We should have seen this coming. The only surprising thing was that it took so long.
Go back a few months.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) that Barack Obama was pushing through Congress was absolute anathema to the fossil fuel conglomerates. Limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants strikes at the heart of the fossil fuel magnates core business. Power plants account for nearly 40 percent of US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Apart from a smattering of nuclear plants, they all burn fossil fuels and they all emit huge quantities of CO2.
The fossil fuel companies have been using every trick in the climate deniers’ playbook to undermine and stymie Obama’s attempts to move the CPP forward.
It wasn’t the Paris Agreement that enraged Big Oil. After all, the ‘nationally determined contributions’ required under the agreement are not legally binding, and countries can adjust them as they see fit. It’s an honor system.
It would have been easy for the US to stay in the agreement and just play along– counting the megawatt-scale wind and solar plants that are constantly coming on-line at increasing lower costs. This is a no-brainer. You don’t even have to subsidize renewables the way the oil patch gets helped along to the tune of several hundred million dollars a year. Just don’t get in the way, and wind and solar will show you how it’s done. It’s the cheapest energy around; the best deal in town.
But not for Big Oil and the Merchants of Doubt. Solar and wind are not the fuels of choice. They can’t control them. They can’t monopolize them. They can’t limit their availability and merchandising to the corporate real estate they own.
The Paris Agreement provided strong international context for the Clean Power Plan. From the standpoint of the fossil fuel conglomerates, the Paris Agreement was a huge threat because it could clearly be cited by CPP advocates as evidence that the Plan was aligned and consistent with international agreements on climate change–an agreement furthermore that had unprecedented international support by almost every country on the planet.
So pulling out of the Paris Agreement is just the most spectacular action of the Trump administration’s objective of dismantling the EPA’s environmental protection programs, stifling the geoscience research of NASA and NOAA, and freeing up the offshore and arctic environment for exploration for oil, gas and minerals, and for exploitation by the conglomerates who have been increasingly called to account over the last few years for the unbelievable damage that have done to the environment. Coal, oil, and even natural gas are the dirtiest fuels in human history–fuels that cause unbelievable environmental damage. But they are also sources of energy that generate billions of dollars for the oil and coal companies and the cabal of American congressmen that play along. It’s a very profitable game. Not one to let go lightly.
So Trump pulling out of Paris is just part of the Administration’s larger and longer-term program to free up the oil and coal companies so they can work untrammelled by the rules and regulations that Obama had put in place to try and keep the environmental damage of these invasive industries to a minimum. This is not easy. Big Oil, King Coal and above all the billionnaire Koch brothers funnel millions of dollars a year into the pockets of American politicians that, once elected, always lend a sympathetic ear to the blandishments of the carbon fuel moguls.
Reneging on the Paris agreement needs to be seen in this context. For the oil and coal magnates, it was an essential step. The Paris agreeement legitimized the Clean Power Plan and approved its place in the international commitment to reduce emissions. Now that that’s out of the way, the carbon players can get on with what they do best. Making money and making a mess.
The most disturbing things about Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement has nothing to do with the environment. It’s what it tells you about the Trump administration.
This is a government that acts in concert with the billion-dollar oil, coal, and gas industries. They call the shots, they write the scripts, they quietly draft the legislation, and they move the dark money into the pockets of the senators and congressmen that vote for their programs.
So pulling out of Paris was always part of the program. Next will come a series of legislative actions and executive orders that will open up millions of acres of protected areas, push back the limits that constrain drilling for oil and gas offshore and in the arctic, relax environmental impact assessments, and allow industries greater license to emit CO2, methane, and carbon particulates into the atmosphere. Transcontinental pipelines will be rapidly approved, First Nations’ legal challenges ignored, renewable energy targets annulled, and automobile efficiency standards scaled back to 20th century levels.
Trump has brokered the last hurrah of the carbon energy conglomerates. But like the Mammoths that once roamed North America, their time has passed. Coal, once the catalyst and driver of the industrial revolution, is now a relic of the 20th Century. Oil and gas will find themselves relgated to chemical industry feedstocks—used to make plastics and liquid chemicals for the pharmceutical companies.