Within hours of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president last Friday, Climate Central was out with a paragraph-by-paragraph “decoding” of the “America First Energy Plan” that showed up almost immediately on the newly-scrubbed White House website.
The plan “is replete with misinformation and specious claims about climate and energy policy,” writes Senior Science Writer Bobby Magill. It “repackages Trump’s campaign promises to reignite America’s declining coal industry, kill the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, and exploit all of America’s fossil fuel reserves to achieve energy independence—an idea that ignores that America’s oil and gas is part of a truly global fossil fuels market.”
Throughout a bruising election campaign and a tortured presidential transition, Trump and his advisors falsely blamed Obama administration policies for single-handedly forcing a coal industry decline that was actually driven by low natural gas prices. The White House plan “reflects those claims and Trump’s disdain for climate science and renewable energy,” Magill notes.
Climate Central dissects Trump’s commitment to “unfettered exploitation of oil, coal, and natural gas”, positions his “disdain for climate science and renewable energy” in counterpoint to the falling cost of solar and wind generation, and digs into the new administration’s claim that lifting “burdensome regulations” on the U.S. fossil industry would add $32 billion to workers’ wages.
That calculation “wildly mischaracterizes the potential for workers to benefit from killing U.S. climate policy,” Magill writes. Produced by a Louisiana State University banking professor and released by the fossil-funded Institute for Energy Research, the figure represents the seven years of wages that would be produced “if all of America’s public lands were opened to oil, gas, and coal development—even the lands protected by law from energy development, including wilderness areas and national parks.” It’s what would happen “if Yellowstone, the White House lawn, Yosemite Valley, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Mt. Rushmore were opened to fracking.”
And when the plan refers to America’s “vast untapped domestic energy reserves”, that’s code for a single-minded commitment to fossil fuel exploitation—even though the country’s renewable energy resources are larger still, and more cost-effective to develop. “We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own,” the plan states. “The problem with numbers like this is that they do not tell the whole story,” responds Mark Squillace, professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “The United States certainly has vast oil and gas and coal reserves, and if you just add them up and multiply by their market value, you get a big number. But most of those reserves cannot be economically developed any time in the foreseeable future.”