January 17th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Andrew Wheeler, former coal industry lobbyist, will soon be the official head of the EPA, the agency charged with, well, doing what its name says — protecting the environment. But in the Alice in Wonderland world of the Trump maladminmistration, where down is up and Trump storms around screaming “Off with their heads!” at anyone who dares oppose him, Wheeler is busily painting the roses red because, you know, the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to energy.
Wheeler told the US Senate on Wednesday that climate change may not be a “hoax,” as Trump has proclaimed but he would not call it “the greatest crisis” facing the nation and the world at the moment, according to The Guardian. In his mind, the greatest crisis is government regulations that prevent fossil fuel interests from doing anything and everything they damn well please to maximize profits.
Climate change is not something his EPA will be particularly concerned with. “I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally,” he told the senators. In the meantime, there is money to be made polluting the skies and waterways of America and he is on a mission to make sure the government does not interfere with that process.
He is so busy crafting ways to roll back vehicle emission standards, mercury emission standards, and restrictions on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, he hasn’t had time to read the National Climate Assessment that came out last November. Stop and think about that for a moment. The head of the EPA can’t be bothered to read what the nation’s top climate scientists have to say about the dangers posed by a warming planet. In response to a question posed by Senator Cory Booker, he is “still examining” that report and dismissed it as a “worst case scenario.”
A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health is out this week and it suggests the plans proposed by Wheeler will be worse for the environment than the status quo. It warns carbon emissions will be 8.7% higher by 2030 under the new EPA policy in 18 states and Washington, DC than they would be if current policies remained in place. In particular, Wheeler’s proposal will allow coal-fired generating plants to remain in operation a decade or more longer, spewing carbon dioxide into the air and turbocharging climate destruction.
“This new plan essentially gives out a free pass for carbon pollution,” Kathleen Lambert, an expert in climate change and public health at Harvard who coauthored the research, tells The Guardian. “It’s a recipe for increased carbon emissions. It will make it even harder for the US to meet its emissions targets under the Paris accord and sets us in exactly the opposite direction we need to go in.”
None of that fazes the Republicans in the Senate who are expected to give Wheeler the thumbs up for the top job at EPA. Not one of them is expected to vote against him, which is not surprising considering that the vast majority of them owe their seats to generous
bribes campaign donations from fossil fuel companies. We can’t expect them to actually represent the best interests of their constituents by biting the hand that feeds them, now can we?
One braying jackass in particular, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, defended Wheeler’s background, saying no one would prevent a banker from running the Federal Reserve or a doctor from leading the health department. To someone with diminished brain capacity like Cramer, being a coal industry lobbyist equates to being a banker or a doctor? One wonders whether Cramer would submit to brain surgery by a former pharmaceutical salesman.
The wonder is that these people get elected in the first place, thanks in large measure to Chief Justice John Roberts and his cabal of ultra right wing ideologues who think corporations should be free to spend as much money as they want to buy compliant politicians, the best interests of the people be damned.
At this critical juncture, the work of Andrew Wheeler could well tip the world over into a climate catastrophe. The fact that his nomination will sail through the Senate is proof that America’s leaders have no intention of treating an overheating planet seriously, dooming us all. Trump has praised Wheeler for doing an outstanding job, a remark that will surely go down in history alongside other famous presidential pronouncements like “You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie.”
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