The newly minted Trump administration wasted little time establishing that it will chart a starkly different course on energy policy than President Obama. On the White House website Friday, a new page called "An America First Energy Policy Plan" appeared shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. The plan asserts that Trump and his new hires will move to eliminate climate regulations and boost coal, oil, and gas production.
Conspicuously, the URL to the climate change page also went dead.
The new plan makes no mention of solar, wind, or other sustainable energy sources. The closest it gets is stating a commitment to "clean coal technology," which still hasn't been demonstrated to work in a cost-effective way.
"For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry," the plan reads. "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years."
Obama's Climate Action Plan had called for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, boosting renewable energy, reducing energy waste, protecting natural resources, and preparing the nation for the effects of climate change. The water rule greatly expanded the rivers, lakes, and wetlands that fall under the protections of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable,” Obama said in a statement at the time it was passed.
The energy plan added that Trump will "refocus" the EPA on its "essential mission" of protecting air and water. That suggests he'll direct the agency to get out of the business of regulating greenhouse gas emissions, a tactic of the Obama administration widely criticized as an overreach by conservatives and fossil fuel interests.
The plan also reiterated Trump's campaign promise to revitalize the coal industry. Experts, however, consistently say the industry's main challenge is not government regulation, but its inability to compete against the cheap price of natural gas. The administration also called for dramatically increasing shale oil and gas exploration, including on federal lands, stating there's an estimated $50 trillion in untapped reserves. It added that revenue from energy production, presumably from federal land leases, will be used to "rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure."
The America First Energy Policy Plan comes a day after a report in The Hill stated the Trump Administration wants to make dramatic cuts to the Department of Energy, which could reduce funding for renewable energy and carbon capture research.
The crucial danger in this plan is that boosting fossil fuel exploration and slowing the shift to renewable energy sources will increase greenhouse gas emissions at precisely the time the world needs to dramatically cut them.
There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that carbon dioxide and other emissions are rapidly warming the planet, raising sea levels, melting polar ice, and acidifying the oceans. Earlier this week, NOAA and NASA both confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year on record, setting a new benchmark for a third straight year.