Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Coming Climate Nightmare

By Michael T. Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1. Originally published at TomDispatch

Scroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum.  In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress.

If, however, you take a closer look at this morass of pro-carbon proposals, an obvious, if as yet unnoted, contradiction quickly becomes apparent. Were all Trump’s policies to be enacted — and the appointment of the climate-change denier and industry-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the attempt will be made — not all segments of the energy industry will flourish.  Instead, many fossil fuel companies will be annihilated, thanks to the rock-bottom fuel prices produced by a colossal oversupply of oil, coal, and natural gas.

Indeed, stop thinking of Trump’s energy policy as primarily aimed at helping the fossil fuel companies (although some will surely benefit).  Think of it instead as a nostalgic compulsion aimed at restoring a long-vanished America in which coal plants, steel mills, and gas-guzzling automobiles were the designated indicators of progress, while concern over pollution — let alone climate change — was yet to be an issue.

If you want confirmation that such a devastating version of nostalgia makes up the heart and soul of Trump’s energy agenda, don’t focus on his specific proposals or any particular combination of them.  Look instead at his choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state and former Governor Rick Perry from oil-soaked Texas as his secretary of energy, not to mention the carbon-embracing fervor that ran through his campaign statements and positions.  According to his election campaign website, his top priority will be to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”  In doing so, it affirmed, Trump would “open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate [the] moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.”  In the process, any rule or regulation that stands in the way of exploiting these reserves will be obliterated.

If all of Trump’s proposals are enacted, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will soar, wiping out the declines of recent years and significantly increasing the pace of global warming.  Given that other major GHG emitters, especially India and China, will feel less obliged to abide by their Paris commitments if the U.S. heads down that path, it’s almost certain that atmospheric warming will soar beyond the 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels that scientists consider the maximum the planet can absorb without suffering catastrophic repercussions.  And if, as promised, Trump also repeals a whole raft of environmental regulations and essentially dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency, much of the progress made over recent years in improving our air and water quality will simply be wiped away, and the skies over our cities and suburbs will once again turn gray with smog and toxic pollutants of all sorts.

Eliminating All Constraints on Carbon Extraction

To fully appreciate the dark, essentially delusional nature of Trump’s energy nostalgia, let’s start by reviewing his proposals.  Aside from assorted tweets and one-liners, two speeches before energy groups represent the most elaborate expression of his views: the first was given on May 26th at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, to groups largely focused on extracting oil from shale through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken shale oil formation; the second on September 22nd addressed the Marcellus Shale Coalition in Pittsburgh, a group of Pennsylvania gas frackers.

At both events, Trump’s comments were designed to curry favor with this segment of the industry by promising the repeal of any regulations that stood in the way of accelerated drilling.  But that was just a start for the then-candidate.  He went on to lay out an “America-first energy plan” designed to eliminate virtually every impediment to the exploitation of oil, gas, and coal anywhere in the country or in its surrounding waters, ensuring America’s abiding status as the world’s leading producer of fossil fuels.

Much of this, Trump promised in Bismarck, would be set in motion in the first 100 days of his presidency.  Among other steps, he pledged to:

* Cancel America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs

* Lift any existing moratoriums on energy production in federal areas

* Ask TransCanada to renew its permit application to build the Keystone Pipeline

* Revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies

* Save the coal industry

The specifics of how all this might happen were not provided either by the candidate or, later, by his transition team.  Nevertheless, the main thrust of his approach couldn’t be clearer: abolish all regulations and presidential directives that stand in the way of unrestrained fossil fuel extraction, including commitments made by President Obama in December 2015 under the Paris Climate Agreement.  These would include, in particular, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, with its promise to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants, along with mandated improvements in automotive fuel efficiency standards, requiring major manufacturers to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon in all new cars by 2025.  As these constitute the heart of America’s “intended nationally determined contributions” to the 2015 accord, they will undoubtedly be early targets for a Trump presidency and will represent a functional withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, even if an actual withdrawal isn’t instantly possible.

