Thank You, Mr. Trump, for Showing Us the Dark Side

The pending presidential election has become more than just a distraction to many of us. History has shown that who our President is and which Party controls Congress does matter. If the screeds of both parties can be believed, the continuation of humanity hinges on the outcome of elections. This may be hyperbole, a bit of overstatement, but from an environmental standpoint, this hyperbole may be closer to the truth than we would like to believe. A few of the following legislative achievements have had a major impact on the quality of life for Americans, and though maybe not in the class of continuation of world humanity, I have trouble envisioning life without them.

Heavy steel industry, Benxi, located east of Liaoning province in the People's Republic of China. (Photo Credit: Andreas Habich CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bad air. Heavy steel industry, Benxi, located east of Liaoning province in the People’s Republic of China. (Photo Credit: Andreas Habich CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 – Eisenhower Administration (R) [Democratic Controlled Congress (DCC]

Clean Air Act of 1963 – Johnson Administration (D) [DCC]

Wilderness Act of 1964 – Johnson Administration (D) [DCC]

National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 – Johnson Administration (D) [DCC]

National Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968 – Johnson Administration (D) [DCC]

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Nixon Administration (R) [DCC]

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 – Nixon Administration (R) [DCC]

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 – Vetoed by Nixon, veto overridden by a Democratic controlled Congress

Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) – Nixon Administration (R) [DCC]

Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA) – Nixon Administration (R) [DCC]

Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) – Ford Administration (R) [DCC]

…..And what happens if our elected officials are not so environmentally oriented….

U.S. Refuses to Sign Kyoto Protocol 2001 – Bush Administration (R) [Democratic Senate, Republican House]

The Bush White House’s and Republican lead House’s opposition to the Kyoto Protocol was just a precursor to the Bush Administration’s hostility to strong environmental regulation. It continually questioned the science behind climate change, attacked auto CAFÉ standards, attempted to undermine the Endangered Species Act by significantly reducing designated critical habitat, designating critical habitat only under court order. His administration continually appointed fossil fuel industry executives to key positions in the administration and Vice President Dick Cheney’s “Energy Task Force” tasked with developing an energy policy for the United States, was dominated by (if not completely made up of) traditional fossil fuel industry representatives. The White House refused to disclose who the key advisors on the committee were, even when sued to disclose this information.

So to those who are concerned about the environment, it very much matters who prevails in the upcoming elections, both as President and down ticket candidates. Much ignored by the media in this election seems to be the respective Republican and Democratic Platforms. As difficult as it is to ignore and rely solely on the personalities, foibles, statements and misstatements of the Presidential candidates to influence your opinions, these platforms provide important insights into how the respective parties propose to govern and prioritize should their candidates get elected.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington, 2011. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington, 2011. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

The Republicans decry Federal oversight, wanting the States to have primary control over everything from agriculture to food safety, land use to watersheds, habitat protection to mineral extraction. On the opposite pole, the Democrats want Federal oversight in these areas strengthened (it is a bit too reminiscent of the philosophical differences in the 1860s between the Southern States and the Northern States that led to the Civil War).

On its face, this argument for giving States more oversight over matters occurring within their State might seem logical, but the States have been notoriously lax in enforcing environmental regulations – not just Federal, but their own. The recent scandal relating to the high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, water is just one example of a State’s failure. The State’s Department of Environmental Quality had primacy responsibility for testing and ensuring safe drinking water. The Federal EPA questioned them about their mitigation plans to address the potential of excessive lead leaching into their system, and the State falsely informed them that they had a plan in place. Sadly, the EPA allowed the State to continue poisoning their residents for more than six months before taking definitive action.

The twenty-three States who sued the U.S. Government over EPA’s decision to regulate emissions from power plants, who claimed to be doing so on behalf of their constituents’, were more accurately carrying the water for the coal mining and power industries financial interests. The health risks posed to their respective populaces from harmful emissions was deemed too minimal to justify the costly mitigation measures that would be required. States that have allowed coal companies to “self-bond” are now facing multi-million if not billion dollar liabilities to clean up the environmental messes left by the now bankrupt coal companies.

Coal is the cheapest form of energy on the planet, yet emits more carbon when burned than any other form of fossil fuel. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Coal is the cheapest form of energy on the planet, yet emits more carbon when burned than any other form of fossil fuel. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Each political party’s platform has a separate section devoted to addressing their policies regarding land use, climate and the environment.

Found Within the Republican Platform:

  • ….“We believe that people are the ultimate resource and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country’s God-given natural resources.”
  • “…we support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, … Because we believe states  can  best  promote  economic  growth  while protecting the environment, Congress should give authority  to  state  regulators  to  manage  energy resources on federally controlled public lands within their respective borders.”
  • “The Democratic Party   does   not   understand   that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable,  reliable  domestic  energy  resource.”
  • “Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.”

Found Within the Democratic Platform:

  • “….Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.”
  • “…. As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect native species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.
  • “…We oppose drilling  in  the  Arctic  and off  the  Atlantic  coast, and believe  we need to reform  fossil fuel  leasing  on public  lands. We will  phase  down extraction  of  fossil  fuels  from  our  public  lands, starting  with  the  most  polluting  sources,  while  making  our public  lands  and waters  engines  of the clean  energy  economy  and creating  jobs across the country.”
  • “….Democrats  oppose efforts  to undermine  the  effectiveness  of  the Endangered  Species  Act to protect threatened  and endangered  species.”

I sympathize with the Democrats who are unmoved or uninspired by the somewhat boring rhetoric of their Party’s nominee. Who can compete with the visceral feelings provoked by the Republican nominee’s witticisms? Donald Trump has actually said the following:

“…The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families…”

“….The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive…Climate change is a hoax…”

“….I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

“….If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” 

“….Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.”

“….While @BetteMidler is an extremely unattractive woman, I refuse to say that because I always insist on being politically correct.”

No doubt Mr. Trump, throughout the primaries, was the most entertaining of his fellow candidates, and has been more entertaining than either Hillary or Bernie. But, as they say, where the rubber meets the road, a Trump Presidency would be a disaster of biblical proportions for the environment.

Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back.

Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back.

But let’s not overlook the other alternatives…

The Libertarian Party’s platform is short on specifics (seven pages).

  • On the environment: “….Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection…”
  • On Energy & Resources: “While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.”

I’m afraid the Libertarian’s laissez faire perspective on how the world should operate is too close to Anarchism for my tastes, and ignores the wisdom and insights of William Forster Lloyd, an early 19th century economist, who I believe accurately described the inherent risks associated with competition for resources in the world in the concept of “Tragedy of the Commons.”

While the Green Party’s platform (http://www.jill2016.com/platform) is more in line with an environmentalist’s dream list where the environment and social justice are completely entwined:

“…turn the tide on climate change,…make wars for oil obsolete. Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change… Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030,…Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation…      End destructive energy extraction…fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling,…mountaintop removal… Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure,… End all subsidies for fossil fuels…tax polluters…Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, …Support organic and regenerative agriculture…Enact stronger environmental justice laws…”.  Idealism aside, their influence and participation in the conversation is barely a whisper.

To quote Yoda from Return of the Jedi: “No more training, do you require. Already know you that which you need.”

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