Published on February 19th, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan0
If White House Destroys The State (As Desired), What Does That Mean For Solar, Wind, & Electric Cars?
February 19th, 2017 by Zachary Shahan
As noted in an article earlier today, Steve Bannon reportedly said in 2013: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” He apparently described himself as a Leninist to Ronald Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, a bit before he became the main man behind the real-life Donald Trump puppet. There seems to be a lot of evidence that Bannon was telling the truth in that case — yet, the man is still seemingly the most powerful person in the United States.
In case you’re just checking in, note that Bannon is widely speculated to be running the show more than anyone else since Donald Trump took office. Trump, of course, must think that he’s running things, but it’s obvious by now that Trump doesn’t do much actual work. People who have worked closely with him or ghostwritten his most well known prose have said that he can’t stay focused for more than a few moments, won’t read anything at all that is long or detailed, and has an extremely short attention span. Leaks from his White House staff indicate he has a TV obsession and it is reportedly very frustrating trying to get him to stop watching TV and actually do some work. Of course, he is also often based at his “winter White House” now (Mar-a-lago, which has doubled its initiation fee to $200,000 since the election), where he is mingling with rich friends and high-paying customers. Bannon, on the other hand, is obviously an intellectual of some sort and has long been hugely influencing Trump “ideology,” statements, and policy. He apparently even put himself on the “principals committee” of The National Security Council (via Trump’s reportedly unknowing signature) — both the point that he slipped himself onto it and that a person in such a role would be on the council are indeed odd. Not only that, he has created a competing “Strategic Initiatives Group” in his office and his “fingerprints” are all over several of Trump’s initial executive orders and public statements.
As with many things #Trump2016, this may all seem too absurd to believe. But the absurd claims and connections from the Trump campaign trail have turned out to be very real, and in some cases even more extreme than expected. Before trying to figure out the implications of Bannon potentially “destroying the state,” let’s first run down a few points playing into his hands (and likely, in large part, orchestrated by him):
→ The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a person who has long fought the EPA and even sent letters as attorney general of his state that were written by the fossil fuel industry. His goal and that of the Trump administration is widely reported to be essentially crippling, neutering, handicapping, or destroying the EPA. It’s basically what you’d do if your overall goal was to destroy the state.
→ The new head of the Department of Education had reportedly never set foot in a public school before taking the position. Neither she nor her kids had ever attended a public school. She apparently didn’t know the basics of some common debates regarding educational theory. The department’s policy going forward seems to be crippling public education as much as possible — privatizing it as much as possible. DeVos is apparently already taking a machete to the department. It’s basically what you’d do if your overall goal was to destroy the state.
→ The former Trump pick for Secretary of Labor was the billionaire CEO of a fast food company who opposed the minimum wage. Again, it’s basically the person you’d want in charge of that department if you wanted to destroy the state. Puzder resigned from the process after a couple of scandals were revealed (including employing an undocumented immigrant). The new nomination seems on the surface to be much more in line with the actual work of the department, but he spent years in the Bush W. administration apparently “intentionally sabotaging” the goals of the department he worked for (Department of Justice). As summarized at the end of that article, “So, if you want to find somebody who can sabotage a federal agency and turn it against its whole purpose, Alex Acosta’s résumé is glimmering. It’s exactly who you want if you’re out to sabotage the Department of Labor.”
→ Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of the Interior had introduced legislation to sell off public lands (what she’d be managing if she gained that cabinet position). Trump’s eventual pick after extreme backlash doesn’t seem as focused on destroying the purpose of the Department of the Interior, but he did vote for a bill that “would have transferred 4 million acres of public lands to states” just last June.
→ Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary? After months of campaigning “against” Goldman Sachs, highlighting Ted Cruz’s connection to the firm and Hillary Clinton’s connection to the firm — and more or less co-opting Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren talking points in opposition to Wall Street and Goldman Sachs — Trump has brought on several Goldman Sachs veterans and chosen notorious former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin to head the Department of Treasury. This is completely against Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric. Mnuchin apparently profited off of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme as well as several other ripoff schemes. He also oversaw 50,000 home disclosures against the disadvantaged, including an 80-year-old man who didn’t violate the terms of his loan. Mnuchin lied during his confirmation hearings but got the job anyway. Thanks, Grand Old Party!
Need I write more? It’s 100% clear that the Trump administration (largely controlled by Bannon) is completely focused on destroying the state — that is, destroying the US government in just about every way it can. That includes the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of the Labor, etc., etc.
How far will this go? It’s very hard to say. Career staff in these departments and the court system will probably do what they can to protect what the United States of America has built. There’s the potential that Congress could step in to try to help, but that seems unlikely given that it is largely ruled by Tea Party extremists who for various moronic reasons share the same goals and were guided by Bannon, the Koch brothers, etc. The GOP, once a party of different ideals, now more or less does want to destroy the US federal government, our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Aside from all of the above, Bannon’s messaging strategy (which Trump plays right into) is a severe and consistent attack on our democratic system in other ways as well. Here are a few bits of that:
→ Clearly, “enemy #1” is now the media. This has been an explicit focus of Bannon’s for years, and it is obviously what Trump is most shouting about these days in his unique, insane manner. An article on this is coming, but yes, the independent media is central to a functioning democracy, dictators and fascists attack the media like Bannon and Trump are attacking the media, dictators and fascists want to control the media like Bannon and Trump are working to do so. If you want to destroy our democratic system, you certainly need to get the people believing that the media is the devil.