Just how quickly Trump will move on such promises, and with what degree of success, cannot be foreseen.  However, because so many of the measures adopted by the Obama administration to address climate change were enacted as presidential directives or rules promulgated by the EPA — a strategy adopted to circumvent opposition from climate skeptics in the Republican-controlled House and Senate — Trump will be in a position to impose a number of his own priorities simply by issuing new executive orders nullifying Obama’s.  Some of his goals will, however, be far harder to achieve.  In particular, it will prove difficult indeed to “save” the coal industry if America’s electrical utilities retain their preference for cheap natural gas.

Ignoring Market Realities

This last point speaks to a major contradiction in the Trump energy plan. Seeking to boost the extraction of every carbon-based energy source inevitably spells doom for segments of the industry incapable of competing in the low-price environment of a supply-dominated Trumpian energy marketplace.

Take the competition between coal and natural gas in powering America’s electrical plants.  As a result of the widespread deployment of fracking technology in the nation’s prolific shale fields, the U.S. gas output has skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from 18.1 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 27.1 trillion in 2015.  With so much additional gas on the market, prices have naturally declined — a boon for the electrical utility companies, which have converted many of their plants from coal to gas-combustion in order to benefit from the low prices.  More than anything else, this is responsible for the decline of coal use, with total consumption dropping by 10% in 2015 alone.

In his speech to the Marcellus Coalition, Trump promised to facilitate the expanded output of both fuels.  In particular, he pledged to eliminate federal regulations that, he claimed, “remain a major restriction to shale production.” (Presumably, this was a reference to Obama administration measures aimed at reducing the excessive leakage of methane, a major greenhouse gas, from fracking operations on federal lands.) At the same time, he vowed to “end the war on coal and the war on miners.”

As Trump imagines the situation, that “war on coal” is a White House-orchestrated drive to suppress its production and consumption through excessive regulation, especially the Clean Power Plan.  But while that plan, if ever fully put into operation, would result in the accelerated decommissioning of existing coal plants, the real war against coal is being conducted by the very frackers Trump seeks to unleash.  By encouraging the unrestrained production of natural gas, he will ensure continued low gas prices and so a depressed market for coal.

A similar contradiction lies at the heart of Trump’s approach to oil: rather than seeking to bolster core segments of the industry, he favors a supersaturated market approach that will end up hurting many domestic producers.  Right now, in fact, the single biggest impediment to oil company growth and profitability is the low price environment brought on by a global glut of crude — itself largely a consequence of the explosion of shale oil production in the United States.  With more petroleum entering the market all the time and insufficient world demand to soak it up, prices have remained at depressed levels for more than two years, severely affecting fracking operations as well.  Many U.S. frackers, including some in the Bakken formation, have found themselves forced to suspend operations or declare bankruptcy because each new barrel of fracked oil costs more to produce than it can be sold for.

Trump’s approach to this predicament — pump out as much oil as possible here and in Canada — is potentially disastrous, even in energy industry terms.  He has, for instance, threatened to open up yet more federal lands, onshore and off, for yet more oil drilling, including presumably areas previously protected on environmental grounds like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the seabeds off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  In addition, the construction of pipelines like the embattled one in North Dakota and other infrastructure needed to bring these added resources to market will clearly be approved and facilitated.

In theory, this drown-us-in-oil approach should help achieve a much-trumpeted energy “independence” for the United States, but under the circumstances, it will surely prove a calamity of the first order.  And such a fantasy version of a future energy market will only grow yet more tumultuous thanks to Trump’s urge to help ensure the survival of that particularly carbon-dirty form of oil production, Canada’s tar sands industry.

Not surprisingly, that industry, too, is under enormous pressure from low oil prices, as tar sands are far more costly to produce than conventional oil.  At the moment, adequate pipeline capacity is also lacking for the delivery of their thick, carbon-heavy crude to refineries on the American Gulf Coast where they can be processed into gasoline and other commercial products.  So here’s yet one more Trumpian irony to come: by favoring construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump would throw yet another monkey wrench into his own planning.  Sending such a life preserver to the Canadian industry — allowing it to better compete with American crude — would be another strike against his own “America-first energy plan.”

Seeking the Underlying Rationale

In other words, Trump’s plan will undoubtedly prove to be an enigma wrapped in a conundrum inside a roiling set of contradictions.  Although it appears to offer boom times for every segment of the fossil fuel industry, only carbon as a whole will benefit, while many individual companies and sectors of the market will suffer.  What could possibly be the motivation for such a bizarre and planet-enflaming outcome?

