NEWS

Climate Change Disappears From White House Website Under Trump

20/01/2017 22:27 SAST | Updated 21/01/2017 00:40 SAST

The White House website has removed the page devoted to climate change action and posted newly sworn-in President Donald Trump’s pledge to undo environmental regulations and “revive America’s coal industry.” 

The 361-word policy outline on the new page, titled “America First Energy Plan,” makes no reference to global warming or climate change, except to note Trump’s commitment to “eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”

The Climate Action Plan, which the Obama administration launched in 2013, set forth a strategy for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The utility sector makes up the largest portion of the country’s carbon footprint, producing 30 percent of emissions, according to 2014 data from the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s because coal, by far the dirtiest-burning fossil fuel, once served as the country’s primary source of electricity.

EPA
An EPA chart shows where U.S. greenhouse gases originate.

Republican-dominated states have sued to halt the Climate Action Plan, and last February the Supreme Court granted a stay on the rules until a lower court hears the case. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, led the charge to block the plan. With Trump now in the White House, Republican majorities in Congress and an open seat on the Supreme Court, the climate rules are in jeopardy. 

Trump, along with many Republican lawmakers, blames former President Barack Obama’s push to cut emissions for the virtual collapse of the coal industry over the past decade. But the domestic coal industry was already on the decline before the Clean Power Plan. 

The U.S. coal industry has struggled for several reasons, including the risky bet many companies made on the future of coal consumption in China. While China still uses enormous amounts of coal, it has dramatically curbed its consumption over the last few years as it invests heavily in renewable energy.

The U.S. natural gas boom likely sealed the domestic coal industry’s fate, as the less-polluting fuel became cheaper. In 2001, just 17.1 percent of U.S. electricity came from natural gas generation. By 2014, the share from natural gas had increased to 27.4 percent. Now it is tied with coal at 33 percent

Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, previously led a company that vowed to eat coal’s lunch with its natural gas business. Exxon Mobil has showed no signs that it plans to cut back on natural gas production. 

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry. White House website

“Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America,” the new White House website reads. “The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans.”

The new president’s energy plan ― to the extent it’s explained on the website ― seems to signal a shift away from renewable energy sources, which flourished under Obama. Trump, who has called climate change “a hoax,” has also stacked his Cabinet with fossil fuel allies who, even if they acknowledge that the planet is warming, question the overwhelming scientific evidence that puts the blame on carbon emissions. 

“Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well,” says the new White House site. “The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.”

The White House website for the Council on Environmental Quality, which was founded in 1969, also disappeared on Friday afternoon.

Study after study shows the planet began rapidly warming as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere soared in response to humans burning coal, oil and gas on an industrial scale. Separate analyses from two federal agencies released Wednesday show that 2016 was the hottest year on record.

“Minutes after he was sworn in, any illusion that Trump would act in the best interests of families in this country as President were wiped away by a statement of priorities that constitute an historic mistake on one of the key crises facing our planet and an assault on public health,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “This is a shameful and dark start to Trump’s Presidency, and a slap in the face to any American who thought Trump might pursue the national interest.”

How Trump might actually ease coal’s pain is unclear. Even coal magnate Robert Murray said in 2014, “If you think it’s coming back ... you’re smoking dope.”

This article has been updated with information about the CEQ website. 

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