On the Horizon

Posted April 26, 2018

Written by Jon Conway, Ph.D., Greenpower Research Director

I opened my news feed recently to discover the Trump administration’s latest assault on the environment — the Environmental Pollution Protection Agency’s rollback of Obama-era vehicle fuel economy and efficiency goals. This move, designed to slow our nation’s transition away from fossil fuels, has the potential to undermine fuel standards that are key for meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals. Not only that, America’s leading role in setting environmental standards may result in other countries weakening their own rules — a slippery slope for a species quickly running out of wiggle room for climate action.

Of course, there is no real evidence to support EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision, and the majority of Americans are opposed to rolling back environmental standards. Just as with all of this administration’s other schemes, this is nothing more than a barely-concealed handout to Trump & Friends, Co.™ that will, in all likelihood, be slapped down by California and other states before it has a chance to cause any real damage.

"Today’s decision changes nothing in California and the 12 other states with clean car rules that reduce emissions and improve gas mileage—those rules remain in place. California will not weaken its nationally accepted clean car standards, and automakers will continue to meet those higher standards, bringing better gas mileage and less pollution for everyone." Mary D. Nichols, California Air Resources Board Chair

This kind of flagrant violation of the public trust, which would be major news at any other time in the EPA’s history, is barely noteworthy among the current administration’s many attacks on the environment and the things that live there (us). Is that good or bad?

There are real people actually being harmed by the Trump administration. But there would be many, many more without the active and constant resistance we’ve seen from every level of society. Individuals, businesses, communities, cities, counties, states, countries, religions… we’ve all come together to create a better world than the one they are selling. There was a time shortly after Trump was elected when things may have seemed hopeless, but now we have a proven track record of taking up (metaphorical) arms against the worst of his cabal’s slings and arrows — and winning.

A perusal of recent headlines reveals that nearly all of the oiligarchy’s offensives against the environment have been or will likely be countered. From clean water to child poisoning advocates to offshore drilling, the poor billionaires are finding out the hard way that true power doesn’t come from ill-gotten money. It comes from the people!

These next few years are critically important in determining the world we, and our children and grandchildren, will be living in for the next few hundred; we are rediscovering the power of true democratic representation just in the nick of time. It would be difficult to argue that this administration is acting with the best interests of most people in mind. Rather, it continually forwards an agenda that makes resistance essentially inevitable. People are being galvanized into action as they begin to understand that the decisions being made federally right now will affect the entire planet for generations to come.

As a result, exciting things are happening all across the country. In California, residents’ frustration with their electric utilities’ high prices, unreliable service, and lukewarm attitude toward environmental action is leading to a complete power shift in who controls the state’s energy. Not only that, but one of these Community Choice Energy programs is poised to bring floating offshore wind energy to the West Coast for the first time — a move that could revolutionize the energy landscape west of the Rocky Mountains.

There are big things happening in our court system as well. The #ExxonKnew case is blowing through bogus legal maneuvers by the oil giant, much like the Children’s Climate Lawsuit is now heading to trial after overcoming a “Hail Mary” block by the Trump administration’s lawyers. To me, however, by far the most exciting legal development happening right now is the use of the necessity defense by environmental activists.

While this type of defense has been mostly unsuccessful in the past, recent rulings show that the law is inching closer to finally siding with the people of this country instead the corporations. One of the premier Dakota Access pipeline water protector cases, which intends to use the necessity defense, was just handed a major victory that could set groundbreaking — and if you are a fossil fuel company, frightening — legal precedents.

All these lines of evidence point to one conclusion: we can still save ourselves, but we have to stay together. So remember to celebrate the victories, if for no other reason than to mark that they happened. A thriving, sustainable future for the next seven generations is achievable — but we have to stay vigilant, stay together, and stay active. There is hope on the horizon!

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