The Donald and his Congressional budget hawks are looking pretty profligate at the moment—having just added $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years for tax reforms, $300 billion for fiscal years 2018/2019 by the budget deal and a possible $25 billion more to build a Wall. Spending pressures on one side will be met with saving pressures on another.
Never keen on clean energy and the environment, to begin with, the Administration is likely to become more adamant in their attempts to keep a lid on federal climate-related programs. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is facing a proposed funding cut of over 70 percent from the current $2.04 billion to $575.5 million.
EERE is joined on the Administration’s hit parade of climate-related programs by the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) [i] and Weatherization Assistance (WAP)[ii]. Total funding for the two is in an at-risk neighborhood of $3.6 billion.
Other proposed Administration eliminations are the State Department’s Global Climate Change Initiative at $1.3 billion and the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture. The $498 million Ag program helps rural households and businesses obtain reliable drinking water, as well as improve waste and stormwater systems.[iii]
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
Joan Didion/by way of W.B. Yates
It turns out that un-clapping Democrats were not the only ones accused of treasonous acts involving Trump’s first State of the Union (SOTU) performance. Bill Nye “, The Science Guy,” was roundly condemned by colleagues in the science community and progressive political activists for having consorted with an enemy of science. The enemy in question was Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s nominee to head NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency). The aid given was Nye’s accepting the Congressman’s invitation to attend the speech.
500 Women Scientists writing in Scientific American explained their accusation of Nye thus:
…by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission.
As scientists, we cannot stand by while Nye lends our community’s credibility to a man who would undermine the United States’ most prominent science agency. And we cannot stand by while Nye uses his public persona as a science entertainer to support an administration that is expressly xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, ableist, and anti-science.
Once upon a time national environmental and clean energy policies were proposed, properly debated and acted upon by Congress and the president. In that bygone time the federal judiciary was called upon mainly to consider matters of constitutional import, clarify ambiguities and resolve conflicts between federal and state laws.
The days of constructive political debate and compromise in the legislative and executive branches of government are long gone, leaving the courts as the primary venues in which the causes and consequences of global climate change are debated, and solutions sought. The number of federal and state climate lawsuits related to Earth’s warming has steadily increased since 2006—so too has the role of science.
The rise in the number of cases is attributable to several factors—not the least of these is the fickleness of politics and persistent partisan gridlock. Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, offers as good an explanation of these developments as there is at the moment:
The judicial system is the only way to get the funds needed to deal with climate change. Legislation won’t work because that’s where lobbyists rule.
Hansen’s statement is an alternate reflection of Trump’s view of the Swamp he has so far failed to drain.
The “canary in a coal mine” is a metaphor originating from the time when caged birds were carried into the mines as an early warning system; the canary would die before methane, and carbon gases reached levels hazardous to humans.
This column, like others in the Canaries in the Coal Mine series, is intended to raise early warnings of dangers that might be lurking beyond the immediate attention of clean energy advocates and climate defenders. Today’s tale continues the discussion about the 2018 midterm elections and what they could mean for federal clean energy and climate policies and programs. It focuses on the need for the climate and clean energy communities to resist the insularity often bred in this era of hyper-partisanship and to reach across party and ideological boundaries to focus on what various groups agree on and to elevate climate defense and clean energy near to the top of the national priority list.
Don’t miss the beginning of the action items I promised in the first installment. Time’s a’wastin, and there is plenty To-Do today?
Introduction to Part 2
The other evening the President stood before the American people and reported on the State of the Union (SOTU)—as he saw it. Since then, much ink has been spilled over what Trump had to say about ending the war he perceived waged by the Obama administration against America's energy industry and his love for beautiful, clean coal. A comparable amount of spleen has been vented over The Donald’s failure even to mention climate and energy in his vision for America.
Why the outrage? Trump is a self-proclaimed troglodyte; he’s never made an effort to hide his ignorance about the causes and consequences of climate change or his willingness to rent out his soul for a few lumps of coal and a hale and hearty All Praise Be to He. C’mon people, He just levied a tariff against photovoltaic panels manufactured in China, South Korea and elsewhere in the world and sent a delegation to the climate conference in Bonn (COP23) to promote American coal interests.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.