→ Approximately 2 years faster than the previous record, Trump’s national security advisor resigned after less than a month on the job. Frankly, there is so much nuance in this and so many questions unanswered that I’m not going to write much about this, but suffice it to say that there is some level of corruption — maybe multiple levels of corruption — at play in this story that seem to be risking US national security and democratic stability.
→ The chaos in the White House is reportedly unprecedented. Perhaps it is simply the bad luck of someone with no experience and debatable leadership skills being elected president. On the other hand, it very well may be the result of one part of the White House explicitly wanting to destroy the US federal government while other members of the White House are trying to protect it. There could be an ideological civil war of sorts occurring within the White House. Or it could just be that Bannon and/or Trump see chaos as a useful approach to achieve their core goals.
Do I think Donald Trump has some grand master plan in all of this? Of course not. Bannon clearly does, but I think Trump is as simple as he seems: He has spent years in a weird bubble watching Fox News and getting worked up by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh. He doesn’t have a clue how to actually govern. He is putting that task in the hands of people he trusts (whether that be Bannon, Pence, Flynn, or Priebus). He is also continuing his decades-long focus on pushing/protecting his brand in absurd ways and fighting anyone who criticizes him.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
(Even a notable Fox News anchor said this attack on the media “crosses an important line.”)
But as long as Trump is being played by Bannon, Putin, or others who would like to see the current US government crumble, the White House is indeed trying to destroy the state, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
So, what does all of this mean for solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles?
Because of the vast uncertainty about what is to come, it’s hard to guess what all of this means for solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles, but below are a few possibilities.
If this insanity (it is insanity … or ignorance) eventually destroys the US economy, it’s rather hard to say what that will mean. That will harm the global economy a great deal as well, at least in the short term, but it could also lead to a dramatic shift in global political and economic power, and it’s hard to know what that would mean.
Of course, in the short term, a global economic recession would also cut energy use (which would help cut pollution and stop global warming), but it would likely slow a transition to (new) electric cars and (new) clean power plants, since people, companies, organizations, and governments would delay retiring older and dirtier cars and power plants and making new purchases.
Again, the ramifications of such a scenario are so broad and long term that it’s hard to imagine what exactly they would be, but slower growth of these industries seems likely. On the other hand, if more political and economic power shifts to Europe and China (only one possibility), their seemingly more stable strong cleantech focus could end up hastening the cleantech transition in certain ways and regions. Though, US cleantech companies would presumably do worse under such a scenario compared to “business as usual” (I know, we’re long past “business as usual” at this point).
If the White House and a pollution-controlled Republican Congress simply slow progress, but don’t demolish the US economy, these fast-growing cleantech industries will presumably keep growing at a strong clip — just not quite as fast as they would have otherwise.
With the Clean Power Plan all but dead, some dirty, old, coal power plants will stay open a bit longer. Without strong federal support for clean energy and electric cars, natural gas and gasmobiles will extend their pollution streaks for a few more years. With a dysfunctional Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, the rich and established fossil pollution industries will pollute more, take a bit longer to be priced out of the market, take a bit longer to retire, and potentially destroy our climate.
But the trends are obvious — solar & wind are cheaper, electric cars are quickly becoming cheaper, solar & wind & EVs also protect public health and a livable climate (scientific facts cannot be broken), and EVs are just better cars. The market may transition more slowly if clogged with gobs of pollution corrupting the system, but the transition can’t be stopped.
Presumably, if the goal is to destroy the state, Bannon & Trump won’t implement policies that ban clean energy or electric vehicles — they’ll just prevent the government from protecting people from pollution, prevent the government from protecting the world from global warming, and prevent the government from protecting the economy from scam artists.
However, given the obvious corruption in this administration and the Republican Party as a whole, it’s clear that, if the government won’t be destroyed, it will just be run by people from the private sector who have their own agenda. These people will definitely “pick winners and losers” and aim to tilt government policies as much as possible in favor of their preferred companies and industries. I would not put it past them to make certain wind and solar projects illegal, make permitting more difficult, make electric cars more expensive, etc.
Again, technological progress won’t be prevented forever, but this could slow things down a great deal. Just look at Spain’s sun tax (now repealed). And, yes, if your concern is a genuinely livable climate, that could be enough to extinguish future generations.
If semi-functional and non-corrupt Republicans in Congress (and US society as a whole) wake up fast enough, the whole plot to destroy the US government and pollute like there’s no tomorrow could be stopped in its tracks. However, the Republican Party has become extremely extremist in recent years when it comes to energy matters — deeply, deeply, deeply in the pockets of pollution industries — so even if the US government isn’t effectively destroyed, the situation in the EPA and DOE may not get much better as long as they are in power.
That said, the backlash from this unprecedented Trump administration (already breaking records for public disapproval) may be strong enough that it swiftly shifts Congress back to the Democrats. Maybe. If that happened in 2018, things would be looking much brighter for cleantech.