President Trump delivered a speech Thursday at the Energy Department to cap off "Energy Week," the latest policy-themed week put on by the White House.
In the speech, Trump vowed to unleash the United States' "energy dominance," an increasingly trumpeted term that encapsulates his administration's push to develop energy resources, especially fossil fuel reserves, in the United States and sell them abroad in order to make the nation a net energy exporter.
"We’re here today to usher in a new American energy policy, one that unlocks millions and millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in wealth," Trump said during the speech.
But he did so without unveiling many new policy prescriptions for doing that unlocking, as The Post's Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney write.
For example, Trump promised "to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector," which he said "produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy," without describing the steps he would take to do so, saying that he awaits a “complete review.” He also promised the Treasury Department would “address barriers” to the financing of overseas coal plants without spelling out what he meant and even though the U.S. government does not have any prohibitions on private financing.
“It’s energy week — ‘W-E-A-K.’ It’s kind of disappointing,” said David Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies and formerly the top energy official at the State Department under President Obama. “I don’t know why you set yourself up for a big announcement like this if you’re not really ready to announce anything that would be material.”
Here are the head-scratching statements Trump made during the speech.
Claim 1: "I thought I'd take a lot of heat," Trump said of signing an order reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines." I didn't take any heat. I approved them, that was it."
Fact: Trump in fact took some heat. He would have seen plenty of that hot anger in April during the Climate March when 200,000 people demonstrated against his administration's agenda of de-emphasizing federal action on climate change. That agenda, of course, includes reopening the controversial pipelines.
From a reporter from the New Republic:
Trump: "I didn't take any heat" for approving Keystone XL or #DAPL— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) June 29, 2017
Literally 200,000 people participated in the People's Climate march.
Claim 2: Trump said nuclear energy is "renewable," as seen above.
Fact: When it comes to greenhouse gases or traditional smog-forming pollutants, nuclear energy is nearly emissions-free. So it is, in that sense, often considered a "clean" energy. But it has been up for debate for a long time whether nuclear energy ought to be considered "renewable." The raw fuel that powers nuclear fission reactors is derived from uranium ore, a mineral of finite quality on Earth.
So in that sense, nuclear fuel cannot be renewed — even if Earth's supply of uranium will last for a long, long time. There's also the question of whether any energy source that creates waste that persists for hundreds of thousands of years, as electricity generation via nuclear fission does, ought to be thought of as renewable.
Claim 3: When touting his decision to lift a moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands, Trump said: "It’s going to be open, and the land will be left in better shape than it is right now."
"Is that right?" Trump added, turning to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Better shape," Trump said.
Fact: Despite the typical image of a West Virginian coal miner, Wyoming has long been the largest coal producer in the United States. Most of that extraction is done through surface mining, a process in which trees and topsoil are removed to get at coal seams. The same will likely be true of surface mining expanded to other Western federal lands.
Trump could argue that the environmental cost of mining coal is worth the economic benefit of the energy it produces and the jobs it creates. But instead, Trump is arguing, implausibly, that there will be absolutely no environmental cost at all.
Claim 4: "Powered by new innovation and technology, we are now on the cusp of a true energy revolution," Trump said. Then, going slightly off script, he said: "Our country is blessed with extraordinary energy abundance, which we didn’t know of, even five years ago and certainly 10 years ago."
Fact: Maybe Trump means some other soon-to-arrive energy revolution that policy wonks don't foresee. But the United States and the rest of the world has been in the midst of an energy revolution led by a boom in natural gas made possible by modern hydraulic fracturing techniques.
From Axios' Amy Harder:
Trump: "We are now on a cusp of a new energy revolution." We're not on the cusp anymore. It started a decade ago.— Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) June 29, 2017
Russell Gold, a Wall Street Journal energy reporter, said the same on Twitter too. He would know — he wrote the book on fracking and has been covering the shale gas boom for years.
.@potus: "Our country is blessed with extraordinary energy abundance, which we didn’t know of even 5 yrs ago and certainly 10 yrs ago.”— Russell Gold (@russellgold) June 29, 2017
Because I wrote an article in WSJ, Nov 30th 2006, titled "Gas Find Shows Shale's Promise." https://t.co/fr6j0zwtpU— Russell Gold (@russellgold) June 29, 2017
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-- A federal appeals court delivered a victory to the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday by overturning a lower court decision to require the agency to report how its regulations affect coal industry jobs.
The Virginia-based Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Clean Air Act did not require the EPA to fulfill such reports, according to Reuters.
“The agency gets to decide how to collect a broad set of employment impact data, how to judge and examine this extensive data, and how to manage these tasks on an ongoing basis,” the circuit judge rules. “A court is ill-equipped to supervise this continuous, complex process.”
A spokeswoman for the EPA said the Trump administration will still account for the effect of its regulations.
"President Trump's EPA will take the economic and job impacts of its proposed regulations into account consistent with its statutory requirements, regardless of the outcome of this particular case,” said spokeswoman Amy Graham, according to Reuters.
-- New energy bill. The top lawmakers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee introduced the latest version of their bipartisan energy reform bill, and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has fast-tracked the legislation and put it on the floor calendar.
The Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, introduced by Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking Democrat Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is a revised version of the bill stalled last year, and addresses energy efficiency, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and land management, The Hill reported.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry mentioned the bill at an event for the administration’s “energy week” yesterday and said he plans to review the legislation over the weekend.
"I talked to Chairman Murkowski today about her legislation. I am really looking forward, in fact over the weekend, really taking a look at it. She sent a copy over," Perry said.
-- Oil and water. On Thursday, the Trump administration announced that it would make a bid to overturn the previous White House's decision to suspend oil and gas exploration in Arctic and Atlantic oceans, The Post's Darryl Fears reports.
The move from the Interior Department should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, given that Trump promised exactly this on the campaign trial. The real question: With so much oil and, especially, natural gas being extracted onshore, will any company want to lease these offshore reserves?
-- Next week’s G-20 summit may prove to be a showdown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled Thursday as world leaders continue to form a response to the United States’ decision to pull from the Paris climate accord.
The Post's Isaac Stanley-Becker and Stephanie Kirchner reported on Merkel’s defiant remarks before the nation’s parliament, where she chided the Trump administration’s decision without mentioning the U.S. president by name.
“Since the U.S. announced that it would exit the Paris agreement, we cannot expect any easy talks in Hamburg,” Merkel said. “The dissent is obvious, and it would be dishonest to cover it up.”
Merkel added pointedly: “We can’t, and we won’t, wait until the last person on earth is convinced of the scientific evidence for climate change.”
-- Trump is also planning to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit for the first time as president, the White House announced. The last time Trump met with a representative of the Russian government ... it did not go well.
-- DEVELOPING: At least two people have been died and four were injured after a "major incident" at a coal-fired power plant in Apollo Beach, Fla., the Tampa Bay Times reports.
-- The North Carolina-based company that handled private security for the Dakota Access pipeline told the Associated Press that it was the victim of a “deliberate misinformation campaign.”
In a Thursday statement to the AP, the company TigerSwan said social media “click bait makes wild claims about work done in the interests of public safety” but did not elaborate on further questions, the AP noted, citing pending litigation.
North Dakota officials said Wednesday that they were unaware the private firm had been operating illegally and unlicensed in the state. The state’s Private Investigative and State Board has sued the company for having no license.
-- A new study suggests that global warming may have more of a detrimental effect on poor areas and may widen the gap of economic inequality in the country.
A co-author of the study, Solomon Hsiang, boiled it down to this: “The poor regions will get poorer and the richer regions will benefit."
Hsiang, professor of public policy from University of California at Berkeley, added that the study shows “climate change will have a very large impact on the quality of life and economic opportunity in the coming decades for ourselves and our children.”
From Dennis: “They found that overall, the U.S. economy probably would lose about 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product for each 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.55 degree Celsius) increase in global temperatures — with each degree of warming imposing more costs than the last. But that financial pain won’t play out evenly.”
That means that the poorest third of counties in the country, mostly in the South and lower Midwest, could take an economic hit that compares to the Great Recession, the study found, and will suffer more than areas in the North and West.
At least one caveat: The study doesn’t account for how humans may respond to climate change.
But, senior technical leader at the Electric Power Research Institute Delavane Diaz told Dennis that “monetizing the economic damages of climate change is important for risk management and decision-making.
“It tells us how the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions stack up against the costs, as well as the value of spending on climate mitigation relative to other social investments.”
-- We didn't start the fire. Chelsea Harvey reports for The Post: "Around the world, the amount of land being burned in wildfires is declining — and human activity is largely the cause, scientists say. According to a new study, out Thursday in the journal Science, global burned area has declined by nearly a quarter in the past two decades. The surprising decrease occurred largely as agriculture has expanded and intensified throughout the world, taking over many of the natural areas where wildfires commonly occur."
-- Researchers from Louisiana State University and the University of Southern Mississippi estimate that an ancient underwater forest off the coast of Alabama may be 50,000 years old. And the site may be a glimpse into a 1,000-year period when sea levels were much lower, The Post's Peter Holley.
The forest is as long as “multiple city blocks” and may have been a valley with running rivers, swamps and wildlife.
“There’s just not a lot of records from 50,000 years ago because the ice sheets either covered it up or sea level has changed so dramatically that those sites are underwater now. That’s one of the reasons that we’re so excited about this site,” Kristine DeLong, paleoclimatologist from LSU told Holley.
Holley describes why the forest may have been preserved:
“Before it was revealed, likely by a hurricane, the forest had to be preserved, which required a number of circumstances.
When the forest was alive, it may have been part of a swamp in which the sediment had low levels of oxygen. Without oxygen, bacteria are slower to decompose organic material. If the forest was buried quickly in a flood, for example, the trees may have been preserved before they had a chance to rot.”
The forest, Holley writes, gives researchers a glimpse into the results of ancient climate change, “during a period in which they suspect sea levels may have been rising as quickly as eight feet every 100 years.”
And it might be helpful in understanding what to expect as warming trends pick up once again.
Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press Register, produced a documentary on the forest with This is Alabama and the Alabama Coastal Foundation:
- The Sustainable Energy Coalition is hosting the 20th Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and forum on July 11.
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