During his first joint address to Congress as president, Donald Trump did not linger on energy or the environment, but offered up falsehoods about the coal industry and tar sands oil pipelines. He also completely ignored the clean energy industry.
First, Trump returned to a familiar theme of his: saving the coal industry. He extolled his administration’s “historic effort” to cut regulations — specifically “stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”
That was a reference to the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule. On February 16, Trump signed a bill eliminating the rule, which protected waterways, largely in Appalachia, from coal mining waste. The rule would reportedly have created the same number of jobs it would have cost.
Furthermore coal jobs actually rose in the last half of 2016, proving yet again that the health of the industry has more to do with market factors than a regulatory “war on coal.”
— Taylor Kuykendall (@taykuy) February 24, 2017
After the election, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted that ending the “war on coal” may not actually bring back jobs. Energy experts largely agree that coal jobs are not coming back as long as fracked gas and renewable energy both remain cheap.
Trump’s addressed energy one more time — ignoring the millions of jobs created by the clean energy industry — when he touted his attention to two stalled oil pipelines.
“We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel,” he said.
First off, Trump’s directive that the pipeline be made with American steel is likely to have little effect, because the American steel industry is not equipped to meet the project’s requirements, and because the pipeline segments have for the most part already been purchased and constructed. What’s more, an investigation by DeSmogBlog found that a steel company with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin stands to gain should the project move forward.
Trump’s claim that the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines would create tens of thousands of jobs is false, but it’s not new. The industry, and the company that wants to build the pipeline, has been using numbers like this for years. Yet the State Department found in 2013 that the Keystone XL pipeline would create only 35 permanent jobs, and 16,000 direct and indirect jobs that would not last far beyond the construction phase.
It would, however, pump oil equal to the carbon emissions of 51 coal plants every year. Similarly, the Dakota Access pipeline will create only 40 permanent jobs along the entire line when all is said and done.
Later in the speech, Trump attempted a note of bipartisanship, saying his administration wanted to work with members “in both parties” on childcare affordability, paid family leave, and “to promote clean air and clear water.”
Trump has yet to propose any action to promote cleaner air or water. Earlier on Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at dismantling the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule. He also reportedly wants to cut $2 billion from the already-underfunded Environmental Protection Agency, much of which is largely focused on cleaning the air Americans breathe.