Global Reset: Trump administration rescinds previous environmental plans, alters emissions

by Irina Malyugina and Tiffany Wong

In recent years, federal and state governments in the U.S. have initiated the switch towards using renewable energy sources and regulating emissions, passing pieces of legislature such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which used financial incentives such as loan guarantees to motivate states to combat energy problems.

According to market data and research company Statista, nationwide consumption of fossil fuels between 2005 and 2016 has decreased by seven quadrillion British thermal units (Btus), or amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

One of President Donald Trump’s main campaign points called for the United States to trade renewable energy for fossil fuels. Only a little over a year into office, he’s taken steps towards that goal—from withdrawing the country from the 2015 Paris Agreement last June to loosening federal emissions standards, Trump has ushered in a new era of American environmental policy that is significantly different from that of the previous administration.

A cornerstone of this change is Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order, which the president signed last March. Aimed at lowering barriers that “impede progress towards energy independence,” the directive focuses specifically on the interests of coal, natural gas, nuclear energy and oil producers and suppliers.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has echoed this sentiment regarding the importance of protecting and expanding these components of the energy industry during his recent visits to the Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill, Missouri and the Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pennsylvania, where he introduced the department’s “Back-to-Basics Agenda.” Promoting the three E’s—environment, economy and engagement—to create coal jobs, the plan reflects the EPA’s current focus on supplying state legislatures with oversight of, or responsibility of regulating, the growth and management of coal-powered electric utilities.

“Coal is, and will continue to be, a critical part of America’s energy mix. I saw today just how important this fuel source is to affordable electricity and economic development in the region, especially in the agriculture community,” Pruitt said during his Pennsylvania trip.

Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order also proposes a review of Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by substituting coal power plants with natural gas generators and promoting the use of renewable energy. The measure was estimated to be able to reduce pollutants causing smog and soot by 25 percent and reap net climate and health benefits of $25 to $45 billion per year by 2030.

“It’s not uncommon to see changes in policies from one administration to the next. It’s fair to say that under President Obama, the general outlook and orientation of the mission of the EPA was to protect public health and welfare, think about what rules and regulations were needed to deal with water and air pollution and manage issues like that,” Dr. Danny Cullenward, lecturer of climate law and policy at Stanford University, said. “Under the Trump administration, it’s very much oriented towards facilitating the development of fossil resources, which is a really different focus.”

The Trump administration plans to reach a decision about the Clean Power Plan and many of Obama’s other climate change programs by the end of this summer.

Harker’s Green Team hopes to stall the repeal by writing copious letters to the EPA.

“The EPA is forced to reply to every statement that they get so if we all write comments to them, they have to respond. That would just help slow the whole process down and prevent the repeal from actually following through before Trump’s first four years come to an end,” Co-President of Green Team Satchi Thockchom (12) said.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on May 7, 2018.