Trump’s Latest Executive Order Is an All-Out Attack on Clean Energy

by Ryan Schleeter

March 28, 2017

The White House just put renewable energy, jobs, and a climate-safe future on the chopping block.

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal-fired power plant in Ohio.

© Greenpeace / Tim Aubry

Today, Donald Trump issued one of his most anti-environment executive orders yet. And coming from the same president that fast-tracked the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and wants to defund the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s saying something.

With this order, Trump has instructed the EPA to reverse or re-examine some of the most important climate actions of the Obama era — like limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, halting coal leasing on public land, and critical protections for climate-impacted communities.

But for all his efforts to prop up the fossil fuel industry, the best Trump can do is delay our inevitable transition to clean energy — not stop it. And while he does that, it’s up to all of us to to minimize the devastation his administration will inflict on our climate and communities. Here’s what to watch for.

Handouts for Coal Companies

During his time in office, President Obama used executive power to make big steps toward phasing out fossil fuels in favor of clean, renewable energy. The Clean Power Plan and coal leasing moratorium were two of the hallmarks of his climate legacy — now Trump is undoing both of them.

The Clean Power Plan addressed carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, setting the goal to reduce carbon emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The coal leasing moratorium, meanwhile, halted the sale of federal lands to fossil fuels companies for coal mining until the U.S. coal program could be overhauled with a specific eye towards climate impacts.

By attempting to undo both in a single executive order, Trump is making it perfectly clear that his administration puts fossil fuel CEOs before the American people. But we’re skeptical that he’ll actually succeed, and so are global energy markets.

The rapid growth of clean energy jobs — coupled with the economic decline of the coal industry, even despite subsidies that continued under the Obama administration — means that Trump is fighting both basic science and economics on this one. Renewable energy is already delivering more jobs than a fossil fuel economy while protecting our health and climate for future generations.

Costs for American Communities

Trump’s executive order isn’t just short-sighted for our economy — it will also have devastating impacts for communities on the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel exploitation.

The White House’s staunch climate denial is depriving millions of Americans of the aid they desperately need to protect themselves from the worst impacts of climate change. Our most vulnerable communities cannot afford another Katrina or Sandy (or Matthew, or Ike, or Andrew, or Irene).

And by giving corporate handouts to coal companies, Trump is further delaying a just transition to a clean, sustainable economy for the workers hurt most by the failing coal industry — and its not the CEOs. Reinstating coal leasing on public lands will not bring back coal jobs, guarantee a fair return to taxpayers, or accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. It will only make progress more painful for coal country and fuel the climate crisis.

And to top it off, Trump is also attacking the very idea that climate change comes with costs associated (reminder: it does). He’s instructing federal agencies not to account for the social cost of carbon in policymaking, which could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

Here’s How We Fight This

Like the rest of the half-brained policies that have come from the Trump White House so far, this executive order is very likely to be challenged in court. Given this administration’s track record (ahem, Muslim ban), that gives us hope that this attack on climate and environmental protection won’t stand.

But if that’s going to happen, we still need to show up in force. And in just one month, we’ll have a chance to do that in a big way.

On April 29, 2017 — day 100 of the Trump administration — we’re marching for jobs, justice, and the climate in DC with the People’s Climate March. Three years ago, more than 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City for the inaugural march, but with the stakes even higher and the climate movement even stronger, this year is shaping up to be even bigger.

Join us this April if you’re ready to resist Trump’s attacks on climate progress and fight for the clean energy future we deserve.

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a content editor with the communications team at Greenpeace International. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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