BY FROMA HARROP
One word best describes Donald Trump’s environmental policy: sick. The president has an obsessive urge to ravage nature just for the heck of it. Exhibit A is his crusade to weaken environmental regulations against the very wishes of those being regulated.
Trump seems bent on destruction as an end in itself. He has worked to destroy America’s ties with its traditional allies. He’s striving to destroy the Affordable Care Act – and, with it, health coverage for millions of Americans. Now it’s the environment’s turn.
Trump tries to hide hostility toward environmental protections behind claims of helping business. But beyond temporarily saving a few mining jobs in a dying industry, it is costing the economy dearly. Parts of America fighting fire or fearing water as global warming advances will have to pay huge sums trying to recover.
Why would Trump threaten car companies that are happy to adhere to California’s stricter standards on vehicle emissions? This could have been an opportunity for Trump. He could have taken a bow for overseeing an agreement to improve the environment, while not displeasing the monied interests most affected.
But if destruction is the reward, letting something be serves no psychic purpose.
Ask phony conservatives why the conservative principle of states’ rights doesn’t apply here. The weasel reply is that California shouldn’t be allowed to set standards for the nation. But California isn’t setting standards for the nation. It’s setting standards for California. If 13 states follow California’s lead, well, that should also be their right, right?
Happily, Ford, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW are willing and able to meet California’s rules – and other companies are about to join them. Here is a potential environmental controversy fixing itself.
So where’s Trump’s problem? The problem is in his head. For a vandal, vandalism is an end in itself.
Mercury attacks the brain, lungs and fetuses. Curbs on mercury emissions by coal-burning power plants, set in 2012, are said to have prevented 11,000 premature deaths per year. Many electric utilities affected by the rule spent an estimated $18 billion to become compliant. Thanks to them, mercury pollution has plunged nearly 90%.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is trying to weaken the mercury regulation, and guess who’s objecting. The regulated utilities. They’ve already spent good money to clean up mercury. As a spokeswoman for giant Duke Energy put it, “We want to be able to plan our investments for the future, but if they change the rules, that becomes difficult.”
Trump more recently launched an assault on regulations covering methane gas. When natural gas is produced, methane often escapes into the air. Methane is terribly polluting: It’s 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide in contributing to higher temperatures.
The big and efficient companies that produce natural gas don’t want the regulation weakened. That would be bad for business. They are marketing their product as a clean energy source, certainly as an alternative to coal. But if Trump gets his way, they could no longer make that claim as easily. That would put natural gas at a greater disadvantage to squeaky-clean wind and solar power sources.
Trump is also possessed by a need to open oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and along the Atlantic Coast. “Why do it?” ask BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and other international oil companies.
The major oil producers are already trying to address public concerns about climate change. Besides, there’s a glut in oil supply and lots of opportunity to explore in less controversial places.
Why does Trump want to do it? Disturbed children destroy things to get attention, psychologists say. Let the mental health professionals take it from here.