Impeachment Update + Climate Change Meeting + Say good-bye Rick

Thought I would add two quick items:

I continue to add links to the impeachment inquiry page as shown on the right side of this web site.  I particularly like the CNN Inquiry tracker.   There are currently 30 requests for testimony or documents and 24 subpoenas.  The joint committee, meeting behind closed doors, has heard from 16 witnesses, so the hearings in this phase, are far from being done.    I figure with 16 down and 54 to go, this marks the 30% done level.  Of course,  the requests and subpoenas could outpace the testimonies, so this % done statistic could go down.

Imagine inviting 20,000 of your friends over for Thanksgiving and given only a few weeks to prepare.  What Madrid did, in hosting the COP25 Meeting is pretty incredible.  It will be a conference filled with intense negotiations, as reducing carbon emissions calls for sacrifice, and each country has to do their share for the greater good of the planet.  Good words with no action are not helpful.    Unfortunately, the US and Brazil look to be the only two countries who see this  terrible crisis as an inconvenience to their nationalistic political agenda.  Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, seems to believe that Brazil is somehow not connected to the rest of the planet.  Yes, our house is on fire, in California and the Amazon.   Trump will become a permanent resident in Palm Beach, Florida, and may begin to take a real interest in rising sea levels.

Our Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will be leaving soon, stonewalling the House for documents and testimony related to the Trump-Ukraine scandal and really embracing the “Bob Murray” energy plan to push coal and do whatever is possible to discourage renewable energy sources.   Solar panels made in China got hit with 55% tariffs and inverters, I believe, are now taxed at 25%,.

Murray Coal got everything on their agenda list they sent to Mike Pence, (except his welfare plan for nuclear and coal)  which included rolling back of all initiatives taken during Obama’s administration, yet the Murray Coal still went bankrupt.    I hope I will never see again in my lifetime the owner of a coal company have so much sway over the Department of Energy and the EPA.   Money doesn’t talk, it swears (Bob Dylan).

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Madrid to host Cop25 climate talks in December after Chile withdraws

Weaker alone and it’s getting worse (China, Iran, Climate Change) + Over the top distractions

Trump has started a number of highly disruptive “wars” without a clear end in sight.  The two big ones is his economic war with China and the political war with Iran.   A third huge division among us and our allies is our recent action against international cooperation in climate change.  Our Department of Justice is currently waging war against our automobile manufacturers who are working with California to improve exhaust emissions standards.  I guess the idea is that we all must breathe the same polluted air.   I’ll leave this last one for separate blog.

— Trade War – No end in sight.

The trade war with China, just seems to get worse every month.  According to experts, China has engaged in unfair trade practices.  But, the current trade wars are just the US and China.  We failed to obtain international support.  We created the World Trade Organization to address issues such as unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.  Now we take action without their involvement.  Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which included 12 countries (China not one of them) and would have been the best counter measure against China’s unfair practices.  Trump has correctly stated that prominent Republicans and Democrats were against it.   Likely, if Clinton were elected president, then she would have attempted to make  changes in the agreement.

The TPP agreement is long and complex.  It has survived without the US in a new agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).   The US was insisting on certain provisions which would be best for the US. and none of the other countries before we signed it.  See links below.  When Trump pulled out, all the contested provisions were pulled out.  It includes however, what seems at the top of Trump’s wish list – respect for intellectual property as follows:

It [CPTTP] includes the most detailed standards for intellectual property of any trade agreement, as well as protections against intellectual property theft against corporations operating abroad.

Manufacturing as measured by the US ISM manufacturing employment index, last month hit a two year low of  47.4 in August 2019, down from a high of 60.17 on September 2017.  See link.

Trade wars are a lose-lose proposition.   There are 18 countries which are party to the CPTPP agreement including Japan, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Canada.  They are stronger together, and the US is now weaker as it stands alone.

—  IRAN

Now Iran.  As long as the sanctions were lifted, Iran obeyed by its commitments.  They had a strict monitoring program.  The agreement basically called for the US to lift sanctions as long as Iran was in compliance.  When Trump imposed economic sanctions by refusing to import oil from Iran, it put the US in violation of the agreement.  Further, the US was pressuring other countries and companies not to lift Iran’s oil.

Thus, Iran correctly stated that they had the right not to be bound by the terms of the agreement, primarily on the amount of uranium it could enrich.   None of our European allies want Iran to get nuclear weapons, so they are pleading with the US, to drop the sanctions, so Iran can be brought back into compliance.  President Macron is leading this effort.  The head of the UN atomic energy watchdog agency (IAEA)  is in Iran now,   Iran makes no secret of its violations of the treaty and in fact will comply with thorough IAEA inspections,   It is simply tit-for-tat against actions taken by the US.

Trump’s theory, that once Iran felt the pain of sanctions, it would do anything to please the US hasn’t worked at all.  In fact, it has been a terrible failure.   Treaties are tough to put together, but much easier to fall apart.

I’ll stop here.  I’ve got a lot more to say on Trump’s misguided policies on reducing our carbon emissions and minimizing the real threat it is creating throughout the world, including droughts and extreme weather events.  But that will be a separate blog.

— DISTRACTIONS

I have to contend with a huge number of distracting events in July and August.  It’s really nuts.  Vice President Mike Pence wants an American on Mars by 2024, about 6 years earlier than planned, price tag around 500 billion dollars (a trillion here and there eventually adds up to real money) plus the militarizing of space with the Star Wars themed “Space Force.”   Then the trip to Ireland, was a publicist nightmare.  His grandfather was Irish, but he fled Ireland as a refugee escaping violence and poverty, just the folks Trump is trying to ban from the US.  Plus,  it was a terrible snub to stay at the Trump hotel, far outside of Dublin, for “security reasons.”  Nobody bought this one.   See link.

What else:  Trying somehow link Bill Clinton and Jeff Epstein by repeating social media nonsense,  buying Greenland and insulting Denmark (whose next?), the Trump drawn hurricane maps to include Alabama, pulling funds for Puerto Rico hurricane rebuilding effort to build the Mexican border wall (seeing just how far the National Emergency Act can be stretched), and a barrage of tweet attacks against Jay Powell for basing his decisions on interest rates on economic data and Fed Reserve objectives, rather than Trump’s polling numbers.  Remember, Jay Powell was Trump’s nominee to the Fed and highly qualified for this position by both Democrats and Republicans.

