Jobs vs. environment? Trump’s EPA chief gets it backward
The Environmental Protection Agency-hating chief of the EPA was on Fox & Friends Thursday morning spouting what has become his standard line of nonsense about President Obama’s stance on jobs and the environment.
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the EPA more than a dozen times, said on Fox what he’s been saying frequently:
“Two weeks ago we were at the EPA, joined by 40 or so coal miners from Pennsylvania. They were emotional about it because the war on coal ended; the war on fossil fuels ended,” Pruitt said.
“And this false choice between jobs and growth and the environment, we have rejected that,” he added.
Pruitt is right about one thing. The idea that we must pick between protecting the environment and having good jobs is, most definitely, a “false choice.”
But it wasn’t the Obama administration that put forth that choice. It’s the braying bullshitters of the Republican Party and a few Democratic enablers who have been promoting that theme. After all, job losses are one of the chief public justifications the Trump regime has given for rolling back environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan.
The false choice Pruitt complains about began decades before becoming president even occurred to Barack Obama. Rightists back in the 1980s claimed that environmental advocates were intent on making over our energy system into one in which we all “freeze to death in the dark.” Then and now, their propaganda implicitly or explicitly describes the economy and the environment as separate entities. But they aren’t. They are inextricably intertwined.
What Pruitt failed to mention to his friends at Fox is that the ever-expanding industries behind the generation of electricity by wind and sun now employ four times as many people in the United States as the coal industry does. Last year, solar jobs increased by 25 percent over 2015, with 260,000 such jobs now tallied. Meanwhile, by the end of 2016, there were 88,000 Americans working in wind jobs. In both cases, that’s more than three times as many people who were employed in those fields in 2010. Some analysts say these numbers could triple by 2030.
As with any large-scale transition, it’s impossible to predict all the impacts more than a few years in advance. But one thing is clear, as the nation and the planet undergo the transformation of our energy system from one based on fossil fuels and nukes to one based on renewables, whole other industries, such as transportation, are going to be transformed or developed from scratch. This will provide even more jobs. And those jobs will not include the malign side-effects for workers and everybody else caused by the coal industry that once provided the majority of our electricity. Then, of course, there will also be the ameliorative benefits from ceasing to add still more carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.
Pruitt is right. We can have good jobs and a good environment. But there’s no evidence in the policies and palaver that he and other members of the Trump regime have announced that any of them truly understand this beyond its efficacy as a talking point. And nothing indicating that anything they do in this regard will give us either good jobs or a good environment. Rather quite a bit the opposite.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos)