Spitting On The Environment

The Trump Administration’s effort to reverse environmental rules–in effect, to accelerate climate change rather than working to retard it–continues to frustrate and astound rational observers.

The administration has rolled back regulations on light bulb efficiency–regulations that dramatically cut energy use and saved consumers money.

It has declared war on California’s automobile regulations–despite the fact that all major automakers have communicated their strong disapproval of Trump’s rollback of fuel standards passed under Obama. The New York Times reports that the Justice Department, which William Barr is turning into a lapdog for Trump, is threatening to sue the automakers who entered into an agreement with California to meet the state’s higher standards.

And now–Trump’s EPA is rolling back regulations on methane, a move that threatens to worsen climate change, and is opposed by many fossil fuel companies. Not by all fossil fuel companies, however, as an August 29th Time Magazine report explains.

The Trump Administration announced Thursday the rollbackof an important environmental regulation on methane emissions that even some of the world’s biggest oil-and-gas companies support. The fact that Big Oil backed a regulation designed to stem emissions of a potent greenhouse gas was immediately wielded by Trump’s critics as evidence of how backward the move must be.

But that reaction missed an important takeaway. The oil-and-gas industry was split on the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) methane rules, with some prominent companies supporting them and many smaller producers pushing for their elimination. The EPA’s decision to side with a group of smaller fossil-fuel firms shows the influence these obscure companies retain within the Trump Administration—and the power they have to slow climate legislation as addressing the issue grows more urgent.

The larger firms are almost all in the business of producing natural gas; they argue natural gas is a better option for the environment than coal.  Methane emissions, a byproduct of natural gas production, undercut that argument unless leaks are vigilantly policed. It is thus in the interests of those producers to comply with the stricter regulations.

Whatever the motive, methane is clearly bad for the environment.

Methane is more than 20 times as potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide on a pound-per-pound basis in the long term, and leaks of the gas could erase many of the gains the U.S. has made in reducing emissions.

But the EPA rollback wasn’t aimed at helping the big multi-national firms. Instead, the agency said it will help smaller oil-and-gas companies, many of which are drowning in debt and vulnerable to anything that increases their compliance costs. The EPA estimated that the rollback would save companies a total of up to $19 million annually—a small sum for oil majors, but a significant expense for some other firms.

This solicitude for the finances of small oil-and-gas companies comes at a substantial cost to the environment the agency is supposed to safeguard. The EPA was not established to coddle marginal businesses; it was established to ensure that Americans had clean air to breathe, potable water to drink, and–not so incidentally–a habitable planet to occupy.

This isn’t the first time Trump has irked big business with regulatory cuts that industry leaders did not want. Earlier this year, the Administration softened vehicle-efficiency standards even though auto companies said it would hurt their business. And the Administration has sought to intervene in energy markets to prop up coal, to the outrage of many energy companies.

The rollback of methane regulations now joins the 80+ environmental rules that Trump’s EPA has either voided or relaxed. There is no evidence that those regulations were ineffective or counterproductive; no data upon which this constant de-regulation is based–in most cases, quite the contrary. What evidence there is supports the efficacy and reasonableness of the prior regulatory approach.

There is, of course, one consistent thread that runs through every insane move made by this administration: if Obama did it, reverse it. If reversal is bad for the country, or the planet, so be it.

Our mentally-ill President’s obsession with his predecessor–his determination to erase Obama’s legacy–threatens the health and well-being of us all.


  1. Trump’s Sharpie altered Dorian hurricane map is an excellent example of his lack of knowledge about climate change and changing predicted paths of all hurricanes; his outdated claim that Alabama was in the path of the storm has not yet moved on. Dorian is now a storm of the past with the devastation and unknown number of loss of lives our current concern; without aid from Trump for those hardest hit is not on his agenda. Trump does have enough sense to “come in out of the rain”; I have seen the news films of him under his large umbrella with Melania and his son Barron walking behind him in the rain dripping wet.

    About those light bulbs; I turn on my front porch light overnight for safety reasons. Two weeks ago I changed the THIRD light bulb since the beginning of summer. It has become an impossibility to maintain a current count of the dangerous actions he has taken and needed actions he has ignored; we also need to try to maintain a current count of his ever-changing administration heads.

    Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on this country; September 11, 2001, another day which will “live in infamy” for Americans. The toxic environment for months after that attack is still claiming lives. I switched channels periodically throughout the day looking for memorial services but found only Trump’s continuing and worsening attacks on Bolton and the possibility of “replacing” him with Pompeo while keeping Pompeo as Secretary of State. Environmental issues are not a concern to him, human lives which are at the heart of the environment are not a concern to him; maintaining his face and words before the public all day, every day since 2015 is his primary concern. He is highly successful in that endeavor.

    I believe we all know “Spitting…” is not the fitting word in the title of today’s blog.

  2. Burning natural gas puts less CO2 into the atmosphere than burning coal, but complete decarbonization has to be the goal, not reduction, if we are not to reach one of the tipping points in the next couple of decades. Estimates of the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere range from decades to centuries, so every molecule emitted is going to stay there long enough to do some serious damage.

  3. Yesterday, the 18th, I was in Times Square and made aware of just how fragile our defenses to terrorism are, but I never thought we would be in a position where our own government could become a terrorist. It appears that Trump would destroy the world to preserve his ego, and that,there are those who would assist him in such project (read Mitch, Lindsey et al) on nebulous grounds designed to pretend a public interest when their donors and Swiss bank accounts are in truth their only interest. He must go – and soon – lest there be no environmental or other interest to protect.

  4. This is all the more reason to vote for whoever the Dems select to be their nominee. I had also read that Barr was threatening to sue California over the mileage standards, but I’m curious if anyone knows what statute he might be contemplating using. California had lower emission standards for years and the automakers agreed to abide by those standards, so we all got the benefit. We have a make it up as you go along Department of Justice.

  5. When will the majority take matters into their own hands? Why are so many looking to the government and big industry to “do something” about the rising levels of CO2? You haven’t heard of solar power? What if every one of us took just one appliance off the grid via solar power? You don’t need to go completely off the grid; you can install just enough solar to take that refrigerator, or water heater out of the picture. Screw the electric companies and their legislative protections of their profits. So what if they won’t buy back the power. When did mankind’s survival become a matter of profits, “If I end up paying more then I’m not going to do it.”
    People do not need the government to show them the way. If the people lead the leaders will follow.

  6. This leaves me to wonder how much money those small “drowning in debt” companies have donated to trump and his cronies at the EPA to force we the taxpayers to help their C Suite become multimillionaires at our expense, both monetarily and health wise.

  7. Theresa,

    Please tell me more about how to install just enough solar to be able to take one appliance off the grid.

    I imagine most people are like me and haven’t even considered solar due to the large initial expense because I was only aware of starting with a bare minimum investment of at least $30K, which happens to be a non-starter for me.

  8. There are two words that explain all of Donald Trump’s actions. He is a bigot and a narcissist! I suspect there is a correlation between those two traits.

  9. Nancy,
    First a disclaimer: I am not an electrical engineer. But I contend that one does not need to solar power the entire house. You could install only as many units as needed to supply the power for say your refrigerator. You would have to research to find out how much energy the refrigerator used first, then only enough panels to supply that energy. The wiring could then be done by either re-directing the old wiring or install new wiring. Either way would require that back up batteries also be used. There are other components to the system, but I am not familiar with them. Maybe someone else on this blog can add to this, and probably correct my limited electrical knowledge. All I know is that limited use of solar has to be an option.

  10. The two great books by Naomi Klein tell us all we need to know about the intent for the actions we see today. “Shock Doctrine” and “No is not Enough”. The fact that Trump surrounded himself with the Goldman-Sachs cadre of greedy bastards tells us all we need to know. They are the exploiters of financial shocks for the enrichment of the few. Yes, it’s that simple.

    Your favorite Hoosier even visited Scott Walker to understand how to keep unions from influencing anyone. The answer? Create economic shocks and anything can be done. The right-wing attacks on our environment are part of the plan to exploit the shocks of storms and other problems. The fossil fuel industry is leveraged to the hilt due to the low price of oil. All those investments in tar sands and Arctic drilling are not being paid for at $50 per barrel. It takes $100 per barrel to pay for that exploration.

