Trump deserves a lump of coal

EPA budget cuts and limits on industry regulation could regress U.S. struggle against climate change.

Graphic by Stephanie Hak.

Graphic by Stephanie Hak.

Stephanie Hak

Stephanie Hak

Graphic by Stephanie Hak.

Hanna Suarez, Opinions Editor

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Since President Donald Trump was elected, proposals to make significant cuts to federal agencies have been flooding the media. Outcry over the defunding of programs which provide substantial services to the public has focused on Planned Parenthood, Meals on Wheels, the Endowment for the Arts and Public Broadcasting Service — to name a few. Our attention should also be aimed at the proposals being made concerning the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to a proposal to cut the agency’s funding by 31 percent, Trump recently signed an executive order which would nullify former President Obama’s actions regarding climate change. A March piece by NPR illustrates Trump’s dramatic action  — signing the document at the EPA headquarters, cradled by what looks to be a dozen coal miners. Trump cited that the order marks a “new energy revolution that celebrates American production on American soil,” according to NPR, and went on to tell the miners surrounding them that they would be getting their jobs back.

This focus on coal is a dangerous indicator of Trump’s antiquated and exploitative methods. There is nothing “new” about coal, or the harmful effects it has on the environment. Every matter he conducts is one constructed with the aim to profit, and what does Trump stand to gain but the very Earth itself. His focus on America’s energy is not sustainable; rather, it plunges American industry back to the 19th century, when business was filthy, dangerous and monopolized.

The order’s major target: Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce the amount of carbon emissions which cause climate change. But according to the piece, it could take years for Trump’s administration to fully dissolve the plan. The White House published the details of Trump’s “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.”

Section 1 opens:  “It is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.” And goes on to say that it was in the nation’s interest to provide affordable electricity, citing coal as the first source.

The use of “clean,” and “safe,” misleads the reader, for the true purpose of the order is to reduce any regulations which limit the productivity of the industry  —  a short-sighted, and detrimental approach to energy and the needs of American people. Coal and oil are dirty business, and the harm which is caused by methods of transportation and processing have grim effects on the environment and society. We have already had a glimpse of this as the Dakota Access Pipeline was reinstated  — leaving Dakota Sioux Reservation vulnerable to oil spills tainting their water supply among other dangers.

The effect which heavy industry has on the environment is not new, so Trump’s fight for coal is very concerning. We have learned about sustainable methods of energy; solar power, wind, natural gas. Yet, Section 6 of the order aims to lift moratoria on federal land for coal leasing. NPR adds that 40 percent of coal is mined on federal land, and elaborates that while the moratorium lift will take effect immediately, it is unclear whether there will be a rush to lease federal land for coal.

A June 2016 article published in the New York Times shows how coal production dropped that year to levels which had not been experienced since a coal strike in 1981. The article explains that the industry had been crippled by bankruptcies, and was being replaced by cheaper alternatives in natural gas. Not only is coal the largest source of carbon emissions, according to the EPA, but is also being outsold by cheaper fuel sources.

Considering this, the question remains: why is Trump so concerned with coal? This may be further evidence of his economic interests. Politicians’ decisions usually embody their monetary interests, and Trump is the business warlord  —  a penny-pinching sack of hundreds, known consistently for luxurious weekends spent at Mar a Lago, Florida. If his goal really is to “make America wealthy again,” as relayed in the NPR article, it is through an outdated means that has already been proven faulty.

Trump’s perfect America is one without government regulations, it is laissez-faire in its prime, and it invalidates everything that modern environmental science has worked for. Trump aims to regress business regulations so that the same men who have been in power, remain in power. Furthermore, it is an aesthetic principle which Trump’s administration relies on. Booming industry means more smoke stacks  — an economy which embodies old American values, without considering the contemporary effect.

With Earth Day coming up, it is time to carefully analyze such gestures; not only as symbolic enterprises, but as real life opportunities to shed light on the way industry affects the environment and on our health  —  not just on the economy. It is time we fully study the concept of environmental racism, the way marginalized (often racialized) communities are subject to disproportionate exposure to harmful pollutants and/or limited access to resources, and the way these disadvantages become state sanctioned, supported by the men who reap the profits of natural exploitation of coal and oil.

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