By Alex McVey, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, UNC Chapel Hill, Twitter: @JAlexanderMcVey
On Tuesday, March 28th, President Donald Trump signed the “Energy Independence” Executive Order. This sweeping executive order dismantles key features of the Obama administration’s climate policy. Trump’s executive order is terrible for the environment, and puts America’s leadership in global climate negotiations in jeopardy. The Trump administration claims that this Executive Order will protect the environment and the economy. The truth is, it will do neither.
The key mandates of the Executive Order include:
- Initiating a review of the Clean Power Plan
- Rescinding the moratorium on coal mining on federal lands
- Urging federal agencies to identify and eliminate all impediments to U.S. energy production
- Rescinding restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
- Rolling back regulations on methane emissions by the oil and gas industry
An Environmental Disaster
This sweeping executive order poses an immense threat to the environment. The Clean Power Plan, a plan the Union of Concerned Scientists called a “climate game changer,” took aim at power plant emissions, a source of 40% of US’ carbon emissions. And the methane regulations targeted emissions generated by leaks from the oil and gas industry, a significant source of U.S. emissions.
While the Executive Order does not remove the United States from its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, it does undercut America’s ability to put pressure on other major carbon emitters like India and China.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “there is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is indeed happening and humans are contributing to it.” Climate change will have devastating effects on the environment, producing unpredictable weather events and putting numerous species at risk of extinction. And, climate change is an environmental justice issue, as it would hit poor communities and communities of color the hardest.
Trump’s Empty Economic Promises
Trump promises this Executive Order will end Obama’s war on coal and bring back coal jobs to Appalachia. However, these jobs have long gone the way of the dinosaur.
As a report published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies makes clear, “basic economics” dictate that coal jobs will never return, regardless of how many regulations Trump rolls back. Rising natural gas production and shrinking export markets for dirty U.S. coal makes coal simply less competitive against other energy sources.
Additionally, increased technological automation of mining and transportation jobs on coal sites means the coal jobs Trump wants to bring back will never exist. That means coal industry executives will profit off of the destruction of the environment while Appalachian coal miners continue to find themselves out of work.
Trump’s Executive Order also ignores that the vast majority of new, lasting, well-paying jobs in the energy sector are all clean energy jobs. By gutting the Clean Power Plan, Trump is putting the clean energy industry at risk.
Finally, Trump’s Executive Order threatens the American economy by ignoring the inevitable economic consequences of global climate change. Rising sea levels could destroy America’s coastal cities, causing billions of dollars in economic damages. And rising temperature levels could devastate global agricultural production. The coastal cities of North Carolina would be hit especially hard by the economic impacts of climate change.
Trump is selling out America’s long-term economic health for the sake of short term profits for the fossil fuel industry.
What can you do?
It’s more important than ever to fight back against Trump’s energy policies. What can you do about the problem?
- Join the People’s Climate March – The People’s Climate March will be held on April 29th in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country. Visit the hyperlink above to sign up and get involved. Also check out the North Carolina People’s Climate March Facebook Page.
- Check out 350.org: 350.org is an organization working on building a global climate movement. Check out their website to sign up for further climate actions.
- Get involved with Climate Action North Carolina: The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters’ Climate Action North Carolina is focused on engaging local communities on climate campaigns. Visit their website for more information.
- Call Attorney General Josh Stein and tell him to join the fight against Trump’s executive order: A coalition of Attorney Generals from 16 states have formed to fight back against Trump’s executive order. Call NC Attorney General Josh Stein and ask him to join this coalition. Stein has previously indicated a willingness to fight for the Clean Power Plan, withdrawing NC from a lawsuit against the Plan in February. Call him at (919) 716-6400, and tell him you want him to fight for North Carolina’s environment and join the coalition to take legal action against this Executive Order.