Liz Perera from the Sierra Club said, “This is, I think, one of the most historic attacks on climate and environmental action that the US has ever seen.” Her words are certain to cheer Trump supporters everywhere. Green “job-killing” regulations limiting energy production have long been a red rag for Donald Trump, as President and candidate. His new energy independence executive order seeks to radically change the US narrative on climate change, its importance and its causes. The best way of fighting global warming according to the new outline is to create prosperity. Environmental regulation should be about air and water.
Supporters believe that cutting back Obama climate regulations will create thousands of jobs in the newly liberated gas and oil industries. His opponents agree the new order will be a job creator but they’ll be jobs for lawyers, not in the coal fields. Front and center is practical action on the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama project to cut fossil fuels from electricity production. Although it has long been tied up in the courts, the CPP will be left to fester there while the new administration comes up with a much weaker replacement.
Considering the coal, the new executive order will let the Department of the Interior lift a moratorium on the sale of new coal leases on federal lands. However, boosting coal as a source of energy, and jobs, will be very difficult. A huge number of coal plants have been closed not because of Obama’s carbon restrictions but because of mercury pollution associated with burning the fuel. Thanks to fracking, cheap natural gas has soared as a source of power generation, and renewables are taking an every bigger share. Former State department climate adviser Andrew Light now works for the World Resources Institute. Both of his grandfathers were coal miners.
President Obama sought to put consideration of climate change at the heart of all government policy – but by revising the social cost of carbon measure and encouraging an immediate government review of all rules that inhibit energy production, President Trump is signalling a change in the widely held philosophy that CO2 is the enemy, the main driver of climate change. While rolling back Obama era ideas like the role of climate change in national security, or how climate change should be considered in relation to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Trump plan does not directly attack the key finding on which much of America’s carbon restrictions are based. Back in 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide gas was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.