This week, Donald Trump’s transition team has announced it will nominate ExxonMobil chief executive Rex W. Tillerson to be his Secretary of State, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry — a fossil fuel proponent and a climate change denier — as his Secretary of Energy to round out an administration seemingly full of climate change denial and deep fossil fuel connections.
Bucking science and public health, Donald Trump’s White House is set to be all but filled with global warming deniers and fossil fuel cronies, undermining any hope left that the President-Elect’s incoming administration might about-face and commit to supporting renewable energy and effective climate change policies.
Over the last few weeks, the concerns of many have only continued to increase with each new nomination Donald Trump’s transition team has made for his would-be cabinet. What started out as something of a mystery — “despite his rhetoric, just what would Donald Trump do with regards to fossil fuels, clean energy, and the environment?” — has been made clearer and clearer. In a Transition update published late in November, Donald Trump confirmed his intention to “cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy,” opening up the fossil fuel industry — specifically “shale energy and clean coal” — to more drilling in places and ways that have been off limits. This came at the same time as the transition team appointed global warming denier Myron Ebell to head up the EPA transition — one of several additions to his transition team either with links to the fossil fuel industry or a history of climate change denial.
Maybe most concerning was the appointment of Chris Shank, the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), as the one to head NASA’s transition team. Donald Trump and his advisers have already expressed concern that NASA is focusing on anything other than space exploration, explaining that NASA should not be observing the Earth, as there are already agencies that do that. Chris Shank’s appointment as NASA transition leader heightens that concern, as someone who has not only questioned the fundamentals of climate science, but who was in place as a former NASA senior official during the Bush era when scientists said they were being censored. (For more, read here.)
Fast-forward to the last fortnight, and President-Elect Trump’s nominations to cabinet positions have begun rolling in, with names that only confirm his intention to roll back climate and energy regulations. Oklahoma attorney general and “puppet of the fossil fuel industry” Scott Pruitt, who has led the charge against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA, was nominated to be the head of the EPA.
Things have only gone from bad to worse, however, with two new appointments announced in the last few days.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump announced Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of multinational oil and gas company ExxonMobil, to be his Secretary of State. This raises several concerns, not the least of which is the appointment of someone with known and cosy ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Further, appointing a fossil fuel proponent of the stature of Tillerson to such an important role re-normalises fossil fuels, and places a fossil fuel lobbyist at the highest levels of office.
“This sets a very alarming path for the new administration, and therefore the rest of us,” said Corinna Gilfillan, Head of Global Witness’ US office. “On Rex Tillerson’s watch, Exxon is accused of misleading the public about what it knew of the threat from climate change, for which it’s now under investigation by the New York Attorney General. At the same time it has systematically struck backroom deals with tyrannical regimes and been at the forefront of Big Oil’s efforts to gut laws that would reduce corruption in the oil, gas and mining sector. For all these reasons, he shouldn’t become our top diplomat or global representative on climate.”
The news of Tillerson’s appointment was followed quickly by the appointment of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy and head of the Department of Energy. Mr Perry is most famously known, of course, for his bumbled attempt in a 2011 Republican debate to explain that the Department of Energy would be one of the agencies he wanted to eliminate — except that he forgot the name of the department he wanted to eliminate.
Putting aside the concerns of placing Mr Perry in charge of a department he previously wanted to eliminate — a department, mind you, that is solely responsible for the development and security of America’s nuclear weapon arsenal — … wait, let’s not put that aside? Not only has Mr Perry in the past expressed a desire to do away with the Department of Energy, but he has now also climbed in bed with a man he once called a “barking carnival act” and a “cancer on conservatism.”
Mr Perry also has a long history of flip-flopping on energy and climate issues. Though he was Governor of Texas as it grew from 116 megawatts (MW) of wind power to 18 gigawatts (GW) of wind power, he has also supported the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline — he serves on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Pipeline — called climate change a “contrived phony mess,” and called efforts to tackle climate change nothing more than “hysteria.”
“Another day, another climate change denier,” said May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director. “Perry completes a cabinet of fossil fuel retrogrades, just when our country needs to be embracing a clean energy future. Perry’s tepid support for renewable energy targets doesn’t excuse his backing of climate disasters like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline. An Energy Department run by the fossil fuel industry is a catastrophe our planet can’t afford.”
“Today the Trump team gave the oil and gas industry a trifecta at the expense of the vast majority of Americans who understand the urgency of acting on climate change and transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean energy,” said Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Climate & Energy Abigail Dillen. “These nominations would give the wealthiest oil executives in the country unprecedented power over our daily lives — from the air we breathe to the water we drink.”
So … this all bodes well.
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