After Trump won the US presidency in 2016 there were a number of articles that reassured us by saying that sustainability will persevere. While some were very pessimistic there were a slew of optimists in 2017 who defiantly proclaimed that sustainability will outlast Trump. A year and a half later many of those voices are silent.
One year ago an article by Ken Silverstein said that Trump has not slowed sustainability. Silverstein pointed to demand and economics to argue that sustainability is resilient. He cited a poll by Lucid’s Phil Pinson and Urjanet’s Tim Porter which says that 73 percent of companies expect their commitment to be the same while 21 percent planed to increase their involvement. Only 7.7 percent planed to decrease their commitment. Silverstein points out that sustainability budgets did not decline between 2016 and 2017. The research shows that sustainability is driven by compliance, corporate mission, business performance, employee satisfaction and industry recognition. “Regulations are helping [drive sustainability] but economics are driving it,” said Porter.
An October 2017 article published in the Guardian defiantly proclaimed Trump can’t stop sustainability. However, over the course of the last year we are coming to terms with just how destructive this administration has been. The Trump presidency is an Orwellian nightmare. The list of Trump’s malfeasance grows by the day and the lapdogs in his party have made the political calculation that they are safer to stick by a pathological liar than to tell the truth.
Both the president and the GOP have worked together to eliminate climate action in the US. Trump made his intentions clear in his budget and if there was any doubt his energy priorities have become obvious. He is working to weaken renewable energy while aggressively supporting fossil fuels. Trump has also imposed tariffs on solar panels and he is using energy to wreak vengeance on cities and states that oppose him. According to Greenbiz this hurts solar developers, installers, consumers, corporate renewable energy buyers, and states with renewable energy goals.
Trump named fossil fuel advocate Scott Pruitt to head of the EPA. He is a chip off the old block and it appears he can do no wrong in the president’s eyes. After all Pruitt has succeeded in eviscerating the EPA and he is aiding polluters including efforts to repeal the Clean Power plan. This adversely impacts energy efficiency providers, wind and solar power developers, and other clean-technology developers.
The Trump administration has even proposed eliminating the Energy Star voluntary labeling program for energy efficient appliances. Both consumers and businesses will be harmed by this decision as the program massively reduced energy consumption saving both groups a total of $34 billion in 2015.
One of the most disconcerting efforts is the initiative to overturn the “endangerment finding,” a 2009 determination that acknowledges that emissions are a danger to public health. This is harmful to renewable energy developers and buyers, as well as states companies and other organizations that have clean energy goals.
The Trump administration’s proposed changes to power markets rules was designed to let coal and nuclear power plants recoup their costs from market sales. This amounts to unfair subsidies that hurt cleantech including renewables and related technologies like energy storage and AI.
Early in June, the Trump administration revealed just how far it will go to protect the fossil fuel Industry. They are invoking an obscure 20th-century national security act in their most recent ploy to buoy coal and nuclear power in the face of competition from declining renewable energy costs. The law they are invoking would force energy buyers to continue to subsidize coal-fired electricity-generating stations and nuclear power plants.
The fossil fuel industry already gets three times the subsidies of the renewable energy sector and that does not include a number of tax loopholes that benefit dirty energy.
Sustainability may indeed outlast Trump, but he is doing some serious damage that won’t be easily overcome. Trump may be incompetent he may even be irrelevant but he is not harmless.