It took a long time, but President Obama finally has many — not all, but many — aspects of U.S. environmental and energy policy moving in the right direction. Even with a U.S. Congress that is led by deniers of climate change, the Obama administration has been able to promulgate new rules to restrict greenhouse-gas pollution from U.S. coal-fired power plants, and recently signed onto the Paris climate accord in which the world’s nations agreed to curb carbon emissions.
Indeed, the last two years has seen a pullback from some elements of Obama energy policy that have made America a leading producer of fossil fuels, even as the president was warning the world about the dangers of climate change. The sometimes contradictory “all of the above” energy plan — which did promote rising use of renewable energy such as wind and solar, but also relied heavily on fossil fuels, particularly from the fracking process — has given way to common sense. The Keystone XL pipeline, which would have extracted dirty tar sands fuel from Canada and shipped it over key American aquifers, has been shelved. Offshore oil drilling in the Arctic — one of the dumbest and most dangerous ideas to come down the pike in a while — is dead for now.
Yet all of these positive steps toward environmental sanity could be undone in a manner of weeks — if Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Last week, on the same day that he clinched the Republican Party nomination, Trump gave voters a deep look at his energy policies for the first time, and picture was every bit as a scary as an environmentalist might expect:
BISMARCK, N.D. — Donald J. Trump traveled Thursday to the heart of America’s oil and gas boom, where he called for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations while vowing to “cancel the Paris climate agreement,” the 2015 accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to curb climate change.
Laying out his positions on energy and the environment at an oil industry conference in North Dakota, he vowed to rescind President Obama’s signature climate change rules and revive construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring petroleum from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
The New York Times noted that some of Trump’s proposals — including bringing back the American coal industry — simply wouldn’t work because of free-market forces, which have driven consumers to cheaper natural gas. But some of the candidate’s most alarming rhetoric concerns climate change:
A central question confronting the next president will be how to address climate change. Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly denied the established science that climate change is caused by humans, vowed in his speech to undo many of Mr. Obama’s initiatives.
He did not explicitly address the scientific legitimacy of human-caused climate change, but said, “We’re going to deal with real environmental challenges, not the phony ones we’ve been hearing about.”
Mr. Trump said that in his first 100 days in office, he would “rescind” Environmental Protection Agency regulations established under Mr. Obama to curb planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants. “Regulations that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and block the construction of new ones — how stupid is that?” Mr. Trump said.
Much of Trump’s speech was based on ignorance and a deep misunderstanding of both the basics of domestic energy policy as well as how the Paris accord on climate change is supposed to work. That said, it’s clear that — if nothing else — Trump’s election would be a massive reversal of fortune for the environment. The irony is that we need to be doing so much more than we’re doing now — stopping the expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, Trump’s fall election opponent is all but certain to be Hillary Clinton, who has promised to continue or improve Obama’s environmental policies. For voters who care about our ecology, everything is on the line this November.
Read more about Donald Trump’s speech on the environment and energy policy from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27/us/politics/donald-trump-global-warming-energy-policy.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
Learn more about the need for worldwide action on fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America: http://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice
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