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Environmental Protections Trashed by Trump

Ben Dolbear reviews the timing behind President Trump's decision to scrap environmental protections whilst the media were distracted by the pervasive threat of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Benjamin Suter | New York

Eight years ago, the Obama administration finalised plans to introduce revolutionary greenhouse gas reduction and fuel efficiency standards, which would have seen fuel economy performance double in the United States by 2025.

Last week, President Donald Trump reversed those same plans, a catastrophic move projected to result in an extra 1.5 billion metric tonnes of climate pollution dumped in the atmosphere.

It has been estimated that more than 200,000 Americans die from air pollution each year, and it was hoped that Barack Obama's 2012 Clean Car Standards would reverse some of the damaging effects of oil extraction, transport, and refining.

A Surge in Heat-Trapping Fuels

The United States is a nation of 273.6 million personal vehicles, each of which is expected to emit 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, more than any country in the world. The Environmental Defence Fund has praised the Obama Clean Car limits, saying that, '[c]ars and light trucks account for about 45 percent of all U.S. oil consumption and more than 20 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions', and that the Standards would cut harmful pollution significantly.

As the Guardian has pointed out, last year the globe saw its hottest twelve-month stint in living memory, rising hunger, displacement, and loss of life due to extreme temperature and weather disasters induced by man-made climate change. But it seems as though, in the run up his highly contested battle for reelection, President Trump has prioritised the fossil fuel lobby, seeking to bolster the industry which employs 1.1 million Americans across many states that Trump will be hoping to hold on to, or take from the Democrats, in November. However, employment in the green fuel economy is now thought to be ten times the figure in the fossil fuel industry.

Trump's argument is that scrapping the Standards will boost the US economy, meaning that cars will be cheaper in the short-term, in direct contradiction to what the vast majority of automakers, labour unions, and consumers have said, all stakeholders who are increasingly seeing the value of long-term sustainability and green innovation.

Some Mitigating Measures

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent executive agency which has long criticised the current Republican administration for its deep cuts to the organisation, has managed to water down Trump's proposals to entirely scrap the regulatory legislation by adding a commitment to progress on fuel efficiency of a minimum of 1.5% per year. Most experts say that this protective measures will not be enough to overcome the challenges posed to climate change by personal cars and trucks.

Even when taking into account the EPA measures against the full-scale rollback, there are expected to be an additional 18,500 premature deaths and 250,000 more asthma attacks as a direct result of the air pollution caused by President Trump's legislative repeals.

Air pollution from cars and other vehicles is known to cause cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Type 2 diabetes, lung cancer, and pneumonia, as well as chronic kidney disease, hypertension and dementia, which were not previously recognised.

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