With the health care reform defeat, the Trump Administration is moving aggressively toward new goals including tax cuts in Congress. Today, however, he will keep another pledge and dismantle Obama orders protecting the environment and combating climate change and environmental protection. With the rescinding of the orders, Trump will place the United States in the most anti-climate change posture of any major nation, rivaling even China in the lack of hard commitments to move away from fossil fuels. Indeed, he is expected to open up new leases for coal and relax regulations to allow increased fossil fuel consumption. As I have previously discussed, this move is not only running against the grain of other major nations but against the market itself. While other countries are moving aggressively toward clean energy and green markets, the United States will be moving aggressively backward.
Trump’s actions today reflect what I have long criticized about the Democratic strategy under Obama. Democratic members supported Obama as he acted unilaterally and governed through executive orders. Obama’s legacy therefore rests on clay feet — what one president creates through executive orders, another president may take away. Despite my strong support for Obama’s views on the environment, I did have serious misgivings over his unilateral actions and circumvention of Congress. These are major decisions that should be made by the legislative branch. However, Trump is using the same powers to rollback on protects, and more importantly to encourage the expansion of fossil fuel consumption. The environment (and the public) will pay a hefty price if we break from the other Western nations and double down on coal and oil.
Trump has called climate change a “hoax” despite overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing rapidly and will produce disastrous consequences for this planet unless addressed. Trump aides are reportedly calling for our removal from the Paris Accord or refusal to meet any of the previous commitments under the agreement. The Obama Administration had agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005 levels.
The new orders are expected to move toward the elimination or significant reduction of the clean power plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. Also expected to be gutted is the climate action plan and he is expected to lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. Prior estimates on the social costs of carbon and greenhouse gases will be rescinded as will the guidelines published by the White House Council on Environmental Quality last August will be rescinded.
In other words, it is bonanza for industry and specifically the fossil fuel industry.
I obviously view the rollback on environmental and energy policies to be a terrible decision for the public. Indeed, any rational review of the market can see that green technology and alternative energy is the future for the world economy. We are going big on yesterday’s industries like the investors who bet heavily on new canal projects despite the obvious advancement of railroads. Tesla is now worth as much if not more than Ford. Solar energy not employs more than all of the fossil fuel industries combined. Major nations are now moving to be fossil free with huge strides in the use of alternative energy sources, including Germany.
I have always been caught in a philosophical dilemma. I believe that these issues need to be decided by Congress even though I have little faith that Congress will move toward greater environmental protection and alternative fuels. That is burden of a representative democracy. I do not believe that these issues should be decided unilaterally by Obama or Trump. The decisions come with great costs either way. It needs to be a decision of the country as a whole. However, I believe that Obama was right about the need to move strongly in favor of these measures to protect the future of this country and the whole at large. I have no objections to Republicans who raise questions about the real benefits of some measures, particularly given their high costs. I also believe that there is a need to address the skyrocketing regulations imposed on businesses. However, we need to take action (in my view) to curtail these pollutants and have this debate . . . on the floor of Congress.