|When president Donald Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement — I couldn’t have imagined the wild ride I was in for, because over the four years –Trump agencies gutted more than 100 environmental protections for air and water pollution, biodiversity and climate change, and they did so with dramatic flair.|
|Seeing that the Secretary of the Interior rode into his office in downtown Washington DC the very first day on a cowboy outfit atop a Western horse must have been a sign… |
Yet when the head of the Environmental Protection Agency started “gifting” leasing licenses to the oilers, the gas guzzlers and the frackers — while spending exorbitant amounts of money on office curtains, sound-proof telephone booths and private plane rides to Hawaii and other holiday spots — I felt that we were living in another planet.
By the end of Trump’s chaotic presidency — I expected that the incoming Biden administration would feel like a much-needed reprieve, because Biden vowed to reinstate the environmental regulations that president Trump had gutted, and thus make the climate crisis a top priority.
I was skeptical of what he could achieve, but I tried to muster some hope. Now, a year into Biden’s presidency, it’s clear that what little optimism I had was misguided.
Biden’s climate legacy is starting to take shape, and it doesn’t look good.
So far, his administration has been retrograde on climate change mitigation policy as seen by their actions when in November, Biden offered up 80m acres of water to oil drillers. For years, the US government has regularly leased portions of the Gulf of Mexico for offshore exploration and drilling. But environmental and public health advocates had hoped that the president who campaigned on climate action would at least scale back the practice. Last month, a judge struck down the auction – ruling that the administration didn’t properly disclose and consider how the leases would contribute to the climate crisis. That court decision is one of the biggest climate victories of Biden’s administration. And it came in spite of the administration’s efforts – not because of them. Now more than 300 groups have signed on to an emergency petition to halt all new drilling in the Gulf.
Biden has approved nearly 900 more permits to drill on public land in 2021 than Trump did in 2017, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s despite his campaign pledges to end new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. In November, Biden also urged drillers to produce more oil, in an effort to lower gasoline prices.
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to cut US climate emissions in half by 2030, including by investing significantly in renewable power. But his legislative package to do so – Build Back Better – has stalled. Two Democrats – Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – may be the main culprits for this failure, but convincing them to get on board with his agenda was always going to be one of Biden’s biggest challenges, and he hasn’t managed to do it.
Under Biden, even minor regulations that mandate more energy efficient furnaces, freezers, and lightbulbs are stuck in regulatory limbo. And he could face a significant blow this month if the conservative-tilted supreme court decides the federal government can’t write rules to curb climate pollution from power plants.
Biden hasn’t followed through on the basics. And he certainly hasn’t brought the kind of sweeping and aggressive action the world’s scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic global heating.
As the US gears up for midterm elections in November, it remains to be seen whether Biden will go any harder on environmental efforts.
This isn’t the first massive failure of climate efforts at the federal level, and it won’t be the last. The lesson: policymakers and industries won’t do the right thing unless they are forced, by our decisions with our ballots and our wallets.
The biggest failure is the blind trust to the Oil & Gas industry that they will do the right thing….