No, Trump Has Not Ended the War on American Energy

His attack on our clean energy future is just getting started.
Credit: Reuters

His attack on our clean energy future is just getting started.

Anyone who listened to President Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night might be forgiven for not recognizing the country he described.

A nation so fearful of its neighbors it must build a “great wall” between them? A place where “drug dealers and pushers” drive a disastrous opioid crisis, and not the pharmaceutical companies profiting from addiction? An administration that is “accountable” to citizens, treats people with “respect,” and shows them “love and loyalty?”


And then this: Trump claims to have “ended the war on American energy.”

Oh, no, sir. Your assault on our energy future is just picking up steam―literally―and it’s no reason to stand up and cheer.

Today, and every day, more than three million Americans go to work in the fast-growing clean energy sector. They’re helping us become more efficient so we do more with less waste; building electric, hybrid, and other high-mileage cars; and getting clean, home-grown power from the wind and sun. Compare that with the total of 340,000 who work to produce oil and gas, to mine coal, and to manufacture fuels and other products from coal, gas, and oil. 

All this work contributes to our economy. Clean energy investments, though, are helping to reduce the dangerous carbon pollution behind climate change, which is causing sea levels to rise; turning croplands to desert; making storms, wildfires, and floods more devastating; and sending more asthma sufferers to the emergency room. Fossil fuels are driving this global scourge, threatening our future and imperiling our children.

Clean energy will attract $7 trillion in global investment over the next couple of decades. Every nation in the world has put plans on the table to ramp up clean, renewable energy. Guess which energy future Trump is promoting? Fossil fuels.

In December, he stripped away needed protections from nearly two million acres of federal lands in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, to make way for fossil fuel extraction and uranium mining. That’s illegal, and NRDC and other groups are contesting it in federal court.

In January, Trump exposed nearly every coastal community in America to the threat of becoming an industrial zone at risk of the next BP-style disaster. He did this by proposing to hand over publicly owned Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific waters, as well as parts of the Gulf of Mexico, to the dangers of oil and gas production.

Now the White House is calling for a 72 percent cut in funding for U.S. Department of Energy research on renewable power and energy efficiency. Meanwhile, Trump’s rolling back sensible provisions aimed at reducing the risks of offshore drilling. And he’s repealing commonsense standards put in place to help us fight climate change by cleaning up our dirty power plantscars, and trucks.

All to what end?

“We are now,” Trump crowed Tuesday, “very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”

Well, yes. Under President Obama, U.S. crude oil production rose 77 percent to its highest level in five decades. Since Trump took office, it’s up 4.6 percent more, to 9.3 million barrels per day, nearly half of U.S. consumption.

And what’s happened to all that oil? The industry exports 6.2 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products. That’s the equivalent of nearly a third of U.S. demand. Our workers get the hazard, our communities get the harm, and our overseas competitors get the fuel.

That’s not something to brag about. It’s taking us in exactly the wrong direction. It’s not about putting America first. It puts special interests first ―and puts the rest of us at risk.

Nobody is fooled. Trump has no American energy vision beyond the rearview mirror. He has a simple, three-point plan: Anchor our future to the dirty fuels of the past. Walk away from the promise of clean energy jobs. And consign our kids and grandkids to a world rapidly sliding toward irreversible climate disorder.

As I wrote in Wednesday’s New York Daily News, we can do better than that.

The truest measure of leadership is how well we do by our children. We owe them the truth about our country. We owe them the best we can be. We owe them a future lit with promise. We owe them a livable world.

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