The Trump Talks: Environment

Recently, I spoke with a Trump Supporter about the environment.

High-Level points

  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says that carbon dioxide’s role in the Earth’s changing climate remains unclear. This is categorically false and a break from science.[1]
  • The planet is warming.[2] Sea levels are rising. The polar ice caps are melting. Summers are getting hotter.[3]
  • Events like California's drought will continue to happen (CA produces half the countries food)
  • Trump promises to revive the coal industry, but cleaner-burning and cheaper natural gas has already weakened the demand for coal.[4]
  • Arby's employs more people than coal in America.[5] Coal is literally cheaper than dirt,[6] but natural gas is abundant and inexpensive as well
  • Renewables costs are coming down so quickly that gas may not even be the bridge fuel we once thought
  • Renewables are expected to replace gas as top power source in 2031
  • Oil demand will likely peak in the 2030s, gas in the 40s or 50s.[7] The life of coal is going to be much shorter.[8]
  • Signing executive orders and making speeches were the easy part, but actually passing these laws is proving more difficult. Trump touts his "American First" philosophy, but we are also global citizens, and his policies are curtailed for business interest and economic enhancement, not environmentalism.

"No I, no I think that, that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the, to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet, as far as, we, we need, we need to continue the debate, continue the review and the analysis."

- Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump Administration Environmental Actions & Positions

  1. EPA dismisses scientists[9] and scrub data[10] from websites, Interior scrubs data.[11]

"protecting the environment by engaging with state, local, and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth."

  • In clear appeals to industry, the EPA is taking a surprisingly unscientific and ignorant strategy. According to Scott Pruitt the EPA is getting "back to basics". I'm not aware of enhancing economic growth being a goal of the EPA, which I think is a theme.
  • Ordered "re-evaluation" of the multiple Obama era environmental policies
    • The major policy, Obama's Clean Power Plan, set strict limits for carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. This was one of Obama's crowning environmental achievements. It is important that Trump did not scrap the law, but chose to re-examine it, the results of which are unknown at the time.
    • Ordered review of rule limiting methane emissions at new oil and gas drilling sites. UPHELD: EPA sought delay but court ruled that it could not.
    • Ordered review of rule limiting methane emissions on public land. UPHELD by Senate, Trump made EO to stall it.
    • Ordered review of offshore drilling policies and regulations.
  • Withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord
    • Most opponents argue that the accord had no teeth, and handcuffed American industry.
    • We effectively ceded leadership on what I consider the most important issue today. China is taking that lead.
    • The costs of wind and solar are plummeting, and clean energy technology is an emerging industry, can we really allow China to beat us to it?
  • Revoked a rule that prevented coal mining companies from dumping debris into local streams.
    • No clear benefit to the American people or the environment.
    • The coal industry said the rule was overly burdensome
    • With the help of Congress he pulled this off. Simultaneously taking credit for sending federal funds to clean up Flint's water and blocking this regulation is a potential contradiction.
  • Rolled back limits on toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways.
    • limited the amount of toxic metals — arsenic, lead, and mercury, among others — power plants could release into public waterways.
  • Canceled a requirement for reporting methane emissions.
    • No clear benefit to the American people or the environment.
    • Republican officials from 11 states said the rule added costs and paperwork for oil and gas companies.
  • Approved the Keystone XL pipeline.
    • May not be built after all.
    • TransCanada Corp was approved for the Canada to Texas pipeline
    • Other pipelines, as well as oil transported over railroads, have been filling the void in Keystone’s absence
    • After decades we are now wondering if its necessary or financially viable.
    • It could carry 830,000 barrels of oil each day.
    • Existing pipeline sends 550,000 barrels of oil per day.
    • Originally argued it would decrease dependence on foreign oil and lower cost.
    • EPA then argued it would do neither, and would also not add any long term jobs (true).
    • The true beneficiary is Alberta, not the US.
    • Pipelines are actually dangerous (remember San Bruno), this one would run through some pretty fragile ecosystems.
  • Approved the Dakota Access pipeline.
    • 470,000 barrels of oil a day
    • Runs under the Missouri river and through ancestral lands
    • The last mile and a half of the 1,172-mile project
  • Reopened a review of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
    • Auto makers said it would cost too much.
    • Claims Americans have an appetite for SUVs.
  • High speed Rail
    • Candidate Trump: Our trains are slow while China's trains go chug chug chug. We need to build new rails
    • President Trump: Let's cut Amtrak long distance train subsidies, cur Tiger Grant program and cut DOT funding
    • Trump had been really encouraging supporters of infrastructure projects with his speech, but his budget took the wind out of those sails
    • When 14 (of 53) republican congressman wrote asking Trump to ditch funds for electrifying Caltrain and he acquiesced briefly before a stunning reversal.

More Reading


  1. IPCC: Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers ↩︎

  2. XKCD: Earth Temperature Timeline ↩︎

  3. NYT: Summers Are Getting Hotter ↩︎

  4. Forbes: Coal To Natural Gas Switching In The U.S. Electricity System ↩︎

  5. WP: Arby's Employs More People Than Coal ↩︎

  6. NRDC: Coal is Cheaper Than Dirt ↩︎

  7. Bloomberg: New Energy Outlook 2017 | abstract ↩︎

  8. Bloomberg: Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think ↩︎

  9. NYT: EPA Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board ↩︎

  10. New Republic: EPA Removes Science From Its Mission Statement ↩︎

  11. Motherboard: Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change Page ↩︎

Written By: Cameron Drake

Tagged: politics, Trump, environment, research, data