Ep. 10: Three Takeaways from Trump’s First 60 Days
Trump’s first months in office have left us with a lot to talk about. But in many ways, we still have more questions than answers. On environmental policy, though, some themes are emerging that will likely shape a lot of what’s to come. On this week’s episode of the podcast, we dig into three key storylines to watch with Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones and The Atlantic’s Rob Meyer.
Trump’s pledge to bring back coal is going to be hard to deliver on. Why? Because, according to Rob Meyer, the Obama-era regulations Trump wants to repeal aren’t even what’s really killing the industry. “The policies Trump wants to repeal, indeed, were not the best thing for the coal business. But these are, like, incidental restrictions on the industry. The reason coal is struggling is the rise of fracking, the relative cheapness of natural gas, and how easily you can turn a coal-fired power plant into a natural gas plant. So when we talk about what Trump is going to do to help coal miners — that he can do with executive actions — there’s relatively little.” Unless he wants to ban fracking. But it’s hard to see that happening.
Things are getting weird at EPA — and will get weirder. Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is clearly not a fan of his agency. (He has, after all, sued EPA numerous times.) So you’d think that he'd be down with the deep cuts to EPA that Trump has packed into his budget. But surprisingly, Pruitt’s been showing signs lately that he thinks Trump's cuts go too far. So what gives? “One theory I’ve heard floated is that the Trump administration may be happy to just punch the EPA in the face for four to eight years by cutting its funding,” The Atlantic’s Rob Meyer says. “But Scott Pruitt, who knows American environmental law really well and seems hostile to the entire legal mission of the agency, wants to write and cement these long-term Draconian rules that limit what the agency can do. And that entire process is really expensive and takes a lot of staff.” In other words, he still needs an EPA that's full-throated enough to sow the seeds of its own demise. It’s an interesting theory. Equally puzzling — what’s become of the EPA’s Twitter feed.
Climate change denial may not be a viable policy. When Scott Pruitt said on CNBC last week that he didn’t think carbon dioxide was the major cause of climate change, he got hammered in the mainstream media. Even Today show weatherman Al Roker got in on it. And Mother Jones' Rebecca Leber says this willingness to directly call out climate change deniers represents a major shift in the media’s approach to the issue. “I think, on climate, having a sharp eye for the different shades of climate change denial is more relevant than ever. This was true before. But you didn’t see people like Scott Pruitt with the megaphones they now have. So I think there’s just a lot more scrutiny over these statements — and not accepting vague statements as appropriate substitutes for fact.”
Ready for more? Check out our full conservation with Rebecca Leber and Rob Meyer on this week’s episode. And sound off with what you’re taking away from Trump’s first couple months on our Facebook page.