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Trump Cabinet Picks Indicate New Climate Sheriff in Town

January 6, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #235

President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for key cabinet and administration posts show he was serious about reining in environmental regulations and rationalizing the nation’s climate and energy policies in an effort to remove barriers to job growth, economic progress, and improved national security.

Trump selected Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the primary agency charged with gathering intelligence related to state and non-state actors who pose a potential threat to national security. Common sense would suggest climate change should not fall under the CIA’s purview, but under President Barack Obama common sense was turned on its head, and the CIA was charged with studying and responding to the effects of climate change. In an increasingly dangerous world, every dollar devoted by the CIA to climate-related efforts was a dollar unavailable to gather information concerning, and formulate plans to stymie, terrorist acts, North Korea’s and Iran’s efforts to obtain or create nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, and the expansionist policies pursued by Russia and China.

Under Pompeo, this nonsense should end. As a congressman, Pompeo has championed expanded oil and gas production – something definitely in the country’s national interest – and raised appropriate doubts about enacting costly policies in reaction to the highly speculative dangers posed by global warming. Re-focusing the CIA should improve national security.

Trump nominated former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to run the Department of Energy (DOE). Ironically, during Perry’s failed bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2011, he said he wanted to close the DOE, a department he will now, subject to Senate consent, be running. Perry should provide a breath of fresh air in the energy department.

Under Obama, the DOE squandered literally billions of dollars funding one politically connected renewable energy venture after another, while touting each as being on the cusp of starting the next energy revolution. Dozens of companies backed by DOE grants, loans, and tax credits failed, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

As governor, Perry showed he knows how to manage a budget and increase economic prosperity. Perry told companies Texas was open for business. As a result, even during the depths of the recession Texas was a bright spot among state economies. Leading the way in Texas’s economic miracle was the energy sector. The fracking revolution virtually started in Texas. It was not so much actions Perry took to foster the energy boom in Texas; rather it was he recognized that keeping government out of the way, minimizing regulations and laws with the potential to hinder energy production, energy innovation and efficiencies would emerge and Texas would be blessed with more energy and jobs.

It is unlikely the DOE’s green energy boondoggles will continue under Perry. In addition, Perry will likely reverse or halt implementation of Obama DOE restrictions on coal, gas, and oil production on public lands and offshore. With Perry at the helm, ensuring the nation’s energy security, rather than fighting the hobgoblin of human-caused climate change, should once again become the prime goal of the department.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, acknowledges the reality of climate change – but argues the extent of human involvement in it is uncertain and the threats it poses have been overblown. Zinke has been a strong advocate for American energy independence and has fought the Obama administration’s moves to limit coal, gas, and oil production on federal lands. Zinke comes from a state and region of the country where the federal government owns much of the land and often imposes its will on state and local governments. He has seen how federal mismanagement of national forests, grasslands, and parks has led to environmental destruction, local economic decline, and wasted federal resources. As a congressman Zinke has pushed for greater local, state, and tribal control over federal lands and resource decisions, such as timber management and fossil fuel production. As Interior Secretary, Zinke will be in a perfect position to reform federal land and wildlife policies in ways benefitting both the environment and people.

In my opinion, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, is more of a mixed bag on energy and climate issues than the nominees I have discussed so far. As head of ExxonMobil, the largest privately owned energy company in the world and eighth largest company in the world by revenue, he has successfully steered the company through the volatile highs and lows of the oil market. Exxon does business in hundreds of countries around the world, most of whose energy supplies are controlled by their governments, so he has vast experience negotiating with foreign leaders to the benefit of his company. This experience makes him well positioned to successfully negotiate trade, military, and other geopolitical deals in the interest of the Trump administration and the American people.

What troubles me are positions Tillerson has taken as head of Exxon concerning climate change. Tillerson reversed the official position taken by ExxonMobil under his predecessor, Lee Raymond, that humans were having at most a minimal role in climate change, and Tillerson stopped funding climate realists whose research demonstrated debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change was alive and well. Instead, as reported by the Financial Times, Tillerson, speaking on behalf of Exxon at an Oil & Money conference in London in October, said, “we share the view that the risks of climate change are real and require serious action.” Consistent with that view, alone among Trump’s cabinet appointees, Tillerson has offered support for the Paris climate agreement, which forces greenhouse gas emission cuts on the United States while allowing the country’s largest economic competitor, China, to continue growing its emissions for 16 years at a minimum. On November 4, 2016, the day the Paris agreement became effective, ExxonMobil issued a statement calling it “an important step forward by world governments in addressing the serious risk of climate change.” In addition, Tillerson has supported replacing existing and pending climate regulations with a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax, if the United States pursues greenhouse gas reductions.

