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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Climate Change in the Age of Trump — A "Profit-First Energy Plan"

by Gaius Publius

Getting rich on "black gold" and moving into the mansion. It really is just about the money, isn't it? Plus the expectation of dying before the consequences show up. Unlike these fictional folks, most in Big Oil will see those consequences themselves.

As you've noticed, we've turned our attention back to climate here at La Maison, and to the wreckage of the planet we may see manifest in the coming decade (singular).

The climate fight in the U.S. has entered a new phase. It's moved from dealing with a political party that tried to seem to care about the climate, and with which a certain amount of small cold-comfort progress could be made — to dealing with a political party intent on causing the most climate damage it can manage at the fastest rate it can muster ... before it's booted out of office or loses the consent of the governed. (Ponder that last; it's one of the items on offer.)

By now we're all aware that all pipelines will be built, or attempted to be built. But that doesn't encompass the full sweep of America's new climate plan. The party now in power intends to dig all the carbon it can, give all the profits to the already-rich oil and gas industry, which will then sell it at the fastest rate possible to be burned into the air. U.S. carbon emission rates should shoot through the roof.

They're calling that "An America First Energy Plan." Not that Americans will see a dime of profit or wealth from this black-gold rush. It should be renamed "A Profit-First Energy Plan (and the species be damned)."

From the White House website (my emphasis):
An America First Energy Plan

Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. 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. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.

In addition to being good for our economy, boosting domestic energy production is in America’s national security interest. President Trump is committed to achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests. At the same time, we will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.

Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health. Under the Trump Administration’s energy policies, that future can become a reality.
Just a few notes; I'll have more to say on this at a later time:
  • Wherever this plan says "jobs," substitute "profits." Wherever it says "wages," substitute "revenue."
  • "Reviving the coal industry" means just that. Dig it fast, burn it fast, and sell it as widely as possible everywhere in the world. 
  • "Energy independence" is a meaningless phrase unless the U.S. nationalizes its oil. All fossil fuel, wherever extracted, is sold at market prices on a small number of exchanges, and only the sellers reap profit. Because the U.S. government is not a seller, it sees not one dime. Because of these markets, oil is fungible. The price of Saudi-dug oil is the same as the price of Exxon-dug oil, all other things being equal. All sellers will charge as much money as they can get; all will hold you hostage to get it.
  • "Refocus the EPA on ... protecting our air and water" means spending even more tax dollars on all the additional toxic waste cleanup effort this added drilling, fracking and mountaintop blasting will cause. The EPA will have only one role — the nation's janitor, sweeping up after the energy industry's mess-making.
And finally:
  • This will roil the oil market, which is already glutted with supply at unsustainably low prices. Look for energy market crises — and business bankruptcies — to increase, perhaps exponentially. Many smaller fracked-oil companies will go bankrupt, and the banks that financed them may need another bailout.
How to address this? It's still an emergency, just a different kind.

At the Wheelhouse of the Titanic

A metaphor: During the Sanders campaign there was an opportunity to put a new captain in the wheelhouse of the Titanic, one who would actually try to turn the ship instead of just seeming to. Today, however, we're back on the deck, outside looking in. The effort to turn the wheel — mobilize the economy for a fast and radical change of energy source — now has a preliminary step, a preliminary act of mobilization.

To turn the wheel we first have to take command of the wheelhouse, and yes, there are many non-violent ways to do it. It's that or we have to give up, to relax and enjoy whatever days are left of this voyage. (I hear for many first-class passengers — many of those in first-world countries, in other words — the food and accommodations will be comfortable almost to the end, right before the fight for lifeboats begins.)

I mentioned "the coming decade (singular)" above as the window of time left to us. I don't think this is the moment yet to give up, to go dancing, according to our metaphor, one last time on the chilly moonlit deck, the icy mass looming before us.

There really are ways to proceed, and with the change of enemy, new opportunities, avenues of approach we didn't have before. More on that later. This is where we stand now.