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Tomgram: Michael Klare, Donald Trump's Energy Nostalgia and the Path to Hell

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

The Trump administration-in-formation is a stew of generals, billionaires, and multimillionaires -- and as in the case of retired Marine General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, the likely new secretary of defense, even the military men seem to have made more than a few bucks in these last years. In retirement, Mattis, for instance, joined the board of military-industrial giant General Dynamics as one of 13 "independent directors," reportedly amassing at least $900,000 in company stock and another $600,000 in cold cash.

Oh yes, and there's one other requirement for admission to the Trump administration: your basic civilian appointee must be ready to demolish the system he or she is to head. Betsy DeVos, the president-elect's pick for education secretary, wants to take apart public education; Tom Price, the future secretary of health and human services, is eager to dismantle Obamacare and Medicare; Scott Pruitt, the proposed new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, seems to want to tear that agency limb from limb; and the announced new "labor" secretary (and you really do have to put that in scare quotes), fast food CEO Andy Puzder, is against raising the minimum wage and thinks the automation of the workplace is a total plus, since machines can't take vacations or arrive late.

Let's face it, the most extreme government of our lifetime is going to be a demolition derby. Think of it as the Reagan administration of the 1980s on steroids -- and keep in mind that Donald Trump will be the president of a far more fragile country than the one Ronald Reagan and his cronies presided over. Things could begin to fall apart fast for ordinary Americans. For instance, the new Republican Congress is expected to swiftly pass a promised "repeal and delay" version of the obliteration of Obamacare, officially wiping that program off the books and yet postponing its departure and the arrival of whatever is to replace it until after the 2018 elections. In the interim, however, the result is likely to be a "zombie" health care marketplace from which insurance companies are expected to begin to jump ship, potentially leaving significant numbers of those 20 million Americans who got medical coverage for the first time via Obamacare with nothing. And after EPA chief Pruitt has helped let Donald Trump's "energy revolution" of extreme fossil fuel exploitation loose to do its damnedest and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes clear today, America's skies are once again veritable smog-fests, there will be plenty more health needs on whatever's left of the horizon.

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Donald Trump, as Politico points out, is already at war with labor, and prospectively with those "failing government schools," and the American safety net, and the environment, not to mention the planet -- and that's before we even get to actual war, which will be overseen by a crew of Islamo- and Irano-phobes. If, as Klare points out today, Trump himself has a serious case of nostalgia for the America of his youth (and mine), with its untrammeled growth and its fossil-fueled wonders, don't think that nostalgia doesn't reign in military affairs, too. In that case, however, it wouldn't be for the oily vistas of the mid-twentieth century, but perhaps for the age of the Crusades. Tom

Drowning the World in Oil
Trump's Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come
By Michael T. Klare

Scroll through Donald Trump's campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama's Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress.

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If, however, you take a closer look at this morass of pro-carbon proposals, an obvious, if as yet unnoted, contradiction quickly becomes apparent. Were all Trump's policies to be enacted -- and the appointment of the climate-change denier and industry-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the attempt will be made -- not all segments of the energy industry will flourish. Instead, many fossil fuel companies will be annihilated, thanks to the rock-bottom fuel prices produced by a colossal oversupply of oil, coal, and natural gas.

Indeed, stop thinking of Trump's energy policy as primarily aimed at helping the fossil fuel companies (although some will surely benefit). Think of it instead as a nostalgic compulsion aimed at restoring a long-vanished America in which coal plants, steel mills, and gas-guzzling automobiles were the designated indicators of progress, while concern over pollution -- let alone climate change -- was yet to be an issue.

If you want confirmation that such a devastating version of nostalgia makes up the heart and soul of Trump's energy agenda, don't focus on his specific proposals or any particular combination of them. Look instead at his choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state and former Governor Rick Perry from oil-soaked Texas as his secretary of energy, not to mention the carbon-embracing fervor that ran through his campaign statements and positions. According to his election campaign website, his top priority will be to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves." In doing so, it affirmed, Trump would "open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate [the] moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits." In the process, any rule or regulation that stands in the way of exploiting these reserves will be obliterated.

If all of Trump's proposals are enacted, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will soar, wiping out the declines of recent years and significantly increasing the pace of global warming. Given that other major GHG emitters, especially India and China, will feel less obliged to abide by their Paris commitments if the U.S. heads down that path, it's almost certain that atmospheric warming will soar beyond the 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels that scientists consider the maximum the planet can absorb without suffering catastrophic repercussions. And if, as promised, Trump also repeals a whole raft of environmental regulations and essentially dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency, much of the progress made over recent years in improving our air and water quality will simply be wiped away, and the skies over our cities and suburbs will once again turn gray with smog and toxic pollutants of all sorts.

Eliminating All Constraints on Carbon Extraction

To fully appreciate the dark, essentially delusional nature of Trump's energy nostalgia, let's start by reviewing his proposals. Aside from assorted tweets and one-liners, two speeches before energy groups represent the most elaborate expression of his views: the first was given on May 26th at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, to groups largely focused on extracting oil from shale through hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken shale oil formation; the second on September 22nd addressed the Marcellus Shale Coalition in Pittsburgh, a group of Pennsylvania gas frackers.

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At both events, Trump's comments were designed to curry favor with this segment of the industry by promising the repeal of any regulations that stood in the way of accelerated drilling. But that was just a start for the then-candidate. He went on to lay out an "America-first energy plan" designed to eliminate virtually every impediment to the exploitation of oil, gas, and coal anywhere in the country or in its surrounding waters, ensuring America's abiding status as the world's leading producer of fossil fuels.

Much of this, Trump promised in Bismarck, would be set in motion in the first 100 days of his presidency. Among other steps, he pledged to:

* Cancel America's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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