Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump of Sustainability - Paul Bunyan tromps again!

Sustainability efforts take a big hit with the Trump election to president.
Some forces are bigger than he, however.
Congress didn't act on most things sustainable-ish, so much of the Obama efforts have been by executive order and by regulations. The EPA on coal, for example. The right way to regulate emissions in general -- and fossil fuels specifically -- is by a carbon tax (or cap n trade). With a carbon tax, then all subsidies of all kinds can be readily removed and let the markets take care of resource allocation. New power and retirement of existing production takes care of itself.
So now, we can expect the EPA restrictions to be systematically eroded.
But, even if the EPA is removed from the picture, we should never expect to see another coal power plant. NatGas is so much cheaper -- in all the spellings of the word -- and dirt cheap. See our blog post on coal here.
One would hope, however, that Trump would take on bigger and more immediate issues before attacking the Paris agreement on climate change (COP21, and COP22 starting as we speak in Marrakesh). That is taking on a big segment of the US population and the will of the entire world that, up until Paris a year ago, has never agreed on many thing since the Montreal agreement on reducing fluorocarbons (and the recent extension of this in Oct-Nov 2016).
When we saw Virginia coming in all red, and only flipping blue based on metro areas (DC), you knew that Trumps message had really grabbed traction with the blue collar coal miners and such.
Sadly, the idea of putting coal back to work, is a painful lie to the mining community. Coal is never going to come back. Countries like Germany have totally retired the coal power. Even China may not put any more coal power plants to work; they're trying to get the air clean enough for people to breath.
The idea from Hillary was that she would make efforts to transition the "dead and dying back in my little [coal] town". The promise from Trump to put coal miners back to work is sadly a very cruel promise. Wishing it were true, does not make it so.
You have to feel for the miners though.
First we backed out of the Kyoto protocol, now we will back out of Paris. You have to really feel for those countries 200 countries that have been pushing so hard to address the huge footprint we are having on the planet, while the US, the Paul Bunyan of footprints, is putting on his BIG boots to go tromping again.
An added note is the horror story of a team that has been advising Trump on Energy and Environment, aka the agency formerly know as the EPA. This Scientific America article was in Sept 26th.