To some degree, no doubt, it comes, at least in part, from the president-elect’s deep and abiding nostalgia for the fast-growing (and largely regulation-free) America of the 1950s.  When Trump was growing up, the United States was on an extraordinary expansionist drive and its output of basic goods, including oil, coal, and steel, was swelling by the day.  The country’s major industries were heavily unionized; the suburbs were booming; apartment buildings were going up all over the borough of Queens in New York City where Trump got his start; cars were rolling off the assembly lines in what was then anything but the “Rust Belt”; and refineries and coal plants were pouring out the massive amounts of energy needed to make it all happen.

Having grown up in the Bronx, just across Long Island Sound from Trump’s home borough, I can still remember the New York of that era: giant smokestacks belching out thick smoke on every horizon and highways jammed with cars adding to the miasma, but also to that sense of explosive growth.  Builders and automobile manufacturers didn’t have to seriously worry about regulations back then, and certainly not about environmental ones, which made life — for them — so much simpler.

It’s that carbon-drenched era to which Trump dreams of returning, even if it’s already clear enough that the only conceivable kind of dream that can ever come from his set of policies will be a nightmare of the first order, with temperatures exceeding all records, coastal cities regularly under water, our forests in flame and our farmlands turned to dust.

And don’t forget one other factor: Trump’s vindictiveness — in this case, not just toward his Democratic opponent in the recent election campaign but toward those who voted against him.  The Donald is well aware that most Americans who care about climate change and are in favor of a rapid transformation to a green energy America did not vote for him, including prominent figures in Hollywood and Silicon Valley who contributed lavishly to Hillary Clinton’s coffers on the promise that the country would be transformed into a “clean energy superpower.”

Given his well-known penchant for attacking anyone who frustrates his ambitions or speaks negatively of him, and his urge to punish greens by, among other things, obliterating every measure adopted by President Obama to speed the utilization of renewable energy, expect him to rip the EPA apart and do his best to shred any obstacles to fossil fuel exploitation.  If that means hastening the incineration of the planet, so be it. He either doesn’t care (since at 70 he won’t live to see it happen), truly doesn’t believe in the science, or doesn’t think it will hurt his company’s business interests over the next few decades.

One other factor has to be added into this witch’s brew: magical thinking.  Like so many leaders of recent times, he seems to equate mastery over oil in particular, and fossil fuels in general, with mastery over the world.  In this, he shares a common outlook with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on harnessing Russia’s oil and gas reserves in order to restore the country’s global power, and with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, said to be Trump’s top choice for Secretary of State and a long-term business partner of the Putin regime.  For these and other politicians and tycoons — and, of course, we’re talking almost exclusively about men here — the possession of giant oil reserves is thought to bestow a kind of manly vigor.  Think of it as the national equivalent of Viagra.

Back in 2002, Robert Ebel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies put the matter succinctly: “Oil fuels more than automobiles and airplanes.  Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics… [It is] a determinant of well being, national security, and international power for those who possess [it] and the converse for those who do not.”

Trump seems to have fully absorbed this line of thinking.  “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” he declared at the Williston forum in May.  “We will become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.”  He seems firmly convinced that the accelerated extraction of oil and other carbon-based fuels will “make America great again.”

This is delusional, but as president he will undoubtedly be able to make enough of his energy program happen to achieve both short term and long term energy mayhem. He won’t actually be able to reverse the global shift to renewable energy now under way or leverage increased American fossil fuel production to achieve significant foreign policy advantages.  What his efforts are, however, likely to ensure is the surrender of American technological leadership in green energy to countries like China and Germany, already racing ahead in the development of renewable systems.  And in the process, he will also guarantee that all of us are going to experience yet more extreme climate events.  He will never recreate the dreamy America of his memory or return us to the steamy economic cauldron of the post-World War II period, but he may succeed in restoring the smoggy skies and poisoned rivers that so characterized that era and, as an added bonus, bring planetary climate disaster in his wake.  His slogan should be: Make America Smoggy Again.

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    1. skippy

      Geez… Clive don’t go all marsupial….

      Disheveled… the guy is a classical nob… its like on of those uncomfortable experiences at the border line…

    2. polecat

      Who’ll be wearing the suspensors since Christys’ out of the loop ?

