Surprise, Surprise: Donald Trump’s Energy Advisers Are a Disaster

by Tim Donaghy

October 5, 2016

The team shaping Trump’s energy and economic policy come from every corner of the fossil fuel industry.

Donald Trump

Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

Donald Trump has tweeted that climate change is a “hoax invented by the Chinese.” But in case you thought that was just a joke, the circle of people advising him on energy issues makes it clear that Trump is deadly serious about halting and rolling back progress on climate change.

Let’s meet the crew.

Myron “We Call It Life” Ebell

One of Washington DC’s most prominent climate change deniers was tapped to lead Trump’s transition team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The transition team will be in charge of filling a number of important positions at EPA with political appointees and setting the agenda for the agency should Trump be elected president.

Ebell is currently the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — a conservative think tank that has received more than $2 million from ExxonMobil and is perhaps most famous for its ridiculous ad campaign touting the supposed benefits of carbon dioxide pollution.

Ebell has been tireless in his advocacy for fossil fuel corporations. In July of this year he met with Republican attorneys general in “private, undisclosed meetings … to coordinate on shielding ExxonMobil” from the mounting number of investigations into its knowledge of climate change.

It’s hard to imagine someone less appropriate to set the course for the EPA in what might be the most crucial decade of the agency’s existence to date.

Why? Among other things, the EPA is charged with implementing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Trump has already pledged to rescind the plan and “cancel” the Paris Climate agreement in his first 100 days (fact check: he can’t do that). If Trump is elected, Ebell would have free reign to put in place a team that would do everything in its power to roll back climate progress.

Kathleen “More Than a Denier” Hartnett White

Some influential people in Trump’s orbit are pushing him to name Kathleen Hartnett White, a prominent climate denier, as head of the EPA.

As the former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and head of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Fueling Freedom Project, White represents the extreme wing of climate deniers who object not just to some proposed climate solutions, but to the very science of climate change itself. She loves talking about the “environmental benefits” of carbon dioxide and once wrote, “As a dictionary will tell you, carbon is the chemical basis of all life.” The Fueling Freedom project has called for an end to regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and White has called Obama’s climate actions “deluded.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation — which is also funded by ExxonMobil, Chevron, the Koch network, and RJ Reynolds — has campaigned against strong renewable energy policies. Its CEO, Brooke Rollins, is also one of Trump’s economic advisors.

For other major cabinet positions, Trump’s team appears to be considering oil executives.

Harold “The Fracker” Hamm

We first introduced you to Hamm back in July, and he’s continued to grow his influence over the Trump campaign since then.

Hamm is the CEO of Continental Resources, one of the nation’s largest fracking companies. He’s rumored to be under consideration for Secretary of Energy. Among other roles, that means he would oversee the network of national laboratories — the same man who allegedly tried to get seismologists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey fired because of findings linking fracking to earthquakes.

It’s his oil that would flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline should the project be completed.

Forrest “The Trophy Hunter” Lucas

Lucas, the CEO of Lucas Oil, is said to be under consideration for Secretary of the Interior, the department responsible for managing oil, gas, and coal leasing on federal lands, protection of endangered species, and the National Park system.

Trump himself is heavily invested in oil and gas companies. Assuming he stands by his borderline illegal plan to have his kids run his business for him while president, he stands to personally profit from his pledge to “lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas” in his first 100 days.

The Rest

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has often railed against DC insiders, but he has inevitably rounded out his energy team with experienced lobbyists and corporate lawyers.

Prominent names include Jeff Wood (lobbied for Southern Company), Mike Catanzaro (lobbied for Koch Industries), Andrew Wheeler (former committee staff for Senator James Inhofe of snowball fame) and Rebecca Rosen (lobbied for Devon Energy). Mike McKenna (another Koch connection) is heading up the Department of Energy transition team, while the Interior transition team will be headed up by David Bernhardt, a former Interior solicitor who has represented corporations on endangered species regulations.

It’s not exaggeration to say that the next five years will be absolutely crucial for the climate — either marking a turning point toward sustainability, or the moment when the 1.5 or 2 degree Celsius goal slipped from our grasp.

The Clean Power Plan is a good first step toward reducing carbon pollution in the United States, but by itself it’s not enough to get us to the goals agreed to in Paris. The next president needs to deepen our commitment to de-carbonizing our economy, ending our reliance on fossil fuels, and accelerating our deployment of renewable energy.

The message communicated by this gang of oil barons and deniers isn’t subtle: a Trump administration will do everything it can to favor polluting industries and increase our dependence on fossil fuels. Bizarre tweets may be the least of our problems.

Tim Donaghy

By Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy is a Senior Research Specialist with Greenpeace USA. He writes frequently about climate change, offshore oil drilling, energy production, and the Arctic.

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