Our ongoing series, Climate Change Tuesday, continues with news that the Trump administration has announced a proposal called the Affordable Clean Energy rule. This rule is designed to circumvent the Obama administration proposal, the Clean Power Plan, which set the first national limits on carbon dioxide emissions from utilities and created a fund to match state grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in low-income communities. The Obama proposal however, never went into effect because the Supreme Court issued a stay in 2016. Scott Pruitt, who led the EPA under Trump until forced to resign a few months ago, vowed to repeal the Obama rule and the Affordable Clean Energy rule is the result of that effort. The new regulations were signed by acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday.
What we have seen over the past several months is an all out assault on a wide variety of Obama era regulations by the current administration. We’ve seen regulation reversals in finance, health care, housing, education and more. But perhaps the most egregious, far-reaching reversals have occurred concerning the environment and climate change. The current proposal comes on the heels of the administration rolling back Obama’s proposal to double the vehicle mileage requirements that would have prevented nearly 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by 2030.
By the numbers
According to the Huffington Post, in a piece by Alexander C. Kaufman, the new rule could lead to up to 1,400 premature deaths each year by 2030. This, according to the EPA’s own analysis. Even more shocking however, the new rule aims to cut CO2 emissions below 2005 levels by between 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent by 2030. In comparison, the Obama rule aimed to slash carbon pollution from the power sector to bring it 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In layman terms: The Obama rule would take the equivalent of 75 million cars off the road. The Trump rule would take the equivalent of 2.5 million and 5.3 million off the road. Something smells here, and I don’t mean literally.
The inconvenient truth
What we have here is a dangerous intersection. It’s an intersection where we have on one side, the increasingly outsized influence of the powerful fossil fuel company lobbyists. On the other side, we have a group of willing politicians who will take every last penny in order to keep power. Once again, the disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court looms like a dark cloud over our entire democratic process.
Let’s take a look at the reactions of two Senators, one a Democrat, the other a Republican, and we see a perfect example of where the two parties stand as it relates to this recent Trump EPA regulatory action. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), an outspoken climate change activist said, “This proposal guts a solid and sensible plan this country put forth to fight the pollution driving climate change, and replaces it with a fossil fuel handout. The funding of the Republican Party by the fossil fuel industry has just reaped a rich reward.”
Now the other reaction from Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.): “The Obama-era regulation wasn’t just bad policy, it was illegal. I am glad the Trump administration is focused on getting this punishing rule off the books.” Not only is Mr. Barrasso the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, but he also happens to come from a state ripe with coal deposits.
The bottom line
The influence of big money on our political system is undeniable. For those of us who believe our climate is changing and that human activity is causing it, the recent actions of the Trump administration reinforces the need for a total overhaul of our campaign finance laws, as well as addressing the role of lobbyists as it pertains to our politicians.
Mr. Barrasso from Wyoming, has a clear interest in gutting as many regulations as possible so that the fossil fuel industries that operate in his state can maximize their profits. Mr. Trump, whose base includes many that live in coal-producing states, doesn’t believe in climate change to begin with, and cozying up to coal industry executives only furthers his political agenda and self-preservation.
I’m with Mr. Whitehouse on this issue. I believe in climate change. I also believe that the Republican Party is beholden to the fossil fuel industry and they are the ones preventing the United States from moving aggressively towards a clean energy economy.
I realize that moderate, independent, and undecided voters may have different opinions as it relates to climate change. But if you’re as concerned about our planet as I am, it’s painstakingly clear which candidates you should be supporting in the upcoming election.