With mounting scandals, expect Scott Pruitt to hear ‘you’re fired’

With mounting scandals, expect Scott Pruitt to hear ‘you’re fired’
© Greg Nash

 

It’s hard to keep track of all of EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittFormer EPA chief Scott Pruitt registers as lobbyist in Indiana We're not effectively protecting Americans from measles, air pollution or food poisoning The problem for Trump appointees MORE’s scandals: The prima donna air travel, overruling the White House to give exorbitant salaries to Oklahoma friends, the oil-lobbyist landlord sweetheart deal, and taxpayer-funded secret phone booth in his office. These personal scandals show a disturbing lack of personal ethics, cost real money, and create headaches for the White House. But corruption around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and in abandoning the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are real breaches of his duty to the office, and are by far the most serious breaches of the public trust.

Pruitt has been granting RFS waivers — intended for small refineries experiencing unique economic hardship — to several highly profitable refineries. This waiver authority is now being stretched by Pruitt to secretly change the RFS policy for some of his favored friends. 

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The latest example, uncovered by Reuters, is to one of the biggest and most profitable refinery companies in the nation with stated net profits of $1.5 billion last year. Instead of complying with the law, these refineries were gambling that they could game the system. Pruitt has granted one company a $50 million windfall by allowing them to sell their credits on the open market.

 

Pruitt encouraged many refineries to use this backdoor. According to one refinery executive, “The EPA was handing out those exemptions like trick or treat candy.” In doing so, Pruitt again undermines the RFS, despite repeated promises from President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE to Midwestern voters that he would protect the RFS. 

Gutting the RFS isn’t the only gift to the oil industry. Pruitt”s retreat from the agreed-upon clean vehicle emission standards benefits big oil and hurts consumers. The standards finally put American car companies (and their suppliers in aluminum, high-strength steel, batteries, and high-efficiency engine parts) back in the global race for next-generation vehicles. We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well for American industry. 

CAFE standards were first enacted in 1975 to reverse the dangerous trajectory of America vast overconsumption of oil. They’ve saved $500 billion at the gas pumps between 2008 and 2016, and supported new technologies like direct injection, turbo-charging, and light-weight materials. Congress updated the law in 2007, in an effort to reduce our addiction to oil, slow our contribution to catastrophic global warming, and responding to a widening competitiveness gap in the global auto industry.

EPA then set new standards that would not only save consumers over a trillion dollars, but would put us on a path to restore our global competitive position as a technology leader. It’s been working. Billions of dollars have been invested in new production in the United States and some of the most exciting concepts at global auto shows of the next generation in high-tech cars are American brands.

This new emphasis on efficiency has helped lead to battery prices plummeting 80 percent between 2010 and 2016, making a range of electric vehicles affordable for many Americans far earlier than nearly everyone predicted. Our years of inaction had lost us a lot of ground — six of the 10 biggest electric car companies are in China — but our seemingly firm commitment to getting back in the game justified significant investment in U.S. production. Now, Pruitt and this administration are threatening to take us back out of contention. It might help a few stock prices today, but it’s going to be a disaster for the American workers before long — likely before 2020.

This is the way a broken government operates: undermining the investments made by companies following the law and discouraging innovation. Breaking the promises of those elected and putting the wants of lobbyists ahead of the needs of the American people. Business needs to know its government will follow the law and keep its word. The effect of Pruitt’s behavior is more than just a subsidized condo and a few questionable waivers. It’s the loss of faith in a government that does the right thing, and economic punishment for companies that play by the rules.

The president was elected because of a promise to drain the swamp, reward good behavior, and make America competitive. He made his name saying, “you’re fired” on TV, and it’s time for him to cut his losses on Pruitt and instruct him to fly, in whichever class he chooses, back to Oklahoma.

Mike Carr is the executive director of New Energy America, an organization that promotes clean energy jobs in rural America. Previously, he served as principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.