Opinion: Gutting climate change is U.S. White House oil policy

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Dave Dickey

Ever since then-candidate Donald J. descended the Trumpalator splendidly dressed in June 2015 to toss his name into the POTUS campaign ring, he’s been playing a game of hokey pokey with the issue of climate change.

First, he put his right foot out, saying that global warming was a hoax propagated by China by tweeting: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Most recently, he put his right foot in, as reports suggest that Trump’s kids may be sympathetic to climate change and have the POTUS’ ear.

And, all along, the president has suggested maybe, just maybe, perhaps, there might be something valid (?) about climate change, citing the possibility (but don’t pin me down) that there is by perchance something, to “human connectivity” (unless there isn’t).

You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around.  That’s what it’s all about.

Well. Now we have the truth.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s just-released skinny budget has stripped Emperor, uh, President Trump of all his clothes and laid bare for all the world to see that Trump wants nothing to do with climate change.

Because who you hire and what you are willing to spend money on tells everything you need to know about one’s core beliefs. Full stop.

The White House skinny budget blue print would require new EPA chief Scott (carbon dioxide is not a primary contribution to global warming) Pruitt to oversee a 31 percent year-on-year cut in funding, including terminating former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan and gutting international climate change programs such as the Global Climate Change Initiative.

And it doesn’t end there.

The budget also calls for significant cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which conducts climate change research, and it trims NASA science programs. It would also end the Energy Star Program, which looks to improve energy efficiency, as well as the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which conducts green energy research.

All of this must be of concern to many farmers who play the long game. Conservation. Care of the land. Understanding that not only are they responsible for feeding the planet now, but as long as there is humanity.

That’s what we know. What we don’t know is why. The White House appears to have little concern for the long game, opting instead for a Doris-Day-Que-Sera-Sera-four-or-eight year strategy.

So… to what end?

Three decades ago, when I was studying to be a journalist, it was drummed into me day after day: Journalism 101 is “follow the money.”  So… what is the financial gain for Trump supporters to see the federal budget stripped bare of dollars for climate change?

This week, the president signed a new executive order that provides an answer.

Fossil fuels. Coal. Oil. Black gold. Texas tea. On the face of it, the executive order attempts to revive the U.S. coal industry by rescinding a moratorium on coal mining on U.S. federal lands. But there’s more. The order also calls for federal agencies to “identify all regulations, all rules, all policies… that serve as obstacles and impediments to American energy independence.”

Let me translate. When it comes to energy policy, Mr. Pruitt, here’s a blank check. How might that play out?

On the oil supply side, Trump has pledged to massively increase U.S. oil shale production, as well as off-shore drilling. He has also pledged to rip up Obama oil regulations that limit corporate profit.

On the oil demand side, Trump may try to increase gasoline usage by rewriting EPA fuel efficiency standards, which, if successful, would actually accelerate release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

More globally, the core of Obama’s Clean Power Plan is to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in order to help meet a U.S. pledge from last December’s Paris agreement on climate change.

Trump’s recent executive order reviews the Clean Power Plan with an eye toward ripping up the emission standards and, thus, knocking the underpinnings out of America’s commitment to the Paris climate change accord.

Unfortunately, all this shortsightedness comes with a price that future American generations may feel.

Energy and water are the two most pressing issues facing the world, and they’ll only become more important in the future. To ensure U.S. energy and water security, it will require fundamental shifts in policy.

How this all ends will ultimately be decided by the courts.


About Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For the past 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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