Energy & Environment

Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks


President Trump’s limited references to the environment in Tuesday’s State of the Union address included a plan to combat climate change with trees and a claim that his “bold regulatory reduction campaign” had boosted the oil and gas industry.

Trump’s speech was delivered to a crowd of Democrats donning climate-themed pins, with the transition of blue to red stripes representing not the parties but the increase in global temperatures. 

Trump’s reference to his regulatory rollbacks includes at least 95 environmental rules that have been rolled back or are in the process of being rolled back, according to reporting from the New Year Times.

“The United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world, by far. With the tremendous progress we have made over the past three years, America is now energy independent, and energy jobs, like so many elements of our country, are at a record high.  We are doing numbers that no one would have thought possible just three years ago. Likewise, we are restoring our nation’s manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done,” Trump said. 

But Trump’s claims don’t totally withstand scrutiny.

While many of Trump’s new regulations have been beneficial to the oil and gas industry, America has since 2009 been the world’s largest natural gas producer. While U.S oil production reached a high in 2018, oil production has been dramatically rising since 2011 due to the shale boom.

As for job growth in their areas, manufacturing job gains went from more than 260,000 at the end of 2018 to just 46,000 for the 12 months ending in December, according to an Associated Press review of Labor Department data.

Trump has averaged 162,000 manufacturing jobs during his first three years in office, compared to 111,000 on average during President Obama’s last three years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 

Trump also referenced a Republican effort to stem climate change through trees.

“To protect the environment, days ago, I announced that the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together Government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” Trump said, referencing a commitment he made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

Coming legislation from Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) would help the U.S. reach their portion of the commitment by planting 3.3 billion trees each year.

“Trees are the lungs of the earth—they are the most efficient way on the planet to capture carbon. Republicans join @realdonaldtrump in this effort and are excited to get to work,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted during the speech.

But climate scientists say the effort alone will not be enough to combat climate change.

“Trees do take carbon out of the atmosphere and if you want to permanently store carbon in trees, you have to permanently commit to keeping the trees forever,” said David Archer, a geophysical sciences professor at the University of Chicago previously told The Hill. 

“The fossil fuel carbon is so much bigger than all the carbon in the trees,” he added. “You can’t do carbon neutral by planting trees…it’s sort of a Band Aid.”

Environmental group Greenpeace has described the effort as a “poorly disguised get-out-of-jail-free card for the oil industry.”

Tags Bruce Westerman Climate change Donald Trump Kevin McCarthy State of the Union

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