Trump The Great Destroyer

There are those who say wind turbines are an eyesore, that they ruin the landscape.  But have you ever seen a strip mine in coal country?

Which do you think is the greater eyesore?  The picture on the right was once a beautiful green mountain, but this is what it looks like after the coal was extracted.

Today, Don Trump decided that he would much rather turn nature’s beautiful mountains into that picture on the right side, above.  Today, Don Trump signed a new executive order titled “Energy Independence” that is even more potentially destructive than the rest of his orders have been.  (Note that the man who was going to “make America great again” has, thus far done nothing constructive, but has attempted much destruction!)  The order directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan.

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Surrounded by coal miners, he signed with a flourish and stated, “C’mon fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says? You’re going back to work.”  Jackass.  The order also lifts a short-term ban on new coal mining on public lands. Jerk. The order will all but ensure that the United States cannot meet its global warming commitments under the Paris accord.

“We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and reviving our beloved economy. The miners told me about the attacks on their jobs. I made them this promise. We will put our miners back to work.”

While the coal industry executives may be applauding and singing happy tunes today, there is more to the story than meets the eye.  There are some real world facts to be considered:

  • Regulatory relief could restore 10 percent of coal companies’ lost market share at most — nowhere near enough to return coal to its dominant position in power markets and put tens of thousands of coal miners to work.
  • Improved drilling techniques over the past decade have made natural gas a much more economical option than coal. Most utilities have already reduced their infrastructure and they already have commitments geared toward natural gas.
  • Wind and solar power are also taking market share, as the costs of utility-scale generation have become competitive with those of hydrocarbons in many parts of the country.
  • By the end of last year, 29 states had adopted rules to replace a substantial share of fossil fuel electricity production with cleaner power. California is far ahead of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan in environmental stewardship, and promises to resist the federal government’s new agenda. The existing state mandates alone are on track for meeting 20% of the nation’s energy needs within the next 8 years.
  • Federal tax credits for wind and solar enacted during the Obama administration will continue for at least several more years, and they have the support of Republican members of Congress from states producing wind power, like Texas and Iowa.

Nicholas K. Akins, chief executive of American Electric Power (AEP) said, “Our plans remain the same. We’re going to invest over the next three years $1.5 billion in renewables … This industry is moving in a direction that really moves toward a clean energy economy. That’s what our customers expect, that’s what our shareholders expect.”

And speaking of customers, a recent (January 2017) study by Pew Research found that fully 65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy over fossil fuels.    Apparently, for all his bluster and his faux claims, Don Trump has failed to listen to the voices of the American people, the citizens, taxpayers and voters.  Most in this country would prefer wind turbines to destroyed mountains, and most have come to understand that we simply cannot continue to destroy our environment, as we have been for so many years, without suffering devastating effects.

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Earlier this month, with Trump’s blessings, the State Department granted the pipeline giant TransCanada a permit for Keystone construction to re-start, and Trump halted the initiative to impose stringent fuel-economy standards for automobiles, saying, “The assault on the American auto industry is over.”

The mining of coal is dirty and harmful to the environment, as is the burning of the ore.  Scott Pruitt, Trump’s puppet EPA Administrator, said today’s executive order would “be both pro-jobs and pro-environment.”  The reality is that it will be neither.  It is yet another ‘alternative fact’. What it will do is contribute further to the destruction of our environment, but not only our environment … the global environment.  When we dump CO2 into the atmosphere, it does not only affect the air we breathe, but it spreads the poison around the globe.  This is why nearly every country on earth has committed to try to reduce carbon emissions.  Quite frankly, every other nation on the globe has a right to be very angry at Trump over his recent anti-environmental moves.  In large part, Trump likely knows that nothing he has done will add a measurable number of jobs to the economy, but rather, he is driven by an obsession to ‘undo’ whatever President Obama did, such as repealing ACA with no viable alternative on the horizon.  This is exactly the wrong way to lead a nation, and it is why I claim the entire Trump administration is a circus … nay, a nightmare!  We The People deserve better!  We The People DEMAND better!

* Note:  John Podesta, an advisor on climate and energy policy to President Obama and campaign chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, has written a very good Op-Ed piece on this topic that is worth reading.

Live For Today, or Preserve For Tomorrow?

As humans, one of our less desirable traits is our attitude of “yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t promised, so live in the moment … live for today”.  On the surface, that seems like a decent philosophy, and I know many who follow it, but there are some big problems with it.  Personal finance, of course, is near the top of the list.  There are those for whom living “payday-to-payday” with no savings for emergencies is a way of life.  They spend and buy what they want today without concern for the future because “tomorrow isn’t promised”.  There is, however, a more global effect of the “live for today” attitude that humans tend to employ, and the one I have in mind at the moment is climate change and our environment.  I do not know how citizens in other nations view the threat to our globe but as a citizen of the U.S., I can tell you that Americans are short-sighted, selfish and arrogant when it comes to their willingness to make sacrifices today in order to save the planet tomorrow.  Apparently it is easier to deny that there is a problem than to suffer sacrifice or inconvenience in order to work toward solving the problem. There is very real and irrefutable evidence that we (and I use this term in the global sense) have contributed to changes in the environment, changes that will have long-lasting consequences and ultimately have the potential to make this earth uninhabitable for human life.  Yet rather than be inconvenienced, far too many people choose to turn a blind eye, declaring that climate change is some conspiracy dreamed up by politicians … to what end I do not know. Just this morning I read a post by a fellow blogger who referred to the concept of climate change as the “hoax of the century”.  Yet most all scientists now agree that climate change is a very real and lethal phenomenon.

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The evidence is clear and overwhelming as seen in the effects of our environmental neglect:

  • Sea level rise – Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperature rise – All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • Warming oceans – The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969
  • Shrinking ice sheets – The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Declining Arctic sea ice – Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • Glacial retreat – Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • Extreme events – The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • Ocean acidification – Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
  • Decreased snow cover – Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.

The above information with supporting detail and much more from the scientific community can be found at: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

The leading cause of climate change remains the burning of fossil fuels for power plants and transportation.  Though this is by no means the only cause of what is known as the “greenhouse effect”, it is the biggest culprit and the one over which we, as humans, have the most control.  I hear people say that it won’t make a big difference if the turn their thermostat up by 5 or 10 degrees in the winter, or if they make an extra trip to the market to pick up just one or two items.  The fallacy in this way of thinking is that of volume.  You may not save the world by turning that light out when you leave the room or donning a sweater instead of turning the thermostat up, but your efforts combined with millions of others just might contribute to making a difference.  On a larger scale, we can refuse to support businesses that are not environmentally-friendly.  We can elect politicians who support environmental legislation such as research for alternative, renewable energy sources.

I do not claim to be a scientist, nor do I entirely understand the science behind the data despite having taken two courses on Environmental Science.  Thus it is not my intent to go into the details of the science behind climate change, but merely to assert that there seems to be more evidence in support of the fact that mankind is destroying the global atmosphere than there is evidence to the contrary.  No matter how diligent or negligent you and I are at working toward solutions to the problem of climate change, we will not be around to see the effects, but other humans will.  Shall we not worry about the future and simply “live for today”, or shall we be responsible global citizens and do that which is in our power to preserve the world for future generations?

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