Donald Trump, Climate Vandal, Springs To Action On The Environment


Washington: He lied – again. President Donald Trump had car manufacturers in on Tuesday, giving them the rounds of the kitchen for locating their factories abroad – but assuring them he'd reduce "out of control" environmental regulations.
And lest he be seen as the climate vandal that most in the environmental movement fear he is, Trump touted his greenie credentials at the meeting – "I'm a very big person when it comes to the environment – I've received awards on the environment."

Trump approves controversial pipeline
US President Donald Trump signs executive orders on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines angering both environmental and American Indian groups. 

Nope! And when reporters asked for a list of the awards, the White House referred them to a book. Nope, again – instead of listing what the President had won, it listed what the author, Trump's longtime environmental consultant, thought he should have won.
But Trump's encounter with the car makers proved to be just a warm-up act for his inner vandal – later in the morning fears that he would drag the US back towards the yesteryears of fossil fuels were confirmed with his decision to revive two controversial projects, the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access oil pipelines.
It's hard not to conclude that this is all about money: on news of his election victory shares in companies making solar panels and wind turbines dropped by up to 10 per cent, but shares in Peabody Energy – the biggest US coal company – were up more than 50 per cent.
And viewed through the prism of the Trump dealmaker's logic, there might even be some commercial sense in the environmentalist notion that Trump is the last man who can help energy firms who find themselves stranded in a fast-changing world, because they are still sitting on huge fossil energy reserves fast being rendered useless by advances in renewable energy.
British activist writer George Monbiot writes: "Trump is the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before them become worthless.
"They need him because science, technology and people's demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fight they can win. So their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition."
President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with automobile leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP
Trump's move on the two pipelines was part of a first-days-in-office smashing of things precious to his predecessor – who for all his sober handling of so many issues was passionate on the issue of climate change.
So, within minutes of Trump swearing the oath of office on Friday, the White House website that showcased the Obama administration's climate change policies disappeared into the ether, and was replaced with a statement on Trump's energy policy, which promises to reduce "burdensome regulations on our energy industry".
Happy days are here to stay longer? Exxon Mobil's Billings Refinery in Billings, Montana.  Photo: AP
And within hours, a government-wide memo was dispatched by Trump's White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus – he was ordering a freeze on new or pending regulations, halting a raft of Energy Department efficiency standards that analysts argue will save consumers billions of dollars over time in reduced energy consumption by airconditioners, walk-in coolers, freezers, boilers and some power supply systems.
And within days, an Environmental Protection Agency for environmental research and improvement, worth about $US4 billion a year for environmental research and improvement, was snap frozen.
Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt, nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo: Bloomberg
Here, in a few words, are Trump's many plans on environmental issues – he had vowed to cancel the Paris global accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2025. He wants to shred a raft of energy and environmental regulation. He is committed to opening swaths of federal land to oil, gas and coal drilling and production. He thinks the Environmental Protection Agency should be all but neutered.
And he plans to put an axe through Obama's Clean Power Plan, which was to pressure electricity firms to reduce carbon emissions and the Waters of the US rule, which protects the country's big rivers and their smaller tributaries.
Ford Motors CEO Mark Fields, left, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra, walk to speak with reporters outside the White House in Washington. Photo: AP
In the transition team and the cabinet he is assembling Trump has included a small army of climate change sceptics.
Trump's pick for EPA administrator is one of the agency's greatest enemies – Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt, who repeatedly led or joined legal challenges seeking to block Obama's efforts to regulate climate change. Pruitt's LinkedIn profile boasts that he's a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda".
A semi-submersible drilling unit as it arrives in Port Angeles, Washington.  Photo: AP
He twice sued the EPA, trying to derail regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
He joined the fight to make coal-fired power plants reduce mercury emissions and later, he led the charge against Obama's Clean Power Plan.
He fought the EPA's expanded oversight of water pollution. And according to reports on his record in Oklahoma, his decisions on how to handle cases seemed to have been made on the basis of the political donations he received.
Some environmentalists seem utterly defeated – Bill McKibben, founder of the climate action group 350.org, told The Washington Post: "I really don't know ... We'll do what we can, but truthfully, the path forward is not all that clear to me."
Others are girding for a fight. Recalling the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica, said: "[We] utilised the courts, the Senate filibuster, watchdogged political appointees and galvanised the public to take action – we'll have to take these same actions ... the environmental movement is stronger than we've ever been."
Both Pruitt and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who as a presidential candidate could not remember the name of the Energy Department as one he intended to abolish, but who will lead that department under Trump, conceded in their Senate confirmation hearings that human activity had an impact on the climate, but they also showed themselves to be sceptics – either waffling or by bouncing questions as "academic" or "immaterial".
All but the last 330 metres of the 1880-kilometre Dakota Access pipeline, to move oil from the North Dakota shale oil reserves to Illinois, has been built – but in December a stop was ordered to allow alternate routes to be considered for the last stretch in the face of American Indian protests that their water supplies could be affected.
Analysts say that the potential for job creation or environmental damage from the Keystone XL pipeline, which is intended to carry 800 000 barrels a day from Canada to the Gulf coast, is minimal – but the project became a lightning rod as a test of Washington's preparedness make a call either to promote energy production or act to protect the environment. Obama dithered for years, but ultimately rejected the project on the eve of the Paris emissions conference, arguing that to proceed would have diminished US leadership in weaning the world off carbon fuel.
At his meeting with the auto makers, Trump promised easier regulation: "We're going to make the process much more simple for the auto companies and for everyone else who wants to do business in the US. You're going to find this to be [a shift] from being very inhospitable to extremely hospitable."
And trying to at least be seen to be environmentally conscious, he added: "I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist – I believe in it. But it's out of control and we're going to make it a very short process.
"And we're going to either give you your permits or we're not going to give you your permits – but you're going to know very quickly and, generally speaking, we're going to be giving you your permits."


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