The Trump administration picked the hottest month to unleash the coal and oil industries — including going after energy conservation. But a countermovement is bubbling up, even from red parts of the state and nation.
What seems to most trigger the lizard brain of our president is any chance to mock the liberals. So it should be no surprise, I suppose, that he picked August of all months to roll out his “let’s fry the planet” policies.
Amid record heat around the world, we’ve seen proposals to roll back fuel-efficiency standards, unshackle air-fouling coal plants and — the Trumpiest one of them all — to declare that even conserving oil is now passé.
“Gas guzzling is okay again, says Trump administration.” No, that headline was not in The Onion, but The Detroit News, home to the U.S. auto industry.
Check out the president’s unvarnished energy views, as delivered at a fundraiser last week:
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“(Coal) is a tremendous form of energy in the sense that in a military way — think of it — coal is indestructible,” he said.
“You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the wind wheels, [mimics windmill noise, mimes shooting gun] Bing! That’s the end of that one. If the birds don’t kill it first. The birds could kill it first. They kill so many birds. You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field, the birds.
“… And you know, don’t worry about wind, when the wind doesn’t blow, I said, ‘What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?’ Well, then we have a problem. OK good. They were putting him in areas where they didn’t have much wind, too. And it’s a subsidy — you need subsidy for windmills. You need subsidy. Who wants to have energy where you need subsidy? So, uh, the coal is doing great.”
Got that? Coal is like Trump — strong! Windmills are like liberals — weak!
Never mind that fossil fuels are subsidized, too, and also finite (unlike the wind, which will blow forever). But it’s beyond alarming that here we sit, with the West on fire again and temperatures rising, and this is the juvenile state of the energy debate issuing down from the top.
So I was heartened to see there are some counter-stirrings coming up from the bottom — including in redder parts of the state and nation.
On Monday, right after that “gas guzzling is great again” story hit, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance calling for that city of 215,000 to be powered by 100 percent clean, renewable energy by the year 2030.
Right now 45 percent of Spokane’s electricity comes from natural gas and coal, so replacing that in 12 years is an ambitious goal. But even the utility, Avista, came to support the idea, even though it has doubts about how to pull it off, said Brian Henning, a Gonzaga University professor who helped craft the new policy.
“What’s happening in cities and counties around the nation is a complete disconnect from the fossil-fuel approach being talked about at the national level,” Henning said.
While Spokane’s council is more liberal than the rest of Eastern Washington, Henning said solar and wind gets a lot of support there from conservatives who “like the idea that we can generate our own energy, and be self-reliant.”
Whatcom County in northwest Washington is red enough to be represented at the state legislative level solely by Republicans (including climate-change doubter Sen. Doug Ericksen). But it too voted recently to push toward 100 percent renewable energy.
The top five states most dependent on wind energy are all red states. Kansas, for instance, gets 36 percent of its total electricity from the windmills Trump is going around mocking.
“There’s an energy transformation taking place in this country, no matter how backward they get it at the federal level,” says Bruce Speight, of the local group Environment Washington.
I bring all this up because of Trump demagogues everything, sowing division even where it doesn’t exist. But a movement from below — one bubbling in both red areas and blue — isn’t one he’s likely to have the attention span to stop.
As for the part about gas guzzling being added to the list of things that will Make America Great Again, c’mon, conservatives. The word “conserve” is right there in your name.