On Wednesday, CNN hosted a multi-hour town hall with leading Democratic presidential candidates about how they would deal with the climate crisis, which many people feel is an existential threat to humankind.
But not everyone.
On Thursday, the Trump administration moved to roll back long-planned new standards for light bulbs, which is, if not the most consequential move, at least a signal that it still isn’t interested in doing anything about electrical efficiency.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration has opened an antitrust investigation into four auto companies – Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen – that agreed with the state of California to raise their fuel economy standards in coming years. As the eighth-largest economy in the world, there’s a good chance that California’s standards could de facto become the nation’s. The inquiry comes after Trump made a big show in July of undoing a similar and more stringent agreement the Obama administration had made with auto companies.
You see where this is going. The Trump administration is actively looking for new ways to show its disdain for the issue of climate change.
It’s not denial of climate change, though Trump has done that, calling it a hoax and a concept created by the Chinese. It’s not mockery of climate change, which he does whenever there is cold weather. It’s not a suggestion that clean energy causes cancer. It’s not trolling climate change activists and environmentalists, as his campaign is doing by peddling ocean-polluting plastic straws as a fundraiser.
It’s not whitewashing the issue, as his administration has done by removing mention of the term “climate change” wherever possible.
The investigation isn’t even defensible as a push to solidify US standing as the top producer of oil and natural gas, an economic goal the Trump administration has pursued with its efforts to make it easier to build oil pipelines and its troubled effort to open US shores and public lands to more oil exploration.
Going after private companies for willingly raising their fuel economy standards in conjunction with California, which has this legal power under the Clean Air Act, is nothing short of openly hostile to the idea that any government anywhere should do anything at all to combat something that is undeniably a crisis. The Trump administration has also separately fought California’s ability to proceed under the Clean Air Act.
“The Trump administration is hellbent on repealing the clean car standards, which was the most significant US governmental action program to date to avert climate change and would save consumers tens of billions if left intact,” said Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen.
He added, “The antitrust laws were never intended to promote competition in more pollution.”
The Wall Street Journal, in its report, said a person familiar with the investigation told them the Justice Department was operating on its own and without “direction or coordination with the White House.” It also reported that Justice officials are concerned that the four companies essentially agreed not to compete.
That may be. But we know that at least in his own mind Trump equates the light bulb move with the new Justice Department move because he put them together himself, speaking to reporters Wednesday in the Oval Office.