Fossil Fuel Series: Part 2

Standing Rock vs. President Trump

As someone who is fairly new to how politics work and the jargon, etc. as I spent my teen years actively avoiding what I saw as corrupt nonsense better to be ignored than bought into, I have a question for our new president: 

Do you truly believe that climate change doesn’t exist, that we won’t have devastating consequences if we use the $50 trillion of fossil fuels at our disposal in America alone, or is it a matter of easy money and convenience, the long term consequences be damned for short term profits? 

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that humans are the sole cause of climate change; that would be arrogant of us. However, as natural as the process of climate change is, what is not natural is the rate at which this change is accelerating. We clear cut the trees which help keep our carbon output in balance, we burn fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. Now, I may be one who is hopelessly wishful for simpler times when we loved our planet and repaid it for the things it provided for us, but I also believe that we can move forward and live successfully and comfortably with the same ideal in our hearts and intentions.

Watching President Trump’s inauguration speech, I had a spark of hope in my heart that the next four years wouldn’t be as bad as we all feared. And it’s very possible that he will do an amazing job, provide the change our country desperately needs, however, I don’t agree with his methods on a few things so far: not just his new energy plans, but building a wall to separate Mexico from the United States of America, a country built by immigrants. We’re not China; we don’t need a Great Wall to protect us from aggressive nomadic groups intent on sacking our towns for riches, though their wall provided more of a psychological peace of mind than actually being effective in keeping the barbarians out, according to the History Channel. The estimated cost of this wall would be $14 billion while also cutting through homes, mountains, and using resources we have no need to use.

Back to the point of Trump’s America First Energy Plan, released just days after his inauguration, there are several thoughts that came to mind as I read it:

  1. Well, this could be good or bad.
  2. How are the Climate Action Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule “harmful and unnecessary policies”? Surely that doesn’t mean what I think it means, right?
  3. “Embrace the shale oil and gas revolution”? That’s your master plan?
  4. Use resources on “those federal lands that the American people own”? What about the Native reservations, like Standing Rock? What say do they have? I’m pretty sure they have made their feelings quite clear.
  5. The revival of America’s coal industry will do nothing but destroy mountains and pollute the air and lead to the degradation of health in communities surrounding those coal mines. In fact, there’s a great documentary following this very line of thinking, available on YouTube called “The Last Mountain”.
  6. “Energy independence from the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) cartel.” Alright, that’s a plus.
  7. “President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting out air and water.” I can get behind that, but it’s still not enough.

While former President Obama was no saint, he made mistakes, but he was making an effort to move us away from relying solely on fossil fuels. Like Trump, Obama noted in his Climate Action Plan that we must cut foreign oil out of the equation, make clean coal technology and make our fossil fuel usage more efficient. In addition to these considerations, which would help us during our transition, Obama was also trying to move us towards renewable resources like solar, wind, and geothermal energy. It reads to me that Trump wants to move backwards and cut those sources out of the running and remain focused on fossil fuels, which leads me to ask:

If the Obama Administration invested x-number of dollars into clean and renewable energy sources and technology and the Trump Administration shuts down the progress made with the Climate Action Plan as a blueprint, is that money now wasted?

Back in December, the Dakota Access Pipeline permit was denied after months of peaceful protestors taking a stand at Standing Rock. For months, people flocked to support the Sioux Tribe in the protection of their sacred sites and land and water. These protestors were attacked by dogs, pepper spray, freezing water and much more for daring to stand up against a project that violates their rights. This extends beyond an environmental issue. screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-14-40-pmThis lack of respect spans centuries, all the way back to the British colonization of the New World. We have taken their land, relocated Native tribes, taken their land again, moved them, massacred them; the list is long and horrendous. What right have we ever had to make a choice for them that defies their very beliefs and traditions?

And now, two days after Trump began his presidency, he signed an executive order to move forward with the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. Just the other day in an interview, Trump mentions that he has “not had one phone call” to the White House complaining about the two pipelines he is pushing forward. This is my response:

You are not paying attention. You are not listening. Open your eyes and you will see.

If Malia Obama, eldest daughter of former President Obama, standing and marching in protest to your actions isn’t clear enough, Mr. Trump, then maybe the dozens of military veterans returning to stand between the peaceful protestors at Standing Rock and the militarized security forces will be. In December there were approximately 1,000 veterans there in support. And to be clear, those are United States of America veterans, Mr. President.

Aside from over-ruling Obama’s decision, I question the logic of the construction of the pipeline. The pipeline is supposed to be constructed over the Missouri River. Pipelines aren’t bridges. If a bridge collapses, it will leave a mess of cement and metal in its wake, a mere headache in comparison to the catastrophe a burst pipeline would present. The oil would pollute the waterways and corrupt the surrounding environment. With pipelines, though, it is never a matter of if it will burst, but when. Not only that, but while I appreciate the idea of creating jobs for Americans by having us mold the metal into pipes and construct the pipeline, etc. it is only a short-term solution. Once the pipeline is constructed, there won’t be a need for 32,000 workers. By contrast, there would always be a need for renewable resources engineers and workers. There will need to be people innovating in energy gathering, usage, building, and more. (CORRECTION: The pipeline is to be built under Lake Oahe, though if it should burst, I remain firm in the belief that it will have lingering damaging consequences.)

My final plea is for you to look past your ego and profits, Mr. President, to look past the next four years, beyond your own presidency to the fate of our country, our world, and our environment. If there is a fight against injustice to be fought, you can count on people making the hard choice and being there.

*Feature image taken by Stephanie Keith/Reuters and can be found here.

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