I’m not sure if any of the above means much. Our policies on Iran, China and Climate Change are real issues where an immediate course correction is necessary.  More like 180 degree turn, as we are “stronger together.” This will have to wait until the 2020 elections.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Manufacturing Unemployment index is down

Wikipedia: Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP)

Atomic watchdog chief in Iran for high-level talks

The distractions:

Mars Confusion 

Pence’s disasterous trip abroad

The Irish love anyone who can drink beer and has a bit of Irish heritage.  I believe they’ll make an exception with VP Mike Pence.

Irish Times Review of Mike Pence’s visit

 

 

 

 

 

War of Words

“I’m not going to enter a war of words with anybody, including the American president,” Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told a Danish television channel on Wednesday.  Ok, that’s right.  Don’t back down and don’t escalate,

A few days ago, I was already to post a slightly humorous comment on Greenland, saying the Prime Minister should have told Trump, “Well, if you want Greenland, then give us Puerto Rico. ”  That was going to be my joke.  Then, it came out that the White House actually discussed swapping Puerto Rico for Greenland.   That’s super crazy.

Buying Greenland was a crazy distraction.  The Prime Minister of Denmark,  Mette Frederiksen, was absolutely right to call the idea “absurd.”   Even more absurd is the cavalier way Trump proposed this.   Trump was right that this had been considered during Truman’s presidency in 1946.   But, this was done under tight security, and no one knew about it for 45 years, when it was discovered by a Copenhagen newspaper in declassified documents in the National Archives.

Today, we have a military base (Thule air base) on Greenland.   Denmark has been a strong ally of the US.  Danes have fought with the US in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.    However, unlike Trump,  the Prime Minister is a strong environmentalist, and Denmark is making great strides in reducing carbon emissions.  It would be hard not to be a strong believer in climate change, as it is so evident in Europe and of course, in Greenland.

So, Trump hopped into Air Force 1, to attend the G7 meeting in beautiful Biarritz, France where the hot issues will be Iran, trade issues and climate change.

On climate change,  President Bolsonaro  of Brazil in making his country  great again, has done great harm to the Amazon.  I warned this was going to happen.   The people who voted for him are now choking on smoke in Sao Paulo.    Donald Trump intensified the Trade War, not only with China but with our European allies.  EU is trying desperately to save the Iran Nuclear agreement, after the US pulled out.

So, the G7 meeting will be a “war of words”  with the US now more as  the trouble maker than the problem solver.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/16/trump-greenland-purchase-harry-truman-denmark/

Representative Iihan Omar

I like her, but she would really do herself and the causes she supports, to resist getting into the limelight, at least for now.   What did she say that was so horrible?

It was that our support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” which is slang for 100 dollar bills namely money.   Of course, money and politics go hand-in-hand.   Trump wants good relations with the Saudis, in hopes of getting big military contracts.  Not for the US government, but for companies like Boeing and dozens of military equipment manufacturers.    I think the Vox website got it right:

” It was false — support for Israel is complex and related to many more factors than just lobbyist money — and it played into centuries of conspiracy theories about Jewish money corrupting Western politics.”

Her four words went viral and totally blown out of proportion.  There was another comment where she seem to give support of a dual loyalty theory, that implies Jewish politicians were conflicted between what was best for America and best for Israel.  She really has back tracked on her offensive comment.  However, Trump is really on the war path.  Again, it is not her statements per se, but the exaggerated impact which is  being tossed about the social media.  Social media can act as a distorted echo chamber.

I worked in Kuwait, and listen to some pretty anti-Israel comments.  It was, in my opinion, rooted on a biased history of how Israel was formed, and its intentions to its Arab leaders.  We had some lively debates at that time.  At the same time, Muslims and Jews were just fine working together.  It was never personal.

The US under the Trump administration will never present a practical plan to resolve the hostilities between Palestine and Israel, because it will simply agree with Israel.   We have given up our role as a neutral party, and gone way too far in aligning our interests with Israel.  That’s very bad for us.   For Arab extremists,  the anger and paranoia begins with hatred towards Israel, and then all countries associated with Israel, most obvious today is the US.

As I said in the beginning, I like Representative Omar.   I think she has a lot of “John Kennedy” type zeal in her and is strongly involved in the really big issues facing the world – such as hunger, environment  and climate change.  Getting it right on access to health care services and education for our country are critical to make this country great again (after Trump).

I hope she can weather this storm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/12/18220241/ilhan-omars-twitter-tweet-anti-semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_About_the_Benjamins

(I honestly didn’t know how popular this slang expression was, and I thought they were talking about Benjamin Netayahu.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar

 

 

 

Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Mariana denovo! Meu Deus!  In Portuguese, this means “Mariana again, my God.”

This is in reference to the dam that collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil   in November 2015,  killing 19 people, spilling 60 million cubic meters of toxic mud  and completely destroying the town of Bento Rodrigues.     There were warning signs before the collapse.   The company had hired experts, who identified problems with the dam.  But the operation company Samarco, a consortium between Vale and BHP,  did too little, too late.   The investigation of the Mariana dam collapse lead to criminal charges, fines and lawsuits.   The environmental damage stretch all the way to the mouth of the Rio Doce river, to the Atlantic Ocean.  Toxic elements found in the tailings include mercury, arsenic and lead.  See link below.

The criminal charges and lawsuits provided Value strong motivation to insure their dams were safe.   But there’s an lot about Vales’s  Brumadinho dam collapse that seems similar to Mariana.  On January 25, 2019 an earthen dam,holding back 11.7 million cubic feet of tailings  from an iron ore mine  broke and  immediately created a huge mud flow for two miles.  From video shot at the time, it was a catastrophic failure with a breach in the lower sections of the dam, leading to a total caving in of the upper sections of the dam.  Heavy rainfall is likely a contributing factor.

