Whatever the environmental community was expecting to happen after President Trump’s inauguration Friday, the reality is probably worse.
Having transitioned into Trump mode, the White House website has seemingly been scrubbed of all mentions of climate science. The climate change page is gone, as are a number of links referencing climate change. Featured instead is an “American First Energy Plan,” that regurgitates President Trump’s campaign promises as coherently as if it was written with literal regurgitated vomit:
For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.
The key to Trump’s stance on environmental protection—other than simply not protecting the environment—is to put policies like Obama’s Climate Action Plan at odds with employment, a false binary that makes it seem like environmental regulations only hurt workers by taking away their jobs. Also, you know, workers presumably want to have a viable planet for their children, too.
The White House website always changes with the presidential transition, but the current absence of any mentions of climate change is in line with this administration’s new “soft denial” of climate change. Rather than calling it an all-out hoax, Mashable points out that Trump’s picks—EPA litigant Scott Pruitt to oversee the EPA, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, and Department of Energy-skeptic Rick Perry for the DOE—all took evasive stances during their confirmation hearings when asked about climate change. Pruitt said human activity contributes to climate change “in some manner,” but a precise cause “is subject to more debate.” Tillerson echoed Pruitt’s sentiment, saying during his hearing that “Some literature suggests [human activity causes climate change]. There’s other literature that suggests it’s inconclusive.”
Let us be clear: the overwhelming majority of scientists who study the matter agree that climate change is happening, and that human carbon emissions are the key driving factor.
This wishy-washy “let’s wait and see” take on climate change is a clear attempt to stall progress that allows Trump’s picks to come across as somewhat reasonable, at least in comparison to the shameless science denial Trump has peddled before. But, it’s just as dangerous, especially in tandem with the fallacy that regulating corporations always leads to job loss.
Which brings us to the America First Energy Plan’s, erm, strategy for bringing back jobs:
The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.
In our new reality, Trump is able to peddle bad science and the false promise of new jobs. Because here’s the thing: the coal mining jobs Trump promised to restore simply aren’t coming back. And that has very little to do with Obama’s climate policies or environmental regulation: it has to do with natural gas.
Natural gas is a cheaper energy source than coal and, like wind and solar energy, has plummeted in price. By contrast, “clean coal technology,” which captures CO2 emissions and keeps them within regulation levels, is very expensive in its current form, and if it were implemented, the technology would make the coal business an even costlier alternative to other forms of energy production. It’s unlikely Trump will double down on R&D for cleaner coal technologies, especially when he could just as easily open up federal lands for more natural gas drilling. His pick for Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, wants to increase domestic energy development, and supports lifting restrictions on drilling for oil and opening new mines.
So far, Trump’s climate and energy policy essentially boils down to: “We don’t know enough about climate change yet to warrant action, so let’s deregulate to save jobs.” It’s a backwards approach given how many new jobs we could potentially create by pursuing new clean energy sources.
If Trump doesn’t want the EPA to focus on long-term environmental protection through climate action, what is he proposing?
Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.
Scott Pruitt, the presumptive new head of the EPA, has admitted to taking thousands from executives in the poultry and fossil fuel industries in campaign contributions and has sued the EPA 14 times to push back on corporate regulations. He promised a “regulatory rollback” for the organization and that’s exactly what we can expect: fewer regulations for the sake of “jobs,” fewer fines or sanctions on polluting companies, and fewer environmental protections. This is not a man whose priority is protecting our air or our water.
But brace yourselves folks, this is only day one.