Secretary of the Interior and former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke joined Fox News Radio’s Kilmeade & Friends on Tuesday to discuss the Trump administration’s wave of actions related to energy and the environment.
Zinke praised President Donald Trump’s sweeping order to roll back Obama-era policies designed to mitigate and prepare for climate change and defended his agency’s move to lift the temporary halt on new coal leases on federal lands — a reversal that will come at a significant cost to taxpayers — by claiming “there’s no such thing as clean energy.”
“I understand you are today rescinding a ban on coal leasing on federal lands… are you hurting the environment to help jobs?” the host asked.
“We’re not hurting the environment,” Zinke replied. “If you look at — is there such thing as clean coal? Well there’s no such thing as clean energy — even wind comes at a cost if you want to talk about migratory birds and cutting through.”
“But coal, can we do it better? Absolutely,” Zinke continued. “But it is better to export cleaner coal overseas than to have China use low-quality, high sulfur coal. So if you want to look at how to protect the environment it is better to use cleaner grade coal, made in the U.S., than it is for China, which is building coal power plants as we speak. They’re reducing their nuclear power capability and expanding their coal fired power plants — we need to make sure we provide them the cleanest coal and invest in our technology here at home. Everyone wants clean air and water but we can do it better.”
Renewable energy is called “clean” because it is far less damaging to the environment than the combustion of fossil fuels, like coal, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. While wind turbines do pose a risk to birds, far more birds are killed each year by collisions with cell and radio towers and cats. And of course, bird fatalities have no impact on relative cleanliness of an energy source.
Trump, Zinke, and other administration officials have sought to characterize their recent assault on environmental protections as one grounded in economics — ending burdensome regulations and creating jobs. But as experts have repeatedly emphasized, the economics of coal are increasingly dim and, despite what Trump may claim, he cannot bring the industry back.
Clean energy, on the other hand, continues to be a rapidly growing sector, with wind and solar jobs growing 12 times as fast as the rest of the U.S. economy. Nearly every state has more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels, according to a recent analysis by the Sierra Club, with clean energy jobs outnumbering fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1 and outnumbering coal and gas jobs specifically by a magnitude of 5 to 1.
Nonetheless, in a statement lauding the president’s order to reverse the halt on new coal leases on federal land, Zinke said, “We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope.”
Zinke has touted an “all of the above” energy approach in the past, and did so again in the Fox News Radio interview, adding that “the market should play and the government needs to get out of picking winners and losers” — a statement that doesn’t square with the Trump administration’s apparent desire to prop up the coal industry despite market signals.
Like much of Trump’s cabinet, Zinke has misrepresented the science regarding human-caused climate change, falsely testifying in his confirmation hearing that there is ongoing debate over how much of an influence humans have had on recent warming (there’s not).