This edition of “Politics & Protest” will focus on several ways Trump has attacked the EPA, and why vegans should care.
Dismantling Environmental Protections For Profit
These changes were made by the Trump Administration as part of fulfilling his campaign promises. Such as, his decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan and the implementation of the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. Also, his loosening of regulations on toxic air pollution and weakening fuel economy restrictions. Trump has castrated the EPA in the process. Each of these decisions constitutes an attack on the health and welfare of both human and non-human animals alike.
Trump has destroyed the strides taken by President Obama to transition America toward clean, sustainable energy production. The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was an environmental policy created by the Obama Administration.
In a nutshell, the Clean Power Plan implemented in 2015 required the energy sector to cut carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030 and was projected to save up to 4,500 lives per year (67,500 people by 2030), eliminate 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and avoid over 300,000 missed school and workdays. The plan would also reduce climate pollution by more than 400 million tons during that time. These were achievable goals under the CPP.
Fuel economy targets were also set by the Obama administration. These targets were meant help reduce carbon-dioxide, nitrous-oxide, and methane emissions, and also reduce the US dependence on oil. Cars made after 2012 would be held to a standard of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. However, the EPA under Trump’s instruction rolled back those requirements in October 2017, and in August 2018, changed the standards for cars to 34 miles per gallon instead of 54 miles per gallon. These decisions have significant and dire consequences for the rest of us.
The Clean Power Plan was so important because the generation of power in the US, and most countries, is the largest source of climate pollution. Coal is dirty shit. This type of pollution is responsible for nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the US alone. The impacts of climate change are all around us, seen in extreme weather, drought, wildfires, floods, and the spread of disease.
Benefits Of The Clean Power Plan
The Clean Power Plan would have created standards that could be enforced under the Clean Air Act. The plan set the standards but gave states the flexibility to create their own path to meeting those standards. The end goal was to transition from pollutants to clean energy generation by 2030 which would improve air quality as well as bolster the renewable resources industry. However, 27 republican states challenged the CPP in court and kept it from being implemented until Trump took office to dismantle it.
According to this post, co-written with Derek Murrow and the National Resources Defence Council analytical team, “Economists put a value of $20 billion on the Clean Power Plan’s climate benefits in 2030, and a value of $14 billion to $34 billion on the lives saved and other health benefits. While the Plan will involve compliance costs of around $8 billion in 2030, total benefits will exceed costs by $26 billion to $45 billion. Also, the shift to energy efficiency and cleaner power will save the average American family $85 on its electricity bills in 2030. These electric bill savings will total $155 billion over the decade leading up to 2030.”
Taking Care Of #1
However, those savings and benefits are not what Trump cares about because they are savings spread out among the masses, we all benefit. But, what Trump does care about is the $8 billion dollars his elitist-cronies are going to have to pay to comply with the plan and stop destroying the environment. They own coal-fired power plants, and coal is what must be phased out if we want to survive the climate crisis.
Trump’s intention in rolling back the CPP was to protect the interests of coal industry magnates, not the interests of the American people or the planet.
Trump replaced the CPP with the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE). The Affordable Clean Energy rule was issued in August 2018. ACE allows states to set standards of performance for individual power plants rather than the Federal Government. This essentially allows states to decide how much to cut emissions as opposed to required standards.
The obvious outcome is that in progressive states that aren’t major producers of fossil fuels, the restrictions will be stringent. Alternatively, in states that have been historical polluters through the production of fossil fuel, the regulations will be loosened. Trump’s EPA also relaxed maintenance and safegaurds to prevent pollution.
The CPP set standards to close antiquated coal-fired power plants over time, and replace them with advanced power-plants, and renewables such as solar, wind and natural gas. The Affordable Clean Energy rule removes those standards allowing antiquated and dilapidated coal-fired power plants to focus on becoming more efficient but staying open long-term.
The Affordable Clean Energy rule also removes requirements for coal-fired power plants to put in place pollution controls for other types of pollution. These plants produce more than just Carbon-dioxide. Pollutants such as soot and smog-forming particles such as sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-dioxide are also a huge factor.
The result, according to Trump’s own EPA, is that those pollutants will actually increase over time thanks to the ACE rules. The EPA estimates that by 2030 these pollutants alone may result in as many as 1470 additional American deaths per year. Most of these deaths will be younger children, the elderly, and the impoverished. This is a common theme among consequences of Trump-era policy changes.
Imaginary War On Coal
Among the reasons cited by the Trump administration for these changes are unfair burdens on the power sector. Also, citing a “war on coal” and a blatant denial that carbon dioxide abundance is a major driving factor in climate change.
