Friday, February 24, 2017

The Cost of Trump's Fossil Fuel Agenda

2016 was the hottest year on record and as we’re experiencing right now, 2017 is already showing signs of another record setting hot year. Trump and his Republican enablers continue to deny the existence of global climate change. Trump even claims it’s a hoax perpetrated by China of all places. Apparently he hasn’t seen studies proving the Arctic ice cap is shrinking or the massive crack in the Antarctic ice shelf Larsen C that once it breaks loose will make an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware. Republicans in general deny that the carbon dioxide we’ve been spewing into the atmosphere for the last hundred years can affect the global climate but the numbers don’t lie. Our auto and power generation emissions have increased for decades and as the rest of the world’s economies have grown so have their emissions.

Even China, the world’s greatest polluter, recognizes the problem. Earlier this month China’s energy agency vowed to spend more than $360 billion on solar and wind and other renewable energy projects by 2020 in order to cut smog levels and carbon emissions while creating 13 million jobs in the process. While Republicans roll back efforts to build a clean energy economy in the United States, an industry that could employ ten times as many people as coal and gas generation China is taking advantage of the situation to be seen as a clean energy leader in the Third World. Chinese leaders recognize the opportunity to exert soft power and bring more countries into their sphere of influence.

Instead of moving forward on clean energy Trump promises to bring back coal mining jobs which is a fools errand if only on the grounds that coal is too expensive compared to the alternatives now available in form of natural gas. Wind and solar energy projects are now often competitive on cost with even natural gas so why even bother with coal? Of course one way to make it cheaper is to eliminate environmental rules regarding the waste from coal mines and that’s just what he’s done by rescinding the Stream Protection Rule which would have made it tougher to dump mining waste into nearby waterways.

The Republican energy program relies on fossil fuels thus damaging our environment through polluting our air and water with mercury, arsenic and other toxins. Their fossil fuel agenda also costs the economy in terms of the lost opportunity for job creation. The Trump/Republican energy agenda also harms us through our loss of international influence both in the developed and third world. The only beneficiaries of their agenda are the billionaires in the fossil fuel industry who finance their political campaigns.

Upton Sinclair once said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." I think this clearly explains Republican intransigence but I have to wonder how long Republicans can persist in lying to the American people given that record setting high temperatures are likely to be set again in 2017 and beyond. I suppose if Exxon became a solar or wind energy company Republicans would overnight become firm believers in global climate change and clean energy advocates.

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