Sunday, April 16, 2017

The dream was really a nightmare

We watched as Donald Trump signed an Executive Order reversing his predecessor’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Trump was right. Those “job-killing” regulations were unnecessary. Climate change was, in fact, a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Liz Cheney told us, “Barack Obama is more interested in killing Wyoming coal that in killing ISIS.” Maybe Liz wasn’t just talking like a run-of-the-mill ideologue.

Barack Obama’s war on coal was over.

The joy was unbridled. Wyoming’s Governor convened a special session of the legislature. Giddy lawmakers repaired the damage recently done to the state’s economy in the face of Obama-caused revenue losses in the coal industry.

They reinstated millions of dollars they’d recently stripped from Wyoming’s schools. Class sizes wouldn’t have to double after all. Teachers forced into early retirement were rehired. Funds deprived to cities and towns were returned, potholes were filled, parks built. Legislators restored the tax rebate for the poor and elderly. Literacy centers, closed during the downturn, were reopened. Cuts in healthcare were reversed now that the state could afford those costs.

In Gillette, they were dancing in the street as hundreds of laid-off miners were rehired. Foreclosure notices on vacant homes were rescinded. Businesses that had been shuttered were filled with happy customers. New mines opened as orders for Wyoming coal poured in from China. Power plants that had converted from coal to natural gas converted back to coal. Alternative energy sources such as wind and solar were exposed for the trendy fraud they were.

Alas, my alarm clock went off. The dream ended. None of that happened except the part about Trump signing the Executive Order.

The dream could become a nightmare. Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness, understands. Trump’s Executive Order was “a tragic turn for the future of this nation and for the entire planet.” This isn’t simply a political issue to be decided by pandering politicians. “Our concern as Presbyterians lies not only in our mandate to protect God’s creation, but in the knowledge that the ruins wrought by climate change will fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor, indigenous, and citizens of the Global South.”

Don’t take a theologian’s word for it. Ask a scientist. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s parroting of Trump’s views on climate-change causes triggered a review by the EPA’s Scientific Integrity Office. The science matters.

Nathan Hultman of the Brookings Institute reasons the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Clean Air Act required the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide was science based. Seems cleaner air is healthier. Who’d have known? EPA scientists knew. They found President Obama’s CPP would save billions in healthcare costs. “The EPA,” Hultman writes, “previously estimated substantial benefits from the CCP, including $14-34 billion in benefits accruing just to health.” Cleaner air prevents “3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000asthma attacks, and 300,000 lost work and school days” annually.

If Trump is going to get his way, he’ll have to convince the Court that these benefits are alternative facts. He also has to face changing energy economics. It’s not fake news that Department of Energy statistics demonstrate that while the coal industry employed 66,000 miners in 2015, nail salons employed 69,000, clean energy 3 million.

Rendering it unlikely Trump’s Executive Order will revive Wyoming coal is this fact: California uses 40% of the West’s electricity and expects that by 2030, half will be generated through green energy. Unlike Trump, California takes climate change seriously and can be expected to exceed that goal.
According to High Country News, “California’s climate change programs force the adoption of cleaner electricity across the West, because the state imports 20 percent of its electricity from states like Nevada and Wyoming and requires that power to meet its clean energy standards. This encourages the growth of large-scale renewable energy and the closure of dirty coal-fired power plants.”

Wyoming’s politicians choose to ignore the science and the economics. As Rocky Mountain Power invests billions in wind energy, the market continues to leave them behind.

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