The United States has the cleanest air. The Green New Deal will cost a 15-figure fortune. And Paris has been suffering for the climate agreement that bears its name.
Those are just some of the many dubious — or just plain wrong — statements Donald Trump has made during his first three years as president.
On his third anniversary in office this week, Trump has racked up more than 16,200 false or misleading claims, according to a running tally kept by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker team.
Of those statements, ranging from half-truths to outright whoppers, 492 concerned energy and environmental issues.
"We started this project as part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, largely because we could not possibly keep up with the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements," The Post's Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly wrote this week. "We recorded 492 claims — an average of just under five a day — and readers demanded that we keep it going for the rest of Trump’s presidency."
Here are the false or misleading statements on the environment that Trump has repeated most often, according to The Post’s count:
Trump’s claim: His administration has ushered in the boom of oil and natural gas production in the United States.
- Number of times repeated: At least 60.
- A recent example: “We ended the war on American energy,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Milwaukee on Jan. 14. “The United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere on Earth.”
- What’s really going on: The United States is indeed pumping a lot more oil and natural gas than it used to, but Trump shouldn’t be taking the credit. The decade-long boom in domestic oil and gas production is mainly the result of new drilling techniques — most notably, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The rate of U.S. oil production has increased rapidly since 2010, and the country has actually led the world in natural gas production since 2009. That’s 10 years before Trump took office.
Trump’s claim: The Paris climate agreement would have cost the U.S. trillions of dollars.
- Number of times repeated: At least 31.
- A recent example: “We withdrew from the one-sided, horrible, horrible, economically unfair, ‘close your businesses down within three years,’ ‘don't frack, don't drill, we don't want any energy’ — the horrible Paris Climate Accord that killed American jobs and shielded foreign polluters,” Trump said during remarks at the Economic Club of New York in November. “You’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars of destruction would have been done to our country with the Paris Climate Accord.”
- What’s really going on: Under the 2015 Paris accord, each country set its own goals for cutting climate-warming emissions. So if Trump wanted to alter the commitments offered by his predecessor, Barack Obama, he could have done so while staying in the agreement. The Paris agreement also doesn’t have any requirements about how nations reduce emissions — meaning there is no rule against fracking or other forms of oil and gas extraction, as Trump suggested.
Trump’s claim: The United States became an energy-exporting powerhouse under his watch.
- A recent example: “We’re the largest energy producer now in the world, and we’re an exporter of energy for the first in our history, really,” Trump said at a public White House meeting in December.
- Number of times repeated: At least 31.
- What’s really going on: The United States has been the world’s leading energy producer … since at least 2014. And the country has also exported some of the fuel it has produced … since around the time of the Civil War. What the United States is not — at least, not yet — is a net energy export, meaning that it sells more energy to other countries than it buys abroad. But that’s a threshold the country could cross before Trump leaves office, according to estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Trump’s claim: The United States has the cleanest air and water in the world.
- A recent example: “Who’s got the world’s cleanest and safest air and water? AMERICA!” the president tweeted in September.
- Number of times repeated: At least 24.
- What’s really going on: According to one independent arbiter, this claim isn’t just misleading, it’s downright wrong. The United States ranks 10th for air quality and 29th for water and sanitation, according to the Environmental Performance Index. But let’s give credit where credit is due: The index, which is a project by Yale and Columbia universities, gave the United States the top rank for drinking-water quality.
Trump’s claim: The Green New Deal would cost $100 trillion and prevent people from flying.
- Number of times repeated: At least 22.
- A recent example: “Now, under the Green New Deal that all goes away, that all goes away,” Trump said during a rally in New Mexico in September. “No more cows, no more airplanes, no more trips. A single car, make it electric, single car, you’re not allowed to travel more than 162 miles. They’ll call us the hermit nation, we’ll never leave our house. Now it’s crazy, but that’s OK.”
- What’s really going on: The Green New Deal, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) last year, is a nonbinding resolution that would not have force of law if passed. Rather, it is a call for a major restructuring of the economy to drastically cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and expand access to health care and high-quality jobs. Not included is any demand for a ban on flying or eating beef. Neither does it come with a cost estimate. A conservative think tank, American Action Forum, estimated it would cost $93 trillion, but that figure includes programs that are not in the resolution.
Traffic backs up in July on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza along Interstate 80. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
— New analysis raises doubts about Trump’s claims on new mileage standards: The administration’s revised Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle rule could end up costing consumers more without doing much to improve safety, despite Trump’s promise that it would make cars cheaper and “substantially safer,” according to reporting from The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. The latest draft proposal has not yet been released publicly and is being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.
- What the analysis says: Outlined in a letter by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), the analysis indicates that the approach would lower the price of new cars but leave drivers paying more at the gas pump because they are driving less efficient vehicles. Carper wrote to a top OMB official saying that the latest proposal “would dramatically weaken future vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards, without providing the purported safety or economic benefits that were touted by the Trump administration.” He added: “This would seem to fly in the face of rational rulemaking, which requires the benefits to exceed the costs, not the other way around.”