As of Feb 23, 177 people are confirmed dead and 133 people are considered missing.  (see Wikipedia link) Many of the victims were Vale’s employees.  The force of the flood was tremendous, overturning buses, destroying homes and hotels, and drowning their occupants.  A section of a bridge collapsed.  The mud swept over approximately a square mile of land.  It definitely could have been worse.   The mud flow veered east of the village of Vale de Cachoreira (valley of the water fall),  taking some lives but sparing others.   An alarm system failed to go off.  Vale stated this failure was unimportant, as most of the destruction occurred in a matter of seconds.

As with the Mariana disaster,  there were warning signs.   Right now, all eyes are focused on a German firm TUV SUD who performed the last safety inspection in September 2018.   There is evidence that they were reluctant to sign off on the certificate of safety,  but management in Vale pressured them.    There is a serious conflict of interest in these inspections, as Vale hires the outside firm, and pays them for the inspection.   Obviously, more direct involvement is needed from the government.   The shut down of a tailing pit, I would think, could shut down operations at a mine, so there will always be some resistance.  But two accidents of this magnitude ought to be sufficient incentives for change.

The environmental impact is still being assessed.   High mercury concentrations were found in the river below the spill after the collapse.   Metal contaminants do not decompose with time.   The will become more dilute as they flow downstream.  Unfortunately toxic elements can be concentrated in fish and other animals,  leading to real health risks.

Earth dam collapses due to mining operations have occurred in many countries, including the US, India, Italy and Japan.   The precipitating event is often heavy rainfall, but preceding this, are typically structural defects.   In the case of Brumadinho, the rain lead to a process called “liquidification” where solids in the tailings became mobile.   Clogged dam outlets may have contributed to the Brumadinho disasterer. With sifting weather patterns due to global warming,  the historical rainfall patterns may become less predictable, requiring extra measures to insure safety in all tailings pits.   Brazil has many tailing pits in worse condition than Brumadinho.   This latest disaster should be considered a wake up call to Brazil (as if Mariana wasn’t enough!).

The US has its own share of disasters.  In year 2000,  in Marin County, Kentucky,  a coal mining tailing pit failed. According to Wikipedia,  “The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill and one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States.”     Beyond permitting requirements, a vigilant monitoring and safety inspections, free of conflict of interest with mining operators seem essential.   Remember the saying, “What comes around, goes around.”   The next Mariana, or Brumadinho type disaster  might be in West Virginia, Michigan or Kentucky.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Mariana Dam Collapse

Wikipedia,  Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Wikipedia:  Dam failures 

Other similar dam disasters:

Global Warming

Scientists like to refer this as “climate change” but whatever it is called, it is real, it is worldwide and the consequences of ignoring it or belittling it, are very serious.

I was blown away when I saw this graph on the front page of the New York Times, on February 7, 2019.  I mean the front page of the New York Times is precious territory,  but the editors decided to put this graph at the top left corner, because it tells a very compelling story.   It is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Agency (NOAA) showing the 2018 global temperature is right on trend beginning around 1970.   Look at the last five points, 2014 to 2018, the temperatures are above all others on the chart,  meaning the last 5 years were the hottest ever on our planet.

This temperature increase coincides with increases in worldwide carbon emissions.   It is  distinctly different from the 1880 to 1930’s, random ups and downs.  Global warming is a factor in extreme weather events including the blistering cold snap in the Midwest, the extreme heat wave in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the gulf coast states,  prolong dry conditions in California promoting forest fires and expansion of deserts causing famine in Africa.

It is real,  It is bad,  And we lack leadership at the highest levels of our government.  Trump will pull out of Paris Accords, and did not say one word about climate change in the State of the Union address.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  Global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes to form.  Ok.  It is a contributing factor in turning a tropical storm into a hurricane.   I live in Miami, and I know the difference.  Hurricanes can totally destroy a house and are deadly.    I was in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992 and I saw the destruction.

I was very  glad to see climate change listed along with terrorism as one of the major threats to US security as reported by National Security Director, Dan Coats in the Foreward of the 2018 assessment (see links) as follows:

Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution,inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as public become less trusting of authoritative information sources.

Environment and Climate Change: The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.  The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization … (page 16) ,   

The report does not go into detailed as this is a highly condensed summary of immediate threats to the US.  It is clear from the report that water and food shortages increase the risk of unrest in parts of the world.   I fear these trouble spots will end up like Syria and Libya,  prolong proxy wars.    President Obama was ridiculed on Fox News suggesting that climate change could be a worse peril than terrorism to our country.

Our increasing environment problems becomes more noticeable – that’s right, if we take the trouble to see what’s happening.   Of course, when a hurricane comes and demolishes your dream beachfront home,  it is pretty difficult to ignore.

Just as I was ready to hit the publish button,  I discovered another news story, in which scientists consider our warming gulf coast waters make it likely that hurricanes will intensify at a more rapid rate (see Miami Herald story).   This gives everyone less time to evacuate, and is particularly bad for the less mobile (poor people, elderly, hospitalized folks) to get out of harm’s way.

To reiterate, it was great to see the New York Times break out of the publishing norms,  and put the graph front and center.  Of course, they followed up with pictures of melting glaciers in China, wildfires in Paradise, California,  Hurricane Florence in Florida, and a dried up section of the Rhine in Germany.  All of these were from 2018. And they put it all online so anyone could read their story.  Great work.  But,  there is more needed than just public awareness.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

It’s official: 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record

2018 National Threat Assessment

Climate change could be making Atlantic hurricanes stronger faster, study finds

Global Temperature Record (Wikipedia)

10 signs of a warming planet

Why Is the Cold Weather So Extreme if the Earth Is Warming?

Bolsonaro: Rights of indigenous people (Part 2)

My family has many immigrants.  I am the son of an immigrant.   I am hurt by the hatred and absurd exaggerations on immigration.   Trump uses foreign aid as if it was a weapon to coerce other countries in agreeing to his policies.   He  sees a competitive and hostile world.

Immigrants are minorities.  I see a lot of Trump in Bolsonaro, to the indigenous people of the Amazon.  Actually Bolsonaro is worse.  Per the Guardian (see link below):

Bolsonaro’s environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: “Minorities have to bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.”

Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.

“Sooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We won’t have any interference in these countries, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,” he said last year.

Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazil’s territory is recognised indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.

