Despite poor performance approval ratings, our president seems bent on pushing through policies that are out-of-step with the views of most Americans. Latest case in point: executive orders pertaining to America’s fossil fuel industry.
In the name of energy independence and new jobs, President Donald Trump is promoting an energy agenda which not only could sacrifice employment gains, but the long-term health of citizens and creatures in the U.S. and around the world.
I have previously argued in this newspaper that the actions of the Trump administration cannot reverse an inevitable shift toward smaller, cleaner and smarter power sources like solar energy. While I still believe this is the case, I think it is appropriate now to review two actions the Trump administration has taken within the past week.
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The first executive order is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry oil from the tar sands in Alberta across U.S. borders through the Great Plains to Texas. Despite the hoopla, the jobs this project would create may be a mirage. Ironically enough, the declining price of oil since the project was conceptualized years ago has rendered this source uneconomical. Even if the pipeline somehow sees the light of day, by the time it is built, Trump will likely be long gone.
The executive order is long on hype, short on impact. But it does send a disturbing signal to the rest of the world: The U.S. could give a hoot about climate change.
The second executive order, which dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” may have more real repercussions, though it will have little impact on California. That’s because we rely so little on coal, and have our own aggressive clean air targets and carbon reduction goals.
Here, the outcome is more complicated, pitting two fossil fuels against each other: coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels vs. cleaner burning natural gas, which many other states are turning to (along with renewable energy) to meet the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan regulations.
The only way to try to save coal is through government subsidy, since such large centralized power sources no longer fit in today’s increasing nimble energy economy. Coal plants are voluntarily being retired because the economics no longer pencil out. Wind, solar and natural gas are all lower cost options. Good luck with passing new energy subsidies for a dying industry in a Congress where any type of subsidy is suspect, especially among the GOP majority.
Global temperatures have set records for the last three years in a row. Living in a bubble where facts no longer matter, these two executive orders by the Trump administration are nothing but a smoke screen.
China, which drove down the price of solar energy due to a massive government investment in the technology, is poised to blow past the U.S. as the leader on clean energy. Europe, as a whole, also remains committed. Countries as diverse as Japan, India, South Korea and Australia are all embracing clean energy technologies. Though Trump’s executive orders may indeed have little real impact, they slow down what has been a steady march toward cleaner energy sources by sending mixed signals to the investment community.
Trump’s two executive orders will fail on all accounts, including the creation of new jobs. Like much of what passes for reality with this administration, it is grandstanding and an attempt to fulfill empty campaign promises.
Polls show that a majority of Americans – including independents and Republicans – prefer renewables over fossil fuels. Red states have benefited tremendously from wind power and solar energy in terms of jobs and lower energy costs.
Trump is totally out of step with the desires of not only most Americans, but the rest of the world. Based on outdated thinking and alternative facts, his recent actions are doomed to failure.
Peter Asmus has been covering energy issues for more than 25 years. Learn more at peterasmus.com.