Toilet talk isn’t generally the topic that comes to mind when you think about matters of important Presidential discourse. Foreign affairs, yes. Deficits and inflation rates, okay. Taxation, annual budget, national security, and trade, definitely. But not toilets.
Yet the current occupant of the White House ordered a study on low-flow toilets, complaining that consumers were struggling to make more-efficient toilets, showers, and other appliances work correctly. “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once,” the president claims.
Energy-efficient appliances are just one of many areas where the Trump administration has focused for the past 3 years in efforts to roll back nearly 100 federal rules governing energy and the environment. Of particular interest to the Tweeter-in-Chief are the coal industry, the auto sector, and appliances.
The Trump mantra dismisses clean energy in a rationalization that goes something like, “People really can’t be bothered with the everyday inconveniences associated with combating the climate crisis.” The US is a nation of spoiled brats, it seems, and we can’t tolerate a bit of inconvenience in order to save life as we know it on the planet.
Trump’s generally impromptu climate comments on social media and in stump speeches are rife with lies. He’s nothing if not consistent in his fallacies as he makes assertions about clean energy, veering significantly afield of today’s scientific evidence about the planet’s crisis.
What’s really scary is that Trump administration regulatory moves have paralleled Trump’s energy-related messaging. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated,
“President Trump believes you can grow the economy and protect the environment. While eliminating harmful and unnecessary regulations, this President has unleashed the American economy, provided greater regulatory certainty, achieved energy independence, and continued to safeguard the water supply and improve air quality.”
Doesn’t this Trumpian doublespeak send shivers down your back? You name it: he’s attacked the necessity of wind turbines, lightbulbs, energy-efficient appliances, carbon-reducing fuel standards, electric vehicles, plastic straw bans, and even low-flow toilets. How did we get here?
Trump railed against wind-powered turbines in a December, 2019 speech to a conservative group in South Florida — saying that their construction produces “a tremendous amount of fumes” and that the “windmills” (sic) are noisy, unattractive, and kill too many birds.
“I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know they’re very expensive. They’re made in China. And Germany, mostly. They’re very few made here — almost none. But they’re manufactured — tremendous if you’re into this — fumes, gasses are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny in compared to the universe. So a tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — they’re noisy, they kill the birds, you want to see a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday… Why is it okay to kill the bird population? And yet that’s what they’re doing.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called out Trump earlier in 2019 about his understanding of wind turbines, mocking the chief executive as a “great” or “profound” scientist for claiming wind energy causes cancer. Sanders also described Trump an “idiot” for calling climate change a “hoax.”
While standing in an Iowa field, Sanders promised, “The fact is that Iowa gets about 35% of its electricity from wind turbines all over the state, which by the way provides revenue to farmers who desperately need that revenue. So, President Trump, once again, try to get your act together and try to tell the truth. It won’t hurt.”
Light Bulbs — A Matter of Personal Choice & Constitutional Values?
Are you a Luddite who wants old-fashioned incandescent and halogen bulbs? Well, you can have them. “If you like your lightbulbs, you can keep your lightbulbs!” the official White House Twitter account posted. “The Obama Admin tried to limit Americans to buying more-expensive LED bulbs for their homes — but thanks to President @realDonaldTrump, go ahead and decorate your house with whatever lights you want.”
The EPA’s Energy Star division outlines that certified energy efficient light bulbs use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs to light up a room and last 15 times longer than previous generations of bulbs.
Trump’s lightbulb decision will increase energy costs by $14 billion a year and generate 38 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Lightbulb modification was a goal Congress set in 2007 when it adopted bipartisan legislation later signed by President George W. Bush. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the regulatory rollback could boost consumption by an amount equal to the output of 30 large power plants.
Trump jokes that environmentally friendly lightbulbs "gives you an orange look."
"I hate to say it, it doesn't make you look as good. Of course, being a vain person that's very important to me."pic.twitter.com/R0p1baWKdY
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 6, 2019
Experts describe a focus on lighting and appliances as the most cost-effective way to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. Trump regularly cites his personal experience rather than science to contradict the efficacy of such approaches. He has specifically asked for the chance to offer his opinion on a pending adaptation change to dishwasher standards that will be finalized in 2020.