My advice is that Brazilian should not take this radical move away from international cooperation.  It will take a very long time to recover our international bonds once Trump is gone.    Fernando Haddad may not be perfect but he is a far better choice than Bolsonaro.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

Weaker Apart

Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a simple slogan, just like Trump’s campaign.  It was “Stronger Together”  and I’ve turned it to the negative, “Weaker Apart.”    I am referring to actions by the Trump administration to breach or terminate any multinational agreement which it perceives is not in the best interest of the US.   Trump likes to think of himself as this incredibly skilled negotiator who can be get better deals usually on a bilateral basis.

I don’t see a global approach to problems as an option, but rather as a necessity.   We don’t solve nuclear proliferation, climate change or fair trade (Trump’s biggest concern)  on our own.   Unilateral sanctions on countries whom we have disagreements (Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, to name a few)  are generally failures.

I commented before on how confused Trump’s policies were China, seeking their help in pressuring North Korea to denuclearize and simultaneously attacking them as a currency manipulator and promoting unfair trade practices. Secretary of State last visit to China, failed for exactly these reasons – see New York Times article.

Getting tough on Iran with new sanctions is also backfiring.  It has created a sort of odd unity between EU leaders and Iran, that desperately wants to keep the Iran accords alive as this provides constant monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites.   Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif,  in an interview with CNN Fareed Zakaria,  is not following Trump’s game plan of high level meetings to work out a new accord.  He rightly says that the accord took years to reach, and was comprehensive covering uranium enrichment, reprocessing, monitoring and sanction relief.   The International Atomic Energy Agency was given full access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed Iran has been in compliance.   Zarif pointed out there is no sense in sitting down with the US to work out a new agreement, when they are presently in violation of the existing accord.   Having the two leaders meet at this point, would just be a PR “photo shoot.”

Perhaps there is no area that is so clearly a global problem and costly to the US than climate change.   The Paris Accords was,  to most environmentalists, a weak plan as each government could set their own goals to reducing carbon emissions.  But it was an incredible achievement, nevertheless to have each country acknowledge the need for positive action to reduce their carbon emissions.   The proposed rollback of car mileage standards, means more gas will be consumed in each car, and more carbon emissions.   Americans will foot the bill, not only paying more for gasoline but also in health related problems.  This impacts around 25 million asthma suffers.

I have provided a link below on likely battle which will ensue over the EPA rules change on  car emissions.  US car emission standards will be lowered below California’s emission standard, setting off another court challenge.   Republicans, who traditionally support the states in these issues, will suddenly now be on the side of Trump and his business friendly EPA.   See links.

Global warming does not create hot weather, every day of the week.   Instead, it makes extreme weather events more likely.  The hurricanes may not be more frequent with global warming, but they are likely to be more laden with water, and have time to intensity.  In time, storm surge will increase due to rising sea levels.   The result is more flooding,  the really destructive part of hurricanes in terms of human injury and death.

A comment from Christine Whitman, former EPA administrator under George W. Bush.

“There’s not an ideological push here, there’s just, ‘We’re going to do whatever industry wants, and if Obama did anything, it’s bad and we’ll undo it,’” Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the president has thought through what used to be a basic principle of Republicans, and that’s states’ rights.”

Christine Whitman is a lifetime Republican,  who recognizes the need for clean air and water is not a political matter.

The efforts of the Trump administration are not making America Great, it is giving in to polluters, and rejecting the international cooperative effort.

So.  why are we weaker apart?   Increase inflation due to trade wars with China,  increase danger of a nuclear  arms in Iran, as a result of our breaking the Accord,  increase gas costs as we attempt to force Iran to the negotiating table, and sadly, more carbon emissions, which we will pay for with cars that get fewer miles to the gallon.

Not great,  In the long term  just dumb.  Regaining our leadership role in the world might have a change in 2020, with a new leader.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Kerry says Trump’s Iran strategy ‘very dangerous and ill-advised’

Iran Widens an Already Huge Rift Between Europe and U.S.

Trump’s Assault On Auto Pollution Rules Is The Latest Salvo In A War On States’ Rights

Trump Fuel Efficiency Proposal Is Attack on Global Climate and States’ Rights, Critics Say

Christine Todd Whitman

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Note:  I believe I’ve correctly summarized their findings.   The article is primarily on Atlantic hurricanes.   Typhoon Mangkhut was a terrible storm, and the death count (~80) will likely increase as recovery efforts are underway.   Many more people die after a typhoon or hurricane than during one.

How climate change could cause more mega-storms like Super Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence

Florence and Climate Change

Florence appears to be a very powerful hurricane.  South Carolina residents on the coastal areas are taking the evacuation orders seriously.   This is very good.   The best way to survive a hurricane is to leave.

I wrote about the relationship between hurricanes and climate change in a prior blog.   It isn’t cause and effect sort of thing.   Warm water makes hurricanes wetter.   Winds can intensify if the hurricane movement slows over warm weather.  But the relationships become pretty complex.

One group of scientists,  the GFDL (Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) has studied the history of hurricanes and relationships using computer modeling.   They are apart of the NOAA, responsible for weather research at the federal level.  Their conclusion is the number of hurricanes in the future is not likely to go up due to global warming.  But they will be stronger and more devastating.  Bad news.  Here is their conclusion:

A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that: it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.

I’ve seen what a force 5 hurricane can do – totally destroy houses, cars and boats.   And it kills people as tears through an area.   More die from flooding,  electrocution and lack of medical facilities, after the hurricane.  Wet hurricanes, like Maria and Katrina caused drownings.

It was a hot topic after  Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma destroyed homes on both east and west coasts of South Florida.   Irma was a monster, and I have friends still haggling with insurance companies and trying to rebuild.

The reaction from the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was unbelievable, when asked about the contribution of global warming after Hurricane Maria.  He shot back saying the question was “insensitive” to the suffering of Puerto Ricans.   The EPA was not involved in  recovery efforts.   The  hurricane season going from June to November  is exactly the right time to bring up the fact that we are doing nothing on climate change, except pretend it doesn’t exist.  I think January to December are all good months to address global warming and hurricanes.