      …And what of Rabin’s kind … ?

      Still wondering who’ll materialize as our MUAD’DIB …??

      I just can’t see Sanders in defensive stance, holding a crysknife … even with a shield of bernie bros.

    3. Barry

      I’ve always felt Obama was Feyd Rautha to Bush’s Beast Rabban (with the role of Baron Harkonnen played by neoliberalism).

      But the problem is finding anyone who knows what I’m talking about.

      1. polecat

        I liken Obama to a Face Dancer ….sentient, but not in control of his actions .. beholden to his Tleilaxian masters ….

  1. bmeisen

    Good point – Trump’s energy hokuspokus could be an opportunity for others to take the lead in developing renewables, as long as potential users of renewables can continue to giggle at the environmental and political consequences of global warming. If his policy tweeks lead to a global pig-out and thereby worsen warming and social chaos then there won’t be many earthlings asking for a supplier of renewables … other than the good folks in fly-over country. They’ll have a Saulus to Paulus experience just as Manhattanites scramble to build higher dykes while fighting off the refugees from Atlantic City and Princeton.

    Earnestly, the role of geography is shocking – Europe is already reeling from the impact of refugees. As NC has noted, the cause of their displacement is climatic as well as political upheaval. The US is likely to persist because of geographic isolation – as absurd as it sounds. Trump may make a play for Panama as soon as his wall idea gets too cumbersome.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    The fossil fuel industry – or to be more precise the funders of the industry, have been very badly burned the past few years with very low prices. I really wonder if they’ll be keen to fund all these new wells and mines.

    The one hope is that the big oil guys in the Trump cabinet will realise that a free for all will mean everyone will cannibalise everyone else’s profit. Its surprising how few big company execs accept a very simple fact – strong environmental regulations actually benefit big operators and drive up their profits by driving out smaller competitors. What Big Oil certainly wants now is a period of reasonably high and stable prices to repair their balance sheets, not a huge oil rush. Big Coal is another matter – this is a dying industry despite to wring out some final profits before it hopefully fades away to archaeology. The best hope is that the old legacy coal thermal plants become just too expensive to keep going – very few companies are interested in building new plants, its too high a risk.

    So I’m not quite as pessimistic as some – I think there is just too much momentum behind renewables right now, and too much fear of low prices in the fossil fuel industry. But the localised damage caused by breaking up the EPA and all the other things he does will be much more serious. But at least the Green Movement will have a much easier target to attack. Obama and, if she won, HRC are more slippery opponents.

    1. RenoDino

      I agree that in this particular case market forces will rein in excesses. On the other hand, market forces remain powerless against global pandemic, nuclear war, antibiotic resistance, mass starvation from volcanic winter, electromagnetic solar pulse, and colliding with an asteroid. Where is the invisible hand when you really need it?

    2. Art Eclectic

      The other thing you have to factor in is the intense desire of large parts of the country to get off the grid. Even Wal-Mart is going solar.

      The only thing keeping a lot of those customers on the grid is lack of enterprise level storage. Home storage products are gearing up for a massive run and that’s going to mean more customers leaving the grid. The fear of ever increasing energy costs and unreliability of our aging grid have inspired a movement that’s gaining steam slowly only until there is an affordable storage solution on the shelf.

    3. nonsensefactory

      Great analysis. I’d add that costs for the oil & gas industry for new production to replace their depleted reserves (exploration, drilling, wells, etc.) are now so high that if low prices persist, they don’t get enough investment to cover those costs. However, higher prices mean more demand for renewable energy (since it costs what, 1/4 as much to travel per mile by electric vehicle, which could go down to 1/8 if gasoline prices double, etc.) So the fossil fuel industry can no longer undermine renewables with lower prices, they need higher prices to support future production costs, which have nowhere to go but up.

      Another big game-changer for renewables could be rising demand from the developing world as prices for solar drop dramatically:
      Coal-fired power plants, natural gas power plants, both have huge negatives (fuel costs) for developing countries which still have large sectors with no electricity at all. Their strong future demand for renewables makes price fluctuations in industrialized nations less of an issue.

