Opinion

Trump’s Energy Independence Order: A Boon To America And The Environment

President Trump’s “Executive Order on Energy Independence” will save the American people hundreds of billions of dollars every year that would have been wasted on purely symbolic efforts under former President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” and other regulations.

Former President Barack Obama justified those regulations by claiming they would reduce global warming. But in reality, even according to his Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations, they would achieve no measurable reduction in global warming.

The executive order not only paves the way for the EPA to undo most or all of the “Clean Power Plan” but also

  • lifts a short-term ban on new leases for coal mining on public lands;
  • effectively blocks fulfillment of U.S. intentions under the Paris climate agreement;
  • requires recalculation of the “social cost of carbon,” probably resulting in low levels that would make it difficult to justify regulations restricting carbon dioxide emissions on a cost/benefit basis; and
  • eliminates a requirement that all federal agencies include climate-change effects in calculating costs and benefits of future environmental permits.

The executive order will open the door to more development of America’s abundant resources of hydrocarbon fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—leading to lower energy prices, benefiting producers and consumers alike, and more jobs in those and related industries, while reducing our imports from unfriendly nations, and consequently their ability to finance ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other jihadist terror organizations.

One element in the order ignored by most news reports requires that environmental regulations be “developed through transparent processes that employ the best available peer-reviewed science and economics.” That’s a significant step toward ending federal agencies’ use of “secret science”— data, code, and discussion not available to the public and other scientists for replication and testing, a practice widely criticized by critics of the Obama Administration and of proponents of belief in dangerous manmade global warming.

As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s said at the signing ceremony, the order is “both pro-energy and pro-environment,” stops the EPA from “pick[ing] winners and losers” in the energy sector, and requires the EPA to “pass rules that are within the framework that Congress has established”— violation of which was a major reason that, as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt was party to lawsuits against the EPA.

The order will also set a precedent that other countries will follow, sparing their citizens, too, from the crushing costs of pointless policies to mitigate global warming.

As I told the 12th International Conference on Climate Change, meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, and Newsweek reported:

A clean, healthful, beautiful environment is a costly good. And like any costly good, richer people can afford more than poorer people. This is why the greatest threat to the environment is not affluence; it’s poverty. And the second greatest threat to the environment is socialist government, tight government controls over what people do.

How does wealth promote environmental improvement? As societies transition from subsistence agriculture to early industrialization, toxic pollution of air, water, and soil tends to increase, but the benefits of the polluting activities—more and better food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health care, education, etc.—so far outweigh the risks of the pollution that health and life expectancy rise at the same time. Soon, with greater wealth through industrialization, people can afford to invest in the expensive technologies necessary to reduce pollution, and they create an environment cleaner than what they had at the start.

And how does freedom promote it? Many people think businesses would pollute with impunity if not for government regulation, and so regulation is the chief protector of our environment. In reality, governments have much worse environmental records than private businesses and individuals. Politicians’ top incentive is to get re-elected, not to take care of the environment. Property owners, though, have incentive to take care of what they own so it serves them and their heirs for generations to come.

To put it very simply, that’s why you find graffiti on public restroom walls, not on your bathroom walls at home.

That’s why the world’s worst environmental disasters have occurred not in wealthy free-market, capitalist countries but in poor and socialist countries.

Trump’s order promotes both prosperity and freedom, and so also a cleaner, more healthful, more beautiful environment.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.