Al Gore referred to the consequences of global warming, 12 years ago as the  “inconvenient truth.”

I honestly feel very sorry for the residents of South Carolina.  I hope they get the hell away from the coastal areas, ASAP.    But, global warming is here, and global warming catastrophes are real and deadly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note –  Global warming is no longer part of EPA’s vocabulary.  They are the ones that should be working to curb carbon emissions.  NOAA can only make predictions, not change policy.

NOAA GFDL Website:   Global Warming and Hurricanes

Sun Sentinel:  Now is the right time to talk about climate change

Trump Policies to the Coal Industry – Part 1

(1) Decline in Coal Production

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used to brag about how much the US was reducing carbon emissions, even while he was denying climate change was a problem and the Paris Climate Change Accords were against the best interests of our country.    One reason for our lower emissions  is the less of our electricity on a percentage basis  comes from dirtiest  fossil fuels- coal.   As shown in the above chart,  US coal shipments from mines were 661 million short tons (mST).   This is the lowest coal shipments since 1983 – wow 35 years!

The above graph shows only coal shipped within the US.  EIA also posted higher total production statistics which includes exports.  For 2017, the preliminary estimate of total production is 774 mST,  a slight improvement over 2016 production of 728 mST.   This slight uptick is probably not going to last as preliminary first quarter production (Jan-Mar 2018) declined by 5.2% over the prior quarter.  The trendline is either flat or down.  See link below for these statistics.

Donald Trump supposedly “digs coal.”  But the electric utilities don’t because it is more expensive.  They have been switching to natural gas during the last 20 years which includes the Bush and Obama administrations.  Particularly hard hit were coal mines on the east cost.     Note: this report was produced by the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.

There was a short video on one of the cable stations, touting the success of Trump’s policies, as evidence by how many coal filled barges were going down the Mississippi river.   Given  how little coal is transported by river barges, one can see this was pure nonsense.   Just partisan politics dressed up as a news story.

Coal is used primarily to generate electricity.  About 30% of our electricity  comes from coal in 2016.  It was 52% of our electricity  in 1997.   As shown in the graph below,  in the last 66 years, the percentage of electricity generated by coal  has never been this low.

Natural gas began its rise around 1989 with 10% share and never looked back.   Nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind have increased since 2005.   Going from 2% to 8% with alternatives  is a 4 fold increase. According to the EIA, wind turbines account for 6% of US electricity generation, leaving only 2% for solar.   I believe the graph below does not include electricity from residential solar panels.

The graph seems to show declining use of hydroelectric power, but this is really the effect of the increase in electrical demand being satisfied by other fuels, as shown below.  If the period from 1975 to 2015 is examined, it shows that hydroelectric supplies between 250 to 350 bKW, with a flat trendline.  For renewable fuels, solar and wind turbines are the big growth areas now and in the future.  Non-renewables account for 84% of the US electricity.  The general trend of increasing renewables can be seen in many countries.  For instance, Germany fossil fuels and nuclear for electricity account for  70%, with coal percentage in decline and natural gas percentage on the increase.

(2) Stream Protection Rule

One of the first actions of newly elected Donald Trump, with the help of Congress was to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which was a detailed clarification of prior rules for the dumping of debris from new mines into streams.  Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers are lost.    Environmentalists at the time did not think the rule went far enough.   Coal mining in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) dynamite the top of the mountain (called mountain top removal, or MTR), and the “spoils” or tailings are dumped into river valleys.   The destruction of the environment is pretty terrible, and includes land, water and air pollution.

As correctly pointed out in the VOX article:

Coal mining is a messy business. In parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, mining companies often get at underground coal seams by blowing up the tops of mountains — a process known as mountaintop removal mining. Once that’s done, they’ll dump the debris into the valleys below, which can contaminate streams and waterways with toxic heavy metals.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried over 2,000 miles of streams in the region through mountaintop removal mining since the 1990s. And there’s growing evidence that when mining debris and waste gets into water supplies, the toxic metals can have dire health impacts for the people and mostly rural communities living nearby.

And  VOX nailed it when they wrote in Feb 2017:

Scrapping the stream protection rule might help boost the bottom lines of some mining companies at the margins, but it’s unlikely to reverse the long inexorable downward trend of mining jobs in Appalachia.

The quarterly statistics show large declines in 2017Q4 to 2018Q1 in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania (-43%),  and coal production declines in   Tennessee (-63%),  Virginia (-9.4%) and Kentucky (-13%),  really undercutting Trump’s claim that the production declines was a result of “Obama’s war on coal.”

(3) Robert Murray,  Murray Coal, the Clean Power Plan and Andrew Wheeler (Scary Stuff)

Robert Murray is the CEO of Murray Coal.   He seems to have the inside track to President Trump on setting energy policies.  His policies seem radical, and only in the best interest of large chemical and mining corporations.   He sent VP Pence an action plan, which included cutting the EPA workforce in half.  This would be around 7,000 employees, back to the number of employees when the agency was first created in 1973.   An extremely important function of the EPA is approval of pesticides used in agriculture.  It would be very scary proposition to revert to pre-Rachel Carson era, when chemical companies could self certify the safety of pesticides.  See link, “How a Coal Baron’s Wish List became President Trump’s To-Do list.”

Robert Murray’s political philosophy seems anchored on the conviction that global warming is non-existent, and the only reason for the decline in coal production is unnecessary government regulation at all levels.  At the very top of the Murray action plan, is the Clean Power Rule,  one of the achievements of the Obama administration, which Murray has claimed is illegal.   The basis for this contention was that the rule was not approved by Congress, and President Obama was overstepping his authority.   In 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulation, pending resolution in the courts.

The EPA under President Obama conducted numerous studies, showing that the primary benefactors of the Plan, were low income or coal miners, who lived close to coal fueled power plants.  Opponents of the Plan claimed that this would raise unemployment in coal mining states and cause power plants to shut down.  There are difference of opinions on the economic impact of the plan.

President Trump is strongly opposed to the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed 2018 budget does not include any funds for enforcement of the Clean Power Plan.   It can not easily be repealed without avoid  court challenges by supporters.    At present,  the acting administrator of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for the coal industry.  On June 20, 2018, it was revealed that prior to Wheeler’s appointment at EPA, he worked with Robert Murray and other coal companies, seeking repealing of Obama administration policies.