    Watch for gas pump prices to leap upward in the not-too-distant future. The Trump-ites give not a single crap about the affordability of anything by the working classes. The Republicans, by their nature, don’t either and are licking their chops for the next Katrina shock to screw even more of us. For example: After Katrina, the Bush administration virtually closed all public schools and turned the whole city into a voucher/charter education system; Betsy DeVos’s dream opportunity.

  11. The Democratic Candidates need to take a pledge and send a message that these executive orders by President Agent Orange will be reversed on Day One.

    You have to wonder how many of these companies looking for favors book their hotel rooms in the Trump Hotels or join the golf clubs????

  12. Re: Solar Power

    Here is a much easier, faster, cheaper way to power as much of your home with renewable as you would like… I currently have 100% of my electrical power from renewable and don’t have a single solar panel on my roof.

    Go online and simply check the box that you want IPL to provide you with renewable- and what percent.

    It costs me about 50 cents more a month (total) to use 100% renewable. They buy it from a local wind farms – and the entire thing is certified by Green-e.org

    You can use their calculator to estimate how much more it would cost you…. (if you have a $75 a month bill it will cost you another $1.31 a month to be 100% renewable).

  13. Ignor(e)-ance can’t run a great nation and in fact is the reason that over history great nations become lessor nations. It culturally elevates ignorance over knowledge and reverses progress.

    Has it become the majority culture here?

    We’ll know in a year.

  14. Over our lives there has been much speculation about what “too many humans” would look like and how the fact of it would be enforced. Now we know.

    There was speculation that humans were intelligent enough to end “too many humans” sensibly but others speculated it would end in a dystopian fight for survival of individuals rather than rational actions to insure survival of the species.

    Chaotic dystopia seems to be the winner.

  15. The reality is that getting to where we need to be is going to be far more difficult than most of us understand. There isn’t a clear path – in part because there isn’t an answer to renewable energy storage on a large scale.

    That said, the easy stuff needs to happen yesterday. We can’t afford to keep dinking around talking about if it’s real or not.

    Although we can and should lead and influence other countries – we have the most control over what happens in our own country – AND the US is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses.

    The flip side is that updating our electrical infrastructure, our housing, our transportation to reduce greenhouse gasses also provides an opportunity to do work that desperately needs to be done anyway. It also offers an opportunity for economic stimulus that’s locally based – it’s tough to export construction jobs to China.

    This could be a win, win, win situation… we just need leaders who get that.

  16. This is evidence that Trump can’t connect the dots. He’s a germophobe and is particularly sensitive – personally – to a desire for “crystal clean water”. Yet he reverses anti-pollution rules and regs with abandon. Those rules and regs are protecting clean water and air at his various properties around the country and world. He doesn’t get it.

  17. Theresa,

    I thought by your first comment regarding moving just one appliance to solar power that you had done so. However, based upon your response to my question I must assume that it would still be quite complicated and expensive to get even a small amount of home solar power.

    Since only complete home solar projects have been on the market it would appear that anything less than a complete project might be close to the same expense as doing the whole house.

    Until someone can design a much less expensive clean way of creating home electrical power for the masses, it seems that those of us who do not have a considerable sum of money to spare are trapped by the current power companies.

  18. Hi Nancy,

    Moving individual appliances to solar isn’t really a thing. However, grid tie solar where a person generates a percentage of their usage is done all of the time – but the up front costs are still there.

    As I mentioned in my previous post – simply purchasing renewable power from your utility is often the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to switch to renewable power and, as Theresa mentioned, it’s something that we can do as individuals today.

    Here is the link if you are an IPL customer.

  19. Just completed a National Geographic tour of Yellowstone and The Tetons. Very educational and inspiring. One evening program showed an infographic of dominate domain on our planet among three major occupations: human settlement, livestock and wildlife. The combination of human and livestock left wildlife a much smaller piece of the pie graph. I was surprised. I posed the question: how close are we to tipping point of a diminished wildlife sector on our planet that launches atrophy with no return for future of sustainable human and livestock quality of life? The response from all naturalists (n = 3) was a firm consensus we are there if we do not conserve and reverse the current trends. I fear for the next generation it will be too late to ask the question. Atrophy of life as we know it will begin a slow decremental decline and the resources required to reverse atrophy will be exponentially far greater expense.

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