting the moratorium will actually reduce the total number of coal mining jobs. That’s because increased mining on public lands would mostly substitute for mining on private lands, and mining on public lands (primarily in the Powder River Basin) employs fewer workers per ton than mining in Appalachia. So Trump’s promise to bring back coal jobs and revitalizing the dying industry is just another con.

Trump’s plan to rescind the Obama Administration’s methane rule is another terrible deal for the American people. It will not only accelerate climate change by allowing unchecked emissions, it will also increase the waste of public resources by allowing natural gas produced on public lands to leak into our atmosphere rather than stay in the ground or be put to productive use.

Trump’s Executive Order includes other bad deals for America which you can read about here, but I’ll end with this: Not only does his plan make climate change worse by eliminating common sense requirements to reduce climate-altering pollution, Trump’s order also rescinds a requirement that federal agencies routinely evaluate climate impacts as part of environmental assessments, leaving the government unprepared to deal with the effects of climate change. Those impacts are going to happen regardless of what Trump, and the other deniers in his Administration, believe.

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