As outlined in the previous Politics & Protest post from The Misunderstood Mammal, the abundance of carbon dioxide emissions in our atmosphere is extremely dangerous for all of the Earth’s inhabitants, the carbon cycle must find a balance.
As stated in Vegans and the Paris Climate Agreement, “Carbon moves between carbon reservoirs as it is used, this is called the carbon cycle, and it was balanced for millions of years before the Industrial Revolution. Humans have caused a great imbalance in the carbon reservoirs, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural pollution.
This releases more carbon into the atmosphere than the ecosystem can manage. This results in an imbalanced cycle.” It is insane at this point to question the climate crisis and carbon-dioxide is undeniably the driving factor, so that puts the focus on coal as Trump’s primary reason for doing this.
Air Pollution For Everyone
These decisions ultimately result in more Air Pollution which not only affects the carbon cycle but other aspects of our environment as well. Common pollutants found in America are soot, smoke, mold, pollen, methane, and carbon dioxide, as well as sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-dioxide.
Unfortunately, the Trump-led EPA has loosened regulations that force companies to innovate ways to decrease their emissions and keep them down. Accordingly, air quality is already declining according to the EPA. The agency recorded 15 percent more days with unhealthy air in the US in 2018 and 2017 compared to the average from 2013 to 2016.
Why should vegans care?
Everyone should care because air pollutants kill people and animals. As many as 4.2 million people died in 2016 due to air pollution. Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year. Pollutants in the air are linked to cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and stroke, not to mention asthma.
Over 40 percent of Americans are at risk of disease and death because of air pollution, most of which are the elderly and the very young. A disproportionate number come from low-income and minority families as well. Trump seems to be attacking these people indirectly with every policy change, could it be strategic?
Animals, plants, and insects are affected by air pollution in significant ways. Acid rain, ocean acidification, and smog harm animals. The ecosystem is physically changed by air pollution which changes even the way plants grow. Trump’s attack on the environment is destroying natural life for animals. Air pollution has even been shown to increase the risk of tumors in dogs and cats, and soot and smog have been linked to cardiac arrest in dogs.
Even plants and insects feel the strain
According to this article from the University of Sheffield, Air pollutants find their way into plants. The herbivorous insects which eat the plants are affected. They have shorter life spans and are less active and less nutritious for the animals which rely on them as a food source. This results in dwindling food sources for birds and other wildlife, while also affecting pollination and the continued growth of many plant species.
Increased Ozone particles impair the immune system in humans and amphibians alike. Birds are greatly impacted by the pollution from coal-fired power plants. The sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-dioxide damages the bird’s respiratory systems. Air pollution reduces population density, species diversity, and species richness in bird communities.
Ocean acidification causes the deaths of some fish. Other fish who survive the PH imbalance lose their food source because they preyed upon the dwindling population of other fish. This creates further imbalance in the natural life-cycle for sea life. This imbalance creates a chain reaction that results in an abundance of mercury within fish, which are then eaten by predatory birds and people who then suffer. Nature requires a balance, all of these small political indiscretions lead to a major upset in the natural order.
As long as Trump is in charge of the White House and the EPA is spearheaded by Trump’s selection of the day Americans are in danger. There is no effective defense against this onslaught of terror reigning down upon this planet and the American people if he is not removed from office. The Trump administration has cut the budget for the EPA by 31%. He has diminished prosecuting power of the EPA resulting in negotiating with companies instead of prosecution on many violations that would have been prosecuted under the Obama administration.
Thanks to cutting half of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development the agency’s scientific progress has been decimated. Not to mention the lack of grant funding for local initiatives. And, enforcement of environmental infractions and crimes received a 24 percent cut preventing prosecution except in major infractions. This is the equivalent of cutting the NYPD budget, reducing their police force by half and firing most of the prosecutors.
Campaign Promises and Apocalyptic Dreams
Ultimately, the only thing Trump has accomplished for the environment is to create more pollution, place more lives at risk, and harm the planet in an attempt to keep his campaign promise to save coal. However, coal isn’t failing because of the Obama Clean Power Act.
Coal is failing because it is an unsustainable resource. Coal does produce cheaper energy currently than solar and wind power. But this cheap energy comes at a cost to our health and environment. The real reason coal is failing is due to fracking. Natural gas is a cleaner, more efficient source of power and is overtaking coal in the free market.
Trump is fighting a losing battle but the people and animals residing on the battlefield of America’s energy war are the collateral damage. No matter the outcome of the impeachment, the power to stop Trump in his attack on America lies in the hands of each voting-age American. Vote him out to save the planet, to save the animals, and to save yourselves.