To be fair to Tillerson, his positions on climate change may simply reflect pragmatism on the issue at a time when his company was being sued for denying climate change and had to operate under Obama. Under Trump, Tillerson’s views may evolve ... and even if they don’t, Trump, not Tillerson, will have the final say on foreign policy matters.

Let’s move on to the Environmental Protection Agency. Saying, “[o]ver-regulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive,” before his election Trump specifically said he’d cut EPA’s budget dramatically and review all its regulations, eliminating many of them because they destroy jobs and hurt businesses. Trump could have picked no better ally to lead a war on EPA than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R).

Few people understand better than Pruitt the extent to which EPA has gone beyond what the law allows it to do. In his years as attorney general, Pruitt fervently and effectively fought to defend Oklahomans against federal overreach and to defend sound energy and environmental policy. Pruitt led a successful battle to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule. In addition, he was at the forefront of states’ efforts to gain stays of the Waters of the United States rule and the Clean Power Plan. With Pruitt running the agency he has fought so well, the Trump administration may finally rein in the runaway EPA, by withdrawing or rewriting existing and pending rules in ways that respect freedom, federalism, and economic progress, or by deciding not to defend those rules in court against challenges filed by states and industries.

Only time will tell how effective Trump will be in putting the needs of people ahead of the misanthropic desires of the powerful green lobby. His picks for key administration positions give us cause for hope.

-- H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Rep. Mike Pompeo; New York Times; E&E News; and Yahoo News


IN THIS ISSUE …

Warmer temperatures won’t cause peat methane releaseIn 2016, 500 papers and counting disputed “consensus” climate claims


WARMER TEMPERATURES WON’T CAUSE PEAT METHANE RELEASE

A new study published in Nature Communications indicates large amounts of greenhouse gases stored in peat – organic material found beneath marshes, swamps, and other soggy ground – will not be released into the atmosphere under warmer conditions as assumed in climate models. Anthropogenic global warming theory asserts human greenhouse gas emissions will cause a general warming of Earth, with this warming causing a number of secondary effects, including the release of methane and carbon dioxide from peat, assumed to enhance or exacerbate warming.

Earth’s soils contain approximately 1,550 billion tons of organic carbon, 500 billion tons of which are trapped beneath northern peatlands around the world – an amount equivalent to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Researchers found substantially warmer temperatures did not result in the release of greenhouse gases from peat as predicted by climate models.

Under four simulations in which peat was exposed to temperatures 2.25°C, 4.5°C, 6.25°C, and 9°C higher than at present – the latter two temperatures well above what computer models project future temperatures should reach under expected greenhouse gas levels – the researchers found below two feet in depth, the peat did not break down or emit additional methane or carbon dioxide.

“We do see some breakdown of peat on the surface, but not below 2 feet deep, where the bulk of the carbon is stored,” Watts Up With That reports R.M. Wilson, Florida State University research scientist and lead author of the December 13, 2016 study, as saying.

Joel Kostka, professor of microbiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, remarked, “If the release of greenhouse gases is not enhanced by temperature of the deep peat, that’s great news because that means that if all other things remain as they are, the deep peat carbon remains in the soil.”

SOURCES: Nature Communications and Watts Up with That


IN 2016, 500 PAPERS AND COUNTING DISPUTE “CONSENSUS” CLIMATE CLAIMS

Based solely on the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals in 2016 disputing one or more claims made by anthropogenic warming alarmists, it would appear there is still an active debate over the causes and consequences of climate change. The climate blog No Tricks Zone provides links to more than 500 peer-reviewed papers published in 2016 supporting “a skeptical position on anthropogenic climate change alarm.”

Among the papers tracked, 132 indicate solar activity plays a significant role in weather and climate activity, while 90 link other natural factors like ocean current shifts, cloud formation, and volcanic activity to climate changes. Eleven papers specifically indicate at worst humans have a weak influence on climate, while 17 papers indicate current climate changes likely reflect natural variability.

Concerning the potential effects of climate change, 34 papers show no effect of increasing carbon dioxide on sea level rise, 15 argue the recent warming has led to less extreme, more stable weather patterns, and 10 papers demonstrate there has been no increase in the intensity or frequency of hurricanes (3) or droughts (7).

Read ’em and weep, consensus climate alarmists!

SOURCE: No Tricks Zone

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org