      However, that also means that countries who are the first to develop robust renewable energy manufacturing will be the ones who win those markets; the United States lags well behind China on that. If Trump is really pro-business, it should be possible to convince him to support such an export-improving plan for the U.S., but we’ll have to see.

  3. NDB

    For this reason above all, the disillusioned left should have swallowed hard and voted for Hillary Clinton

    1. cocomaan

      Maybe if she had campaigned on climate change instead of campaigning on sexism, people would have voted for her. I didn’t hear one coherent plan for the environment from her, just a lot of wonky BS that we all know would mean status quo.

      1. jrs

        Remember the Democratic and Republican parties agree on what questions are allowed in the debates ahead of time, and I don’t know what the negotiations looked like but not one question on climate change. She might have killed us slower is the argument I guess.

    2. Vatch

      Well, maybe not. Clinton is a fracking supporter, and she received more donations from people in the oil and gas industry than Trump did. See:

      There is no doubt that Trump is horrible. However, Obama is pretty bad, too, and we’ve all noticed how difficult it is to convince people of this. Most of the ones who think he is bad are the bizarrely delusional folks who are convinced that he is a “socialist”. Were Clinton to become President, she would be bad a lot like Obama, and we would have the same trouble convincing many leftists to oppose her. With Trump, there is no doubt that he is hideous, and people will oppose him. Will there be enough opposition to flip the House or the Senate in 2018? I guess we’ll find out.

      1. jrs

        I’m not convinced there are enough leftists left to bother worrying about how who gets elected affects what they will do rather than the far more important question of what the elected person will accomplish.

        Oh I do know leftists are often committed but … those who are committed to activism and so on mostly only partially swallowed the Obama and Clinton line anyway (or they had a lot of dissonance there, in one breath they would acknowledge the terrible policies, in another still seem Obama as somehow good).

        I worry people will burn out opposing Trump for unsubstantial things and they’ll be really NOONE left to oppose him on substantial things except the very few leftist activists that are always there.

      2. Aumua

        Most of the ones who think (Obama) is bad are the bizarrely delusional folks who are convinced that he is a “socialist”.

        Yes, and there is a lot of overlap between these people and Trump’s core constituency. Keep an eye to the flanks, as (in spite of all the hysterics) neofascism actually is rising quickly in the West.

  4. Disturbed Voter

    I call hypocrisy. If you are concerned about global warming, and you think it is primarily man-made … then stop driving your car and take public transportation. It is more carbon friendly. If I had public transportation to work, I would be happy to take it.

    The renewable/nuclear infrastructure isn’t developed enough, nor have people taken conservation of energy use by houses and businesses seriously, for decades now. A consumer driven society, and fed by business interests, will disturb all right thinking Marxists out there. The goal should have been to provide people with alternatives, and encourage them (not draconically terrorize them) to use those alternatives.

    1. pretzelattack

      individuals deciding to take the bus will not solve the problem, and encouraging people to take the bus will not solve the problem. if you believe in science you will recognize the extreme urgency of dealing with this–it isn’t clear that you do. we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground to the greatest extent possible. this will cause a lot of economic distress. it will cause far less distress than unchecked global warming. that could be another great extinction event.

    2. bmeisen

      We stopped! We ride bikes and live where there’s mass transit. We have a car and it has 73 hp, 3 cylinders, and it sits mostly outside. We also eliminated wasteful appliances like dryers, AC, electric heaters, incandescent lighting. our refridge is pathetically small and highly efficient. But the point is that America’s carbon economy in which Trump and his friends invite their fellow citizens to pig-out is a catastrophe by design. The American Way of Life is rigged first and foremost to get your butt into your gas-hog and on the road. Options do not exist for the vast majority of Americans.

    3. Vatch

      There are many things that people can do to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. But people need to do certain things as they live their lives, and sometimes there will be emissions. People shouldn’t be required to live like ascetics to save the biosphere. And the world’s population continues to grow, so the number of energy users and greenhouse gas emitters grows, too.

      Back in the 1970s there was a brief vogue for widespread effective family planning. But it didn’t last very long; instead, political correctness demanded that people had the right to have as many children as they wanted. We were told that the real problem isn’t the numbers of people, it’s how much each person consumes. Few people wanted to face the awkward truth that reducing per capita consumption is doomed to failure if the number of people continues to rise.

