Thursday, 17 November 2016

Is Trump An Environmental Nightmare?

It's been a week since the shocking rise to the one of the most powerful offices in the world by former reality star and four-time bankrupt Donald Trump. There's a lot of worried people out there that wonder just what shake-ups are in store from the Orange One.

No group has more cause to be worried than the environmental lobby. Trump is a well-known climate change denier, claiming that global warming is a conspiracy started by the Chinese. A key promise that got him elected was the pledge to get coal mining restarted in poor rural areas. One of his first moves was to appoint Myron Ewell, a notable contrarian on the issue, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hardly the actions of a man who believes that clean energy is the way forward.

How concerned should we be? In the Guardian, Michael Liebreich picks apart the rhetoric, and makes it clear that much of what Trump has claimed is going to happen simply can't.

For example, coal is on the decline in the States largely because of the threat from shale gas, which is nearly unlimited and considerably cheaper to extract. As coal reserves become harder to find, we look for alternatives. It's simple economic sense... which as a businessman Trump should be able to understand.

Regardless of his views on the EPA (he's referred to the Agency as "a disaster") he can't get rid of it without an Act of Congress, and he simply doesn't have the support there he needs to do that, despite the Republican control of both sides of the house.

With regards to clean energy–it's coming, whether Trump and Ewell like it or not. The technology is improving and becoming cheaper year by year. We're already seeing reports of the UK running completely on sustainable power for a few days earlier this year, and this trend is only likely to continue and grow. That growth may be slower without the US leading the way, but there's little he can do to clamp down on it. And of course, there are sound economic reasons for supporting clean renewable energy, regardless of his views on climate change.

There's an element of 'wait and see' around the Trump administration, as he comes to realise that promises made on the campaign trail do not automatically translate into policy. We should also note that Donald is not afraid of changing his mind on big issues–as recently as 2009 he co-signed a letter to President Obama extolling the virtues of clean energy. I wonder what's happened to change his mind... and what can be done to change it back.

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