Environmental and energy interests

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

For those of us with environmental and renewable energy interests the list of federal agency heads being recommended by Trump under the promise of making America great again is alarming to say the least. The pending appointments appear bent on ignoring existing scientific data regarding the ever accelerating destruction of the ecology of the United States and the planet as a whole.

Based on Trump’s campaign promises, Michael Klare believes it easy to conclude that his energy policies are a wish list drawn up by major fossil fuel companies. He has promised to obliterate any rule or regulation standing in the way of exploiting them. Since many of the efforts to limit carbon releases came from presidential directives or EPA rules, President Trump could simply nullify them by issuing new executive orders within his first 100 days in office.

In response to the Trump initiatives some 800 U.S. scientists and energy experts have sent a letter urging him to acknowledge reality and reconsider his plans. Former US military leaders have made their views known by explaining how climate change is a national security risk and could limit our military readiness.

The reality that scientists want Trump to accept is that scientific evidence establishes that climate change is predominately driven by human-caused carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and is happening at a faster rate than anticipated. Even Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobil, whose firm had funded climate denial efforts for years, now acknowledges that climate change is real and dangerous and has called for a carbon tax to address the problem.

Some federal climate scientists now fear the loss of their jobs and the possibility that essential public databases and environmental inventories could disappear under new federal leadership. In response they are downloading their databases onto independent servers to preserve our knowledge of the environment in an effort know as “guerrilla archiving.”

Another response was the surprisingly quick approval of the Paris Agreement brought into force on November 4, just prior to Trump’s election. It requires all 195 participating countries to hold the global average temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial level.

While the models used to project climate change are often criticized as unrealistic, the projection of future supplies of oil and gas by U.S Energy Information Administration are also called into question. EIA projections are used by industry and federal officials as a basis for energy policies and investment decisions.

Two reports, 2016 Tight Oil Reality Check and 2016 Shale Gas Reality Check by J. David Hughes, assess the EIA’s most recent projections for domestic tight oil and shale gas production. He indicates that production projections are far too optimistic and failure to meet them could damage the economy. Projections for natural gas are leading to major investments in electrical generation facilities which could be uneconomical if supplies do not meet expectations and prices spike.

Considering the complexity of the world in which we live, we are dependent on the opinions of experts to guide our decision making. It was assumed that views of experts would be based on facts and would lead to a consensus on the best course of action. However, as noted by Kurt Cobb, debating the issues no longer leads to consensus and is often used to annihilate opposing views as appears to be happening at the federal level.

As the situation unfolds, reactions to federal initiatives will arise but the opportunities to push for sustainable actions remain essential and promising on the personal, local and state levels.

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