President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state indicates the next administration will be more focused on energy than perhaps any other in recent U.S. history.
The choice, despite hand-wringing from Democratic critics such as former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, sends a clear signal to Congress, policymakers, and the world: Energy will be key to America’s economic growth and revival.
“The Clean Power Plan was transparently designed to kill the future of [coal plants].”
The statement is further backed up by Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. And by the fact Trump is considering former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for secretary of energy. Few governors have to know energy policy more than a Texas governor.
It’s all a bold statement because under President Obama and other world leaders, it became trendy to diss energy producers and play up “green energy,” despite the fact solar and wind power may not be able to provide the numbers that consumers need.
Trump is signaling a commitment to an economy powered well and cheaply by abundant supplies of oil, gasoline and electricity. The second priority, and still a top one, will be climate.
Also trendy under Obama was to endorse climate treaties, such as the Paris Agreement. The agreement, which President Obama signed onto a year ago, has no real teeth.
But its goal, if implemented, would seem to require limits on the use of coal, oil, and natural gas. The agreement calls for “a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” according to the European Commission’s website.
And while there is no enforcement mechanism for the goals within the Paris Agreement, the United States is obligated to report its data to other nations, at meetings and in the public record.
The Paris Agreement requires nations to “come together every five years to set more ambitious targets as required by science,” and to “report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets.”
The climate and various solutions to global warming are like a golden idol to the Left. They don’t think a lot about the logic of their worship, or their policies aimed at slashing the use of coal, oil, and natural gas. They just do it.
And if Trump messes with that golden idol, the Left will throw fits. On HBO’s “Real Time” on Nov. 11, Thomas Friedman, The New York Times columnist, seemed to take glee in the trouble Trump would get if he pulled from the Paris Agreement.
“You mess with this issue, you abandon Paris, you will see a backlash that will make Greenpeace look like a knitting circle,” said Friedman, pointing his finger. “They will go after his golf courses … They are really playing with fire.”
Trump doesn’t seem deterred. But Trump will likely go after issues that are hurting energy policy, according to Marlo Lewis, senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
That policy is the Clean Power Plan, a regulation that Obama unveiled on Aug. 3, 2015, through the EPA. Pruitt is one of 28 attorneys general who is fighting the plan in court; the plan is therefore in legal stasis.
Critics of the plan, which is based upon the Clean Air Act, say the guidelines basically make power production impossible without a number of mitigating factors. And they say the rules are the prerogative of Congress, not rule-making agencies or the executive branch alone.
“This regulation was transparently designed to kill the future of [coal plants],” said Lewis. “That is the centerpiece of the EPA’s war on coal, or war on affordable energy.”
Lewis said Trump could kill the plan by proposing a new rule — basically writing over the plan — or by refusing to defend the plan in the upcoming court hearings.
Defenders of Obama’s plan still insist it could take litigation to reverse. Yet it’s hard to imagine the plan being enforced if both Trump and his EPA chief decide not to kill it.
As for the Paris Agreement, there are various ways for Trump to withdraw, Lewis says.
And Trump could begin repeating many of the arguments made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell believes the Paris Agreement is basically illegal without the consent of Congress.
But there is no urgency in pulling from the agreement — not compared to the loathing the energy-producing sector has for the Clean Power Plan.
One thing seems clear after Pruitt’s announcement to head the EPA: Paris may be safe for now, but the Clean Power Plan’s days are numbered.