      1. Paul Art

        Totally agree. In fact it bothers me a great deal that no one ever talks about population control, especially in the context of tackling climate change.

        1. Art Eclectic

          If you educate the women, allow birth control to be freely distributed, and provide them jobs so they can be independent, you get population control without having to talk about it or legislate it. Women who WANT to have large families are actually a minority and most will limit their family size based on income.

          1. Vatch

            Well sure, but there is an enormous amount of resistance to what you are saying. It will take money and a lot of will power to make this happen.

            Aside from that, there are women who want large families, and they’re not just in the Third World. There’s the very disturbing Quiverfull movement, and families like the Bevins of Kentucky and the Duggars.

          2. nycTerrierist

            Yes, at the very least free birth control could make a dent in unwanted pregnancies.

            This should not be controversial.

            As a society, we should explore seemingly small changes that could have a cumulative effect on climate change. And implement them now! not next year.

            1. Vatch

              Yes, at the very least free birth control could make a dent in unwanted pregnancies.

              Tom Price, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, is opposed to this, so we should be opposed to him.

      2. HBE

        @ Veatch 10:19

        This +100

        We can put up as many solar panels and wind turbines as we want but if nothing is done about population, it doesn’t mean sh|Ite.

        If we were to live sustainably at 7billion each person would only be limited to 1.8 hectares for all their consumption needs, meaning right now if we want to be living sustainably everyone on earth should be perpetually paupers by US standards.

        “green energy” will do exactly nothing to change this fact.

        We either slow and reduce population or global warming will continue no matter how many solar panels we put up, and even if we find a perpetual energy machine, your still left with the fact that at 7 billion we should each be surviving on 1.8 hectares about what Nigeria currently exists at.

      3. subgenius

        People shouldn’t be required to live like ascetics to save the biosphere

        Where does that idea come from?

        Here’s the thing – to save the biosphere, you have to save the biosphere. Your desires for a ‘lifestyle’ are irrelevant.

    4. Anonymous in Sourtfield

      Agreed, people have choices on the use of appliances large and small, turning off appliances (not watching TV? why is it on?) and replacing outmoded furnaces, AC. So I’m with you there.
      Where we part ways strenuously, is the bit about Public Transportation or lack thereof. In SE Michigan you would be working a part time job trying to catch a bus to work unless you happened to live right next to one of the very sketchily laid our routes. You could very well never make it depending. Bottom line-I did struggle with the bus system here for 12 years and would have to forced at gun point to use it again. It. is. god. awful. and not usable. Buses are late or nonexistent, shabby conditions prevail and very rude, unhelpful drivers are everywhere (they seem to hate their job-can’t understand why they get a magnificent starting wage of $10.00/hr) and bus stops that are signs tacked to a utility pole.
      I could go on all day on why you would not want to use it and would not use it.

      Mass transit?
      Forget about it.

    5. jrs

      I think you indirectly hit on the main thing, there is mostly no encouragement to use the alternatives. But then there is no society I guess … just individuals making bad decisions.

  5. Leigh

    “get your butt into your gas-hog…”

    But the car commercials are so enticing!!

    SUVs climbing up rocky mountains in a snowstorm or slogging through mud and water, off-roading in the jungles of Peru…: how many people actually drive their SUV in this manner? ..00001%

    1. polecat

      You NEVER see a commercial or advert., of an SUV, stuck in traffic, on a crowded scenic highway … why is that ?

  6. DJG

    There have been several articles here, any many elsewhere, on the deleterious effects of relying too much on the energy sector. Saudi Arabia has no economy other than extractive industries. Iran, because of sanctions, and ironically, has managed to develop in other areas. The U S of A is looking too much like Saudi Arabia, a nation with an enfeebled government run by a clique tied to extractive industry and trying to paper over the decline by appeals to puritan religion and self-described importance. The last four paragraphs of this article, about magical thinking, are especially insightful.

  7. linda amick

    During the last 8 years of the Obama administration, I have read articles that Obama has opened up the Atlantic for oil drilling, that the Gulf was reopened after the gulf catastrophe, and I saw that the XL pipeline was supported also but was pushed back due to intense activist activities same as the Dakota pipeline.
    I also read that the Paris agreement has no teeth.

