Trump’s veep pick Pence would be a disaster for the environment


When it comes to the environment, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is something of a wild card. Before entering politics, Trump’s views on critical issues such as climate change — to the extent they were known — tended to be within the range of conventional opinion. But as the Manhattan billionaire got deeper into his bid for the GOP nomination, he began to adopt a more far-right perspective, in order to appeal to the kind of conservative voter you tend to find in Republican primaries. When Democratic Hillary Clinton made comments that were construed as critical of the coal industry — which, after all, is arguably the biggest contributor to greenhouse-gas pollution — then Trump quickly made it known he was on the side of Big Coal. Now, as the GOP’s standard bearer, the real-estate mogul seems less sure that humans are even causing global warming.

This weekend, with the selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, the rightward odyssey of Donald Trump on environmental issues is complete. During his term as governor of a large Midwestern state, Pence — a former member of Congress — has been a great friend to the coal industry, and promoted the Republican Party’s extreme rhetoric of climate change denial.

Here’s an early peek inside the environmental thinking of the man who’ll be anointed as the GOP vice presidential candidate this coming weekend in Cleveland:

“Global warming is a myth,” Pence wrote nearly two decades ago in an op-edunearthed by BuzzFeed. “Environmentalists,” the Indiana Republican explained, “claim that certain ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide are mucking up the atmosphere and causing the earth to gradually warm. Despite the fact that CO2 is a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature, the greenpeace folks want to blame it all on coal (another natural mineral) and certain (evil) coal burning power plants.” He added (inaccurately) that “the earth is actually cooler today than it was about 50 years ago.”

Pence didn’t change his tune much after winning election to Congress. “The theory of global warming is just that—a theory,” he told the Star Press, a Muncie, Indiana, newspaper, in 2002.  Seven years later, he continued to express doubt.

Pence’s more recent record on other issues in Indiana is no better:

Pence has also been an outspoken opponent of policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He told the Star Press that a cap-and-trade proposal passed by the US House of Representatives in 2009 would raise energy prices and harm the economy. The legislation would have put a limit and a price on the carbon emissions that cause climate change. “I really believe Democratic climate change legislation will cap growth and trade jobs,” he said.  

As governor of Indiana, Pence has continued to fight against policies intended to combat global warming. His latest battle? An effort to block President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Last year, Pence called Indiana a “proud pro-coal state” on a press call, according to the Indianapolis Star. He vowed to resist the new regulations.

In June 2015, Pence sent a letter to Obama stating that Indiana would refuse to comply with the plan unless there was “significant improvement” to it. As in 2009, he warned of higher electricity prices if the proposal was implemented. He called the rules “a vast overreach of federal power.”

None of Pence’s views are shocking if you’ve been following Republican Party orthodoxy over the last generation or so. Nonetheless, the choice for American voters going into November could not be more stark. The Trump-Pence ticket would take America back to an earlier time when pollution went unheeded, and the big energy companies ran wild. Clinton (and whomever she chooses as a running mate) have proposals to continue to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and more tightly regulate the fracking industry. What’s more, Trump’s unpredictability seems to make it more imaginable that his vice president could eventually move into the Oval Office. But with the fate of the planet at stake, a climate change denier like Mike Pence is a non-starter.

Read more about Mike Pence’s environmental record from Mother Jones:

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

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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