The documents also show the role played by now-EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who then worked as Murray’s lobbyist, in setting up the meeting, where the coal boss presented Perry with a four-page action plan for repealing environmental regulations viewed as burdensome for the coal industry. During his confirmation hearing for the EPA post, Wheeler told senators that he had briefly seen the document and acknowledged taking part in the meeting.

So, Trump has turned over running the EPA to the lobbyist for a coal baron, Robert Murray.  Murray went one step further with his crusade, and wrote 6 executive orders, for Trump to sign.  Pretty audacious!   The political views of Senator Jim Imhofe (R-OK),  Scott Pruitt (former EPA Administrator, former AG of Oklahoma) and Andrew Wheeler are all pretty similar.  In fact, Wheeler was Imhofe’s legislation aide. See link at bottom “Who is Andrew Wheeler (and why you should be afraid of him).”

To be continued in Part 2.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 Links:

EIA:  2017 Coal Shipments

The link below is pretty long, and not easy to find on the new EPA site (thanks Scott Pruitt):

EIA  First Quarter 2018  and full year 2017 Production

EPA 2003:  Environmental Impact Statement, Mountain Top Removal (during Bush administration)

The article really nailed it, as stating that killing the stream production act was unlikely to reverse the decline in the coal industry.  But Trump owed a favor to Robert Murray.

VOX: Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

A Coal Executive’s “Action Plan” For Trump Is Made Public

Bob Murray drafted 6 executive orders for Trump’s signature

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

Newsandviews.net post Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

Trump Policies to Coal Industry – Part 2

The prior posts (Part 1: Trump’s Policies) showed coal production to still be in decline.  Trump’s elimination of the Stream Protection Act, was easy, because it was not a law.  It was unfortunate because so much time had been devoted to finding a solution to the massive dumping of debris containing toxic heavy metals into stream valleys.   The eastern states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will have to manage the ecological destruction on their own.   Trump is making the Clean Power Plan to be unenforceable through cutting the funding.  EPA will work to dismantle the Plan in a legal manner, under the direction of the new administrator, Andrew Wheeler.   EPA studies showed the end of the program would be most detrimental to low income families who live in close proximity to the mines.  Environmental groups will attempt to keep the plan alive, but this is an uphill battle.

I included in Part 1, the cornerstone of Robert Murray, Senator Jim Imhofe,  and Andrew Wheeler’s policies, is that global warming is either non-existent or the effects are exaggerated.  Scott Pruitt was  defiant to scientists, who opined that the severity of Hurricane Maria may have been affected by warmer waters as a result of global warming.   He stated it was disrespectful to the victims to politicize the damage.   Trump visited Puerto Rico,  and infuriated  residents by downplaying the severity of the damage.

Coal as an energy source has been in decline for years due to the abundance of natural gas.  Ordinarily, this should be viewed as beneficial as  coal burning in power plant is the worst way to generate electricity as it causes many environmental problems beyond global warming.  It is estimated by the EPA that 230 miles of streams and rivers have been eliminated by the dumping of debris as a result of mountain top blasting.

Climate Change Denial and the Paris Accords

Trump campaigned that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.  Legally, the US will not be out of the accord until 2020.   No other country has pulled our of the agreement nor  supported the US decision to withdraw.  Major oil companies supported the Paris Climate Accords, likely because they could see the benefit of power plants switching to natural gas.

The NYT article, “The Year Global Warming turned Model into Menace” reported on the devastating impacts of global warming.  It was predicted that more extreme weather event would result, including extreme cold and hot periods.   The latest extreme events include heat related deaths in Japan, the shutdown of nuclear reactors in Europe because the river water became too warm, agricultural losses in Sweden and El Salvador and forest fires in California.

Clean Coal Technology

Release of byproducts of coal burning can be reduced, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen  oxide and mercury with appropriate technology.  However, carbon dioxide is still released.  The clean coal technology incorporates carbon capture and storage or carbon sequestration.  See link below.    This increases the cost of coal, and would only be for regulatory compliance, as with the Clean Power Plan.  Unfortunately, this Plan appears to be dead under the Trump administration.

Protecting our electrical grid 

For decades, coal was promoted as  vital for reliable,  low cost energy.    To prevent uneconomical coal powered plants from being shut down, coal executives lobbied the Department of Energy to   subsidize their operation.   Secretary of the DOE submitted a proposal to FERC for subsidies.   It was a very creative proposal,  The coal and nuclear industries would be paid to keep a 90 day supply of fuel available, just in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.  In January 2018, the FERC rejected this proposal, citing a DOE report, as requested by Rick Perry:

“In fact, the Department of Energy’s own recent ‘grid reliability’ study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation.”

Bernard McNamee has been nominated to the FERC and there is speculation that the coal bailout plan might be revived.  The opponents of the bailout plan, the first time around, were a strange coalition of the lobbyist organization for oil and gas industry, namely  the American Petroleum Institute,  and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.

Conclusion:

Solar energy and wind generated electricity have increased dramatically, however they have a long ways to go to contribute significantly to our energy needs.  Recent trade tariffs against China have resulted in a 30% tariff on solar panels.  The solar industry in the US employs  approximately 250,000 people compared to about 70,000 in the coal industry.  Trade tariffs on imported steel are hurting the oil and gas industry, which is an extensive customer of steel (wells, drilling rigs, production platforms, tankers and storage).

It is indeed fortunate that coal fired plants are being replaced by  plants using natural gas.  The US may reduce its carbon emissions simply through market forces.   Still, Trump has appointed many in government whose don’t really look at the public’s best interests.  If the bailout plan is submitted again, the opponents will be citing the DOE grid study as reasons to reject it.

Stay tuned,

Davew

Links:

Clean Power Plan

Wikipedia:  US withdraws from the Paris Accords

Wikipedia:  Clean Coal Technology

Federal Regulator Rejects Energy Department’s Bid To Prop Up Coal, Nuclear

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/12/557367017/is-this-how-the-trump-administration-might-save-coal

Trump coal bailout plan to have powerful ally if frontrunner for energy agency opening is confirmed
Bernard McNamee is among half a dozen former TPPF officials who hold positions in Trump administration.