    My question is how do the dire prognostications in this article compare to our current situation?

    Has Obama done good things for climate change? What are these things? We will need to know them for future activist activities.

    1. nonsensefactory

      I can agree with everything Michael Klare says in this article about the Trump energy policy, but the bits where he promotes Obama’s “Clean Energy Plan” are not in accordance with Obama’s actual record:

      U.S. oil production has surged 82 percent to near-record levels in the past seven years and natural gas is up by nearly one-quarter. Instead of shutting down the hydraulic fracturing process that has unlocked natural gas from dense rock formations, Obama has promoted the fuel . . . The administration has also permitted drilling in the Arctic Ocean over the objections of environmentalists and opened the door to a new generation of oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters hugging the East Coast. He also signed, with reservations, a measure to lift a 40-year-old ban on the export of most U.S. crude.

      Thus, under current conditions, i.e. the lack of a real federal renewable energy law like those implemented in Germany and China, it’s clear that individual states will have to be the leaders on renewable energy; that’s where the real political battles over energy policy are taking place, from North Dakota to Arizona to Nevada to California, with investor-owned utilities trying to lock out renewables from electricity markets and oil interests trying to block electric vehicles.

  8. Mickey

    Competition is good. Energy independence is good. Lower prices are good. Stopping pipelines to move fuel instead of shipping it by rail or truck is stupid. If prices drop too much some people cannot compete….too bad. Stop worrying about carbon level and use that time to worry about water shortages. People will thirst to death by excess water usage today long before climate change kills them. The next great crisis is our overuse of clean water not drilling for energy.

    1. Vatch

      The next great crisis is our overuse of clean water not drilling for energy.

      That is a genuine problem. Fracking uses a huge amount of water, and should be banned for this and other reasons.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      Pipelines are like any other major infrastructure, if you build them, development will come. Oil that is currently non-economic will be extracted at the end of a taxpayer subsidized pipeline.

      Carbon release into the atmosphere through human activity is the most dangerous issue of our time. It drives heating of the planet, which drives loss of freshwater storage.

    3. pretzelattack

      lower prices aren’t good, because they don’t reflect the true cost of using carbon fuels. climate change will cause water shortages. keep it in the ground.

  9. Vatch

    Please encourage your friends and relatives to contact their Senators to express their opposition to Trump’s nominees. I think that Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice for EPA administrator, is one of the worst. People who have time for multiple letters or phone calls can also oppose Ryan Zinke, the drill-baby-drill nominee to be Secretary of the Interior, and Rick Perry, the bumbling nominee to be the Secretary of Energy. Many of you already know your Senators’ contact information, and for the benefit of your relatives and friends, here it is again:

    Phone calls and paper letters are more effective than web contacts, but using the web contact form is better than nothing.

    1. polecat

      Please, PLEASE …. plead to your Senators for THEIR scraps & crumbs !!!

      Oh …. and don’t forget to sign some petition .. or some such … because Redress !!

      I’m sorry, but I no longer buy the CON !

      1. Vatch

        If person has time to post messages on a web site, then he or she has time to contact his or her Senator. And if the Senator doesn’t do as demanded, vote against the creep in the next election, whether that’s in 2018, 2020, or 2022.

        1. polecat


          it’s ALL about the $$$

          1. Vatch

            A lot of senators and representatives are like yours. But if many of their constituents write protesting against Pruitt, Zinke, Perry, et al, they’ll be able to tell the right wing lobbyists that they need more money, because they need to overcome their activist constituents with more advertising. The Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobil will have to spend more money! Won’t it feel good to make them do that?

  10. Spencer Palmer

    You people kill me with the “man made” climate change nonsense. We have much bigger problems as was noted above. Fracking uses an immense amount of clean water. We should be more concerned about pollution instead of climate change. Even if you accept the supposed “science” of climate change there is very little we can do to affect the outcome. We can control how much we contribute to pollution and how we work to mitigate a major crisis for clean drinking water.

    1. DJG

      Spencer Palmer: Pollution is what is causing climate change. You might want to do a little reading before spouting off.

    2. pretzelattack

      the science says we need to stop using fossil fuels. we can move toward that. this kind of propaganda just interferes with that process.

