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EPA chief accused of ‘promoting global warming’ with unwavering support for fossil fuels

President Donald Trump listens as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord at the White House. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was at it again Tuesday morning, touting the growth of coal jobs since President Donald Trump took office and promoting the benefits of burning a wide array of fossil fuels.

This time, however, Pruitt was called out for pushing policies that most experts agree will lead to the worsening of climate change rather than helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show to discuss Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Pruitt argued that coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear should all be part of the energy mix for electricity generation.

Steve Rattner, former counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Treasury and an economic analyst on Morning Joe, reminded Pruitt of the simple fact that burning fossil fuels will not lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

“When you go around saying we’re creating all these coal jobs… that we’ve repealed the Clean Power Plan… talking about the use of fossil fuels for centuries to come, you are in effect promoting global warming,” Rattner told Pruitt. “That’s what you’re doing because all of those things contribute to global warming.”

Pruitt countered that the U.S. fossil fuel industry has “nothing to be apologetic about.” He said carbon dioxide emissions have dropped in the United States by more than 18 percent since 2000 as a result of American “innovation and technology” that led to a greater use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the extraction of natural gas.

Rattner continued to question why Pruitt consistently highlights the benefits of burning coal. “You’ve been sort of touting the fact that you’re increasing the number of coal jobs even though the increase is actually much smaller than what you’ve been saying,” he said. “So the point is that you’re basically promoting fuels and promoting policies that would warm the planet, not stop the warming of the planet, even as you agree that the planet is warming and that it’s man-made.”

Earlier in the conversation, when pressed on his own misleading statements about the science behind climate change, Pruitt noted that he mentioned during his confirmation process to be EPA administrator that “there is a warming trend with respect to the climate and moreover there’s a human contribution to it.”

Pruitt also backtracked — ever so slightly — from his misleading claim on the Sunday talk show circuit that 50,000 new coal sector jobs had been created since the end of 2016. This time, Pruitt was careful to state that 50,000 new jobs have emerged in the mining sector — not only the coal sector — since the end of the fourth quarter of 2016. In its classification of jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the mining sector as any business involved in the extraction of minerals like coal, ores, petroleum, and natural gas.

Members of the Green Party in Germany protest President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement. CREDIT: Britta Pedersen/dpa via AP

Pruitt revealed that he has not spoken with Trump —who has repeatedly claimed climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese — about the president’s views on climate change over the past few weeks as the administration considered whether to leave the Paris agreement. The focus over this period has been on the “merits and demerits of the Paris deal,” he said.

The Morning Joe hosts noted that 59 percent of Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, oppose Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement. In response, Pruitt emphasized that the Trump administration will remain engaged in international discussions about climate change, though he offered no specifics regarding how that would work.

A former head of the EPA expressed concern that the Trump administration could do further damage if it remains engaged in these discussion as the United States moves to exit from the Paris climate accord. William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, said he hopes the United States makes a “clean break” from future climate meetings and allows China and the European Union to lead greenhouse gas-reduction efforts.

The Trump administration should not send delegations to annual United Nations climate meetings during its withdrawal process from the agreement, which will take at least four years to complete, Reilly said in a podcast released Monday by the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy.”

Despite the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed the president has not abandoned the climate change issue, although he did not provide any specific ways Trump has or will address climate change. Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, said Monday that the Trump administration is still interested in pursuing a “new construct of an agreement.”

The United States will still be allowed to participate in meetings of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “There is a possibility of the United States playing a role to try to reduce the commitments or aspirations that are agreed to in future conferences of the parties and that would be very unfortunate and pernicious,” Reilly said in the Monday podcast.

The “worst possible outcome” would be for the United States to move forward with its withdrawal from the Paris agreement but to continue to participate in the deliberations of the parties, the former EPA chief said. “That would indicate bad faith if we’re just there basically to sabotage the efforts of other countries,” he argued.