- The proposal: The revised rule “would require automakers to increase the average fuel efficiency of the nation’s fleets by 1.5 percent a year between Model Year 2021 and 2026. Rules put in place by the Obama administration, by comparison, require a nearly 5 percent annual increase.”
- Now what: “Now that the Transportation Department and the EPA have submitted their proposal to the OMB, White House officials will solicit comment from other agencies before finalizing the rule.”
— Another day, another rollback: The Trump administration will finalize a rule to weaken environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other bodies of water, the New York Times reports.
- A long time coming: Trump has pledged to repeal the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule since the start of his tenure — a move that will benefit farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who found the rules burdensome. “His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections,” the report says.
- The details: “His administration had completed the first step of its demise in September with the rule’s repeal. His replacement on Thursday will complete the process, not only rolling back 2015 rules that guaranteed protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, but also relieves landowners of the need to seek permits that the Environmental Protection Agency had considered on a case-by-case basis before the Obama rule.”
— Warren wants big banks to prepare for climate risks: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants top executives at a handful of financial institutions to provide details of their assessments and preparations for climate-related risks.
- Who got the letter: The Democratic presidential hopeful sent letters to Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, State Street and Wells Fargo.
- What she said: Warren urged them to act quickly to address those risks to “protect themselves and the economy from climate-driven catastrophes,” as Reuters reports. “I write to ask for more information about the risks caused by the climate crisis on the financial industry and your institution’s practices, including what steps, if any, your institution is taking to adapt to mitigate these risks,” she wrote, asking for responses by Feb. 7.
— Trump administration greenlights Keystone XL pipeline on U.S. land: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed a right-of-way approval for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to be built on federal land, covering 46 miles of the line’s route across Montana, the Associated Press reports.
- The details: “The 1,200-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from western Canada to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Project sponsor TC Energy said in a court filing that it wants to begin construction in the next several months, but that’s sure to face more legal challenges,” the report says. “…The stretch approved Wednesday includes all federal land crossed by the line,” said Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Interior Department, according to the AP. “Much of the rest of the route is across private land, for which TC Energy has been trying to get permissions to build on.”
— Agency proposes reclassifying endangered fish: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that it is considering reclassifying the humpback chub fish, an endangered species native to the Colorado River, as “threatened.” “The fish, a member of the minnow family that has survived and thrived in the warm, muddy waters of the Colorado for up to 5 million years, would retain some protections under the law, but not at the same level,” the Arizona Republic reports. “The announcement was met with skepticism by at least one environmental group, which said the fish was still at great risk. Wildlife managers, by contrast, said the move was an example of a success story on the river that reduced the chub’s threat of extinction.”
— A fight to stay alive: The fires that have scorched parts of southeastern Australia have razed land once filled with eucalyptus leaves that fed koalas. Humane Society International estimates that at least half of the koala habitat on Kangaroo Island in Australia has been destroyed, The Post’s Scott Wilson reports, and with it the vast majority of the animals there have been killed. “Before the fire, an estimated 50,000 koalas lived on the island. Today, there are fewer than half that,” he writes. “…Among the dozens of dead kangaroos scattered across the burned-clean forest floor, small brown mounds appeared here and there. These were makeshift watering holes, seldom used by koalas. But without leaves in the trees, the surviving marsupials came down for the occasional moisture.”
— Survey finds nearly three dozen areas with PFAS contamination: A new report from the Environmental Working Group found 34 new locations where toxic polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances — better known as PFAS — were found in drinking water. The report indicates that previous studies by the environmental watchdog group as well as by the EPA have underestimated the levels of contamination.
- Areas of contamination: “Researchers analyzed tap water samples in 44 locations in 31 states and the District of Columbia, and found only one location — Meridian, Miss. — with no detectable PFAS and only two locations — Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Ala. — with levels below what is considered hazardous to humans, according to EWG,” the Hill reports. “…The top five locations for PFAS levels were Brunswick County, N.C.; Quad Cities, Iowa; Miami; Bergen County, N.J. and Wilmington, N.C. … Only two of the locations, Brunswick County and Quad Cities, had levels above the EPA’s limit for specific PFAS substances.”
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holds a meeting.
- The Brookings Institution holds an event on climate threats and climate justice on Friday
— The more you know: Why can you sometimes glimpse the dark side of the moon? Capital Weather Gang's Matthew Cappucci explains:
Why can I see the dark side of the moon on my way to @WashPostLife this morning? 🌙— Matthew Cappucci (@MatthewCappucci) January 21, 2020
It’s called “earthshine,” and is actually sunlight being reflected from the earth back onto the moon, illuminating it acutely.
Have a great Tuesday gang! pic.twitter.com/1bzc6PKq9F