  11. subgenius

    I wouldn’t worry too much about energy plans and disruption to the existing climate.

    Not a single industrialized nation is doing enough to make an impact.

    I haven’t seen a drop in the number of single occupancy V8 trucks on the roads about hell-A. Haven’t seen any incentives, or increases in tax, to encourage people to consume less fuel, or power, or stuff.

    As I have said, you will know when a country is serious when they ban cars and limit power availability. Up to that that point they are simply rearranging deck chairs.

    Yes population is an issue.

    Guess which population is the #1 issue…yep the US. Not the Africans, the Bangladeshi or anywhere else.

    The writing has been on the wall for DECADES. We are still pretty much tracking the WORLD3 model – and despite its simplicity and flaws, it has done a fairly solid job of forecasting the last ~40 years. If you want a peek at the future, take a look at the famous graph.

    Mother nature doesn’t care. Bit she is going to slap down the offenders hard soon enough.

    1. polecat

      At this point, it’s about mitigation and adaptation, because what’s likey to happen is something that can’t be ‘switched off’ … the effects of atmospheric pollution will have to cycle out, probably over centuries ….

      The gaseous horses have already left the Terran Barn

    2. Cry Shop

      Funding for Fusion is going to try up, and that, or some yet unknown miracle was all I could see saving humanity from the mess it made.

      Everything else at this point is just buying a few years more time. That’s not an invalid thing, but I think it’s going to be devastating. The only way this plant is going to cool back down now is when things get so desperate that the powers to be spin into an all out nuclear war.

  12. Gaylord

    Doubled-down hubris will accelerate the onslaught of nature’s revolution and will assure the next mass extinction on earth. Way to go, Homo Stupidus!

  13. Jim

    “Make America smoggy again.”

    If this potential Trump policy is instituted what percentage of the middle and working classes would support it– especially if the short run consequences are better well-paying jobs in manufacturing, energy and construction.?

    Do the vast majority of middle and working class American what an economic boom, even if it is smoggy?

  14. Restless Nomad

    You know, I wonder about whether or not we are taking Trump for a fool, and I don’t think he is. Bombastic, yes, a capitalist to the bone, yes. Stupid, I’m not so sure. My take is that during elections, both sides carefully plot their strategy so to garner as many votes as possible, and to target the pain points that will help the perspective candidate the most. Lets face it, us humans are an emotional bunch. I’m suspicious of what Trump’s plans really are. As this article succinctly states, if Trump enacts what he promised during the campaign, it would very likely be a disaster. Trump is a business man at heart, so he can be trusted to do what is in the best interest of what he views as the business. I doubt very much that the Oil and Gas blokes will willingly slit their own wrists figuratively either. They are in this for the money. Saturating further an already saturated market doesn’t add up. Only time will tell what the real plan is, and if this plan is in our (as in a collective people) best interest. As other comments stated earlier, there is a huge momentum already in the renewable energy sector. I doubt very much that even Trump would kill that. It’s a thriving business that is employing a great deal of people. Again, I wonder how much of this is “show” and what the real plan is. The old empire is dead, long live the empire!

  15. PKMKII

    Fits in with his proposed transportation policy as well. Everyone focused on the private-public/tax break/tolls part of it, but it’s also purely car-oriented, which mostly means gas-guzzlers. No public transit expansion or upgrades.

    Now, where would Trump be getting these ideas? “Having grown up in the Bronx, just across Long Island Sound from Trump’s home borough, I can still remember the New York of that era: giant smokestacks belching out thick smoke on every horizon and highways jammed with cars adding to the miasma” Hmm, jammed highways, highways.

    From WNYC : “According to Donald, the turning point in his life came when he was 18 years old. He recalled standing in the rain, watching politicians give speech after speech at the opening ceremonies for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge while the bridge’s engineer stood to the side, ignored. Trump told The New York Times in 1980: “I realized then and there that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool.” He told the reporter it was something he never forgot. “I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker,” he said.” The article notes that the bridge engineer actually was honored, but there’s no doubt who, at this moment that shaped Trump so much in his worldview, was the master of ceremonies: Robert Moses. Trumps wants bridges and highways, claims they won’t cost a cent of taxes, wants to bully pulpit his way through everything. Time to read (reread?) The Power Broker, folks.

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