A crowd looked on in baffled silence when Trump explained that “women tell me” they have to run their dishwashers repeatedly to get them to work.
Crowd stares in silence as Trump explains lack of water in showers and dish washers. pic.twitter.com/RB3aI635Lj
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 19, 2019
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency would be assessing appliances that Trump insists are less efficient. “He has asked us to look into that, and we are looking into it,” Wheeler said. He reminded listeners that the Energy Department has final say over mandatory energy-efficiency rules.
Prior to his gig at the EPA, Wheeler was a lobbyist for Whirlpool Corp., the maker of dishwashers and other home appliances, with a focus on the Energy Star efficiency program.
If every clothes washer, dishwasher, and refrigerator purchased in the United States this year earned the Energy Star, the department says that the US would:
- Prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from nearly 270,000 cars
- Save more than 1.6 billion kWh/yr of electricity
- Save nearly $540 million in annual energy costs
- Save nearly 30 billion gallons of water per year
The administration is also working to scale back national gas-mileage standards, a deal made by the previous administration with automakers that calls for more stringent fuel economy and exhaust emissions standards going forward. The current administration insists those rules will make new cars so expensive ordinary people will no longer be able to afford them.
FactCheck.org did some data analysis of a series of Trump tweets aimed at the auto industry. They state that he inaccurately said that his fuel efficiency plan would reduce the cost of cars “by more than $3000” and make them “substantially safer.” Even going by his administration’s analysis — which many experts doubt — he inflated the savings and is wrong about car safety.
In 2020, the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to finalize a rule that would increase mileage targets for cars and light trucks each year by between 1 and 1.5 miles per gallon through 2026. Trump insists the rollback will help bolster America’s auto industry.
Trump’s rants this year included totally unfounded attacks on electric vehicles, saying this mode of sustainable transportation is less safe and less reliable than internal combustion engine transportation. In a tweet in August, Trump said that “Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators.”
In a 3-part series here on CleanTechnica, our own Nicholas Zart investigated ways that EVs beat traditional cars in terms of drivetrain layout freedom as well as electric cars’ greater flexibility and superior design through structural benefits. EVs have opened up a safer transport future than with the internal combustion engine, including less harm than is done by ICE’s “antiquated, inefficient, opposing piston system, which struggled to climb above a dismally low 33% fuel efficiency.” Two-thirds of the average car gas tank is lost due to friction and heat escaping, causing harm to humans in various ways.
Are you an advocate of plastic straws? Then head off to a Trump rally, where plastic straws are often seen for sale in protest bans.
Framed as a way to keep government out of their lives, the plastic straw rebellion is a hands-on way to embrace conservative values, Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told the New York Times. “For his base, especially, it hits on something that’s tangible, that’s tactile and that voters like,” he said. “It also hits on those broad themes of freedom and liberty and government encroachment on people’s daily lives.”
Every day, individuals in the US use — and almost immediately discard — plastic straws. According to Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox, some 7.5 million straws litter US shorelines alone. They estimate that as many as 8.3 billion straws can be found on the world’s coastlines. The plastic waste that is thrown away into seas every year can kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures. Even if a stray straw doesn’t find its way into the mouth or nose of a sea animal, plastic doesn’t biodegrade like organic matter but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that clog the ocean and get consumed by marine life.
Final Thoughts about Trump’s Clean Energy Toilet Talk
As Democratic candidates cry out for a Green New Deal that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and create a clean energy job force across social and racial lines, the current occupant of the White House continues to look back longingly to a nostalgic period of US energy. Instead, looking forward, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, describes how in 2017, for instance, sun and wind produced just 6% of the world’s electric supply but they made up 45% of the growth in supply.
That sense of economic potential aligned with the transition to renewable energy (RE) is imperative if we are to move to a zero carbon world. As the cost of sun and wind power continues to fall by about 20% annually with each doubling of capacity, RE will represent all the growth. McKibben says it is then that we will reach peak use of fossil fuels, not because we’re running out of them but because renewables will become the preferred choice.
Why won’t you listen, Donald J. Trump?