Scott Pruitt is out – no time to celebrate

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

Beautiful words by Woody Guthrie.   Donald Trump has a different definition of “you and me.”

Anyone who believes the Environmental Protection Agency  will change its course, now that Scott Pruitt is out, better think again.  It’s going to get worse under former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.   The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts provide the necessary authority to establish standards and preserve the environment.  But they don’t go into particulars.   This is left to the rules and regulations of the EPA.   The laws give the EPA authority to enforce their rules, but exactly how vigorously rules are enforced is up to the EPA.

Trump’s agenda is simply to eliminate everything done by Obama.   But, by the time the destruction is done, he’ll roll back rules dating back to the Nixon administration.  Probably the single most harmful one, is the plan rollback car emission standards.   This hurts most people who live in urban areas, the elderly and health impaired individuals.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Andrew Wheeler,  the fossil fuels lobbyist now making (undoing) policies:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/06/626525274/get-to-know-andrew-wheeler-ex-coal-lobbyist-with-inside-track-to-lead-epa

This land is made for Exxon,  Murray Coal and Dow Chemical.

See link below (it has been updated to July 2018):

 

 

VW Emission Scandal

It was reported on May 3, 2018, that ex-CEO of VW, Martin Winterkorn,  was indicted by a Grand Jury in Michigan for making “false representations to regulators and the public” about the emission levels of VW vehicles.   As reported by the BBC (link provided below), US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the indictment showed that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went “all the way to the top.”

Kudos to Sessions, federal prosecutors,  and the US justice system.   But even if found guilty by US authorities, it’s unlikely Mr Winterkorn, who resigned soon after the scandal broke in 2015, will ever see the inside of a US courtroom, much less prison, as Germany does not extradite its citizens. according to the BBC.

It was front page news in 2015, that VW had special coding within their cars’  computer to detect when their cars were being tested by the EPA, and make the necessary changes so the cars would pass the emissions tests.  The problem was the nitrous oxide levels (NOx).   The problem was enormous.   If they made their cars compliant for emission standards, the fuel economy would be substantially lower.  In the US,  it is mandatory to post the fuel mileage on the window of new cars.  It is also an obvious selling point,  as it suggests to an owner of an older model, that they could save on both car repairs and fuel costs by trading their old car for a new one.   It is also obvious, that consumers would select VW over other car manufacturers based on better fuel economy.   So, any attempt to fix emissions, would result in a fraud case, by all consumers based on gas consumption.

The Wikipedia summary is very good, but I have supplemented it with a couple of links, relating nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere with health problems and agricultural crises.   I would have a requirement that all automotive engineers take at least one course in environmental science.

Things go wrong in companies all the time.   I worked for an oil company (Texaco) and fortunately, never was directly involved in  engineering decisions involving deceit or fraud.   But, I knew of a number of cases, where if an engineer did go public with certain information, it would likely result in the engineer getting fired, and the whole matter covered up.   It is a real tough situation.  This is exactly the situation VW engineers faced.

The real documentation of the fraud in  VW case, is  the computer program itself, which is stored in a non-readable binary machine code in every car that is sold.   It isn’t a problem of the code being locked or encrypted, but the form of the code. There is a solution to this, but let’s wait to the end of the story.

Eleven million cars produced by VW, from 2009 to 2014, had the rigged software.   Of the 11 million, 500,000 cars were sold in the US.   These were diesel cars, which are not very popular in the US.  My guess is engineers were told a lie.  If caught, we’ll do a recall and fix the error.  This has become standard operating procedure.   Of course, it wasn’t fixable.   Perhaps, a second lie was also told, “we can’t get caught, because it’s all buried in the unreadable machine code.”

Per Wikipedia, “Engineers had recognized inadequacies in emissions tests, dating back to 1989.   The Washington Post also reported that in the late 1990s, EPA engineers at Virginia Testing Laboratory had built a system called ROVER, designed to test a car’s emissions on the road. The project was shut down in 2001, despite preliminary tests indicating gaps between emissions from lab tests and real world tests of about 10 to 20 percent.”     They didn’t contemplate how “on the road testing could catch cheaters.”

It was completely by chance that VW got caught. Under a $50,000 grant,  in early 2014, two professors and two students began testing emission under road conditions, using a portable emissions measurement system.  Under real-world driving conditions the Jetta exceeded US emissions limits “by a factor of 15 to 35” while the Passat exceeded the limit “by a factor of 5 to 20, according to Wikipedia.

Now, what Michael Winterkorn is charged with, is not the initial crime of cheating the testing, but the later concealment from the consumer,  after he learned  the VW cars had the defeat device.

Cars have computers to fine tune the performance.   It was pretty inconceivable that the engineers would create the defeat device,  but they are encouraged to be “problem solvers” and to innovative to gain  a competitive advantage over the other car makers.  It seems a simple solution has been suggested,  to require only readable and public code  to be used in cars.     Unfortunately,  EPA is pretty dysfunctional with Scott Pruitt at the helm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  VW Emissions Scandal

BBC: Diesel emissions scandal

Nearly half of Michiganders live in unacceptable smog levels, EPA says

Why ozone levels pose a challenge to food security

 

EPA in self destruct mode – Part 2

The prior blog focused on the Trump administration soon to be announced rules changes  on new cars fuel efficiency and exhaust emissions.

There are a lot more of changes going into effect, to make both the Department of the  Interior and the EPA less effective in doing their job – to preserving and protect our environment.   Our environmental science programs at our universities are some of the finest in the world.   Students come from many countries including China, India, the EU and Brazil, to learn how to protect the environment.  Yet,  scientists with the requisite knowledge will not be welcomed in the Trump administration.

It isn’t hard to make an agency less effective, particularly if it is one that requires most policy decisions to ultimately require  regulations or new laws, and additional staff to actively enforce regulations.   To begin the destruction process, you simply bring in politicians to run things at the top, and let the dedicate staff leave as they become discouraged.   The names Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke come to mind.   Then you bring in more people with strong connections to the industries you are supposed to regulate, such as chemical companies,  fossil fuel companies (mining,  hydrocarbon exploration and production, refining and petrochemical) and agriculture related companies. You let them set your agenda.   And finally, you put a muzzle on what is acceptable science.

I commented on how the Love Canal tragedy took decades to be discovered, and the full extent of the harm required nearly another decade.  If this was done during Scott Pruitt’s EPA, he would probably be handing out band aids to children with chemical burns on their feet, and tell their parents the government is doing everything it can.

I think the editorial appearing in yesterday’s New York Times, No studies, No data, No rules.

New York Times Editorial: EPA’s Assault on Science

I fear as the damage done will take years to fix.

Stay tuned,

Dave

I have not included links on this topic, but there are many ones, very similar to the New York Times.

 

EPA in self destruct mode

I’ve commented on this before.  Readers can click on “EPA” to read prior blogs.

Republicans and Democrats drink the same water and breath the same air.  Contaminants in air come from many sources, including car emissions and chemical plants.  Pollutants  discharged into water bodies or the air can travel long distances and  do not know geographic boundaries.  This is the physical reality, requiring  the  federal environmentalists to be involved in preserving the environment beyond our borders.    We are one planet, and environmentalists in Kansas recognize they are affected by decisions in Beijing.     The rising water temperature, aided by increased Chinese carbon emissions and deforestation in Brazil, is a factor in the extreme weather variations as occurring in the northeast of the US now, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico,  Florida and Texas last year.

I read a recent letter from a former EPA scientist, who made me so sad.  He had lung disease, and needed to live where the air quality was excellent.  Yet, the high standards which he was involved in, were likely not being  enforced by the EPA.

I’ve commented on Scott Pruitt before as the worst EPA Administrator it was created in 1970.   Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to building the EPA before Pruitt began to destroy it.   One of the best Administrators, was William Rucklehaus,  the first and fifth administrators of the EPA.   He was a Republican, and first nominated to the post by Richard Nixon, and later became the Deputy Attorney General. He was fired by Nixon, for refusing to  firing the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, but rehired by Reagan to head the EPA again.  Rucklehaus was able to transfer the approval of all regulations of pesticides to the EPA.   Doug Costle ran the EPA under President Carter, and followed a similar path as Rucklehaus.    President Reagan  campaigned against the EPA as an unnecessary government. He brought in Anne Gorsuch Buford to downsize the EPA.    Buford was  held in contempt of Congress when she refused to turn over documents on Superfund expenditures.

Environmental problems are big in the US because every industry has waste that they want to dispose of,  at the lowest cost, and still be within the law.  Only regulatory groups can evaluate the risk potential, using worse case scenarios.    Love Canal disaster should be taught in schools, as a modern lesson of how dumping of chemicals in the 1950’s underground,  can resurface decades later, and be contributing factors to leukemia.  The chemicals were dump in 1953, and Hooker Chemical thought by donating the land to a school, they could get rid of the mess.  Homes were built close to the school.  Parents noticed their children were betting burns  on their feet when playing barefoot. The impenetrable clay layer  seal was likely fractured by the filtration of water, which expanded as it froze in the winter.  Making American great again, is a fantasy,  because when it comes to environmental action, we are not great.  Not in the 1950’s,  not 1970’s and not today.

I’ll leave out most of this history, but you can check the links below, on Love Canal, and Superfund sites.

The number one threat to our environment is at present is  climate change.   The US should be the leader in curbing carbon emissions, but this was before Trump and Pruitt.  Pulling out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation was a giant step backwards.   Transportation accounts for 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted (EPA estimate, 2015)  of which 90% are petroleum based.    We emit around 6,800 million metric tons (mtn) of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, down from a peak of 7,300 mtn in 2007.    According to the EPA (current website, not the Obama archived one)

This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sectors; and a slight decrease in electricity demand.

The progress, however slight, is an unmistakable downward trend in greenhouse gases, which perhaps will not last much longer.   The lead story in the New York Times on March 30, 2018, reads:

The Trump administration is expected to kick off an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gases and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition potentially to rollback industry standards worldwide.

Car manufacturers and oil companies will be pleased.  It is putting American first only in terms of corporate profits, not its citizens.  California is likely to fight these changes,  with 12 other states expected to follow.  It might end up with 2 sets of standards, one for most of the country, and the second for the California and the allied states.

Regulatory freedom, the right of Americans to choose the gas-guzzlers of their choice, unimpeded by big government will be EPA’s selling points.   Pruitt is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia dealership on Tuesday.   Obama had made auto emissions as strict as California, so auto manufacturers did not have to have two sets of standards for car emissions.

The states allied with California include New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and together account for a third of all car sales, according to the New York Times.  California can legally require high fuel efficiency and lower emission standards based on a waiver granted by the federal government.   Trump can take California to court, to attempt to void the waiver.   He will likely let the car industry know there will be no renewal for the waivers in 2015.

To some extent,  fuel efficiency is likely to improve as gas prices go up because of consumer demand.   Despite all the talk from Washington,  finding new oil is still increasingly more expensive and the rig count has been increasing.   However,  the consumer is not likely to care about tailpipe emissions, well until they have respiratory problems.   Then they are very interested in everyone’s emission.  So,  a newly converted Democrat, is one with breathing problems.

Thus,  a very chaotic situation is about to unfold.    California may win, at least in the short term, as auto manufacturers are not about to produce two sets of cars.   A court battle is inevitable.

It is all about the Trump administration being weak, and caving in to the big auto manufacturers.

“Environmental preservation is our test.  If we pass it, we get to save the planet.”  (ok, I’ve taken a line from Marjory Stoneman Douglas on preserving the Everglades) We can’t expect China, India and the EU to regulate their emissions when we can’t.   It will take a long time to repair Trump’s damage to our standing in the world.

I wanted write more on Pruitt’s new rules on scientific evidence, which rely solely on public information as a way of further weakening the agency.   I’ll leave this for a separate blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT:  US Readies a Plan to Blunt Fuel and Emission Rules for Automakers

EPA:  The Love Canal Tragedy

Wikipedia: Love Canal

EPA: Sources of Greenhouse Emissions

Wikipedia:  US Withdraws from the Paris Agreement