White House Issues, Part 1: Energy

In this age of “alternative facts” and other scary Orwellian terms, it can be hard to decipher what is fact and what is propaganda. While we’d like to believe that the media is reporting the truth in its purest, least biased or exclusive form, the sad truth is that media outlets like Breitbart are places people actually go for news, Fox and CNN have their own leanings that seem to cancel out the validity of one another in every argument, and then, you know, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post are things.

So, where does one look for the truth?

Not with this girl, surely. I’m not a journalist or a government official. But I am an educator, so I must also be educated and continue to learn, to research, and to draw my own conclusions. And while this series may not be the pure, free-from-bias journalism you’re craving, you can rest assured that what is written here has been researched and “vetted” as well as a part-time-teacher-blogger could. And while I’ll walk you through the information I found and the conclusions I drew, hopefully you’ll do what everyone should be doing these days: weigh the facts against the spin and ask yourself if you can live with it.

Where did I start in my own quest to make sense of the media madness?

The White House website, of course.

When you visit http://www.whitehouse.gov it is, unsurprisingly, the official website of the President’s house. Click on “Issues” and you’ll find six things that POTUS considers top priority, which is interesting only because the executive orders he’s been so fond of signing in recent weeks have had little to do with these top-billed topics.  

Today’s Topic of Dissection? The America First Energy Plan

This plan states that the Trump administration is focused on creating more jobs and decreasing costs to American companies by ending our reliance on foreign energy. The plan also states the Trump administration’s intention to take advantage of untapped shale oil and natural gas reserves within the U.S., as well as in the development of clean coal technology.

Then it says, “our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”

First, here’s some information from the Department of Energy regarding shale. Admittedly, this is more promising than I had initially feared, but the administration’s plans are nonetheless based on technologies that are still in the research and development stage. Water quality, air quality, plant and animal life, and seismic activity all stand to be impacted by shale oil and natural gas drilling, no matter how well-intended these activities may be. While several years old, this study from MIT doubts the efficacy of hydraulic fracturing for shale oil in particular, no matter how far the technology may come.

Besides shale oil and natural gas, which may be “unconventional” but are still fossil fuels with plenty of potential risks, there is the mention of “clean coal technologies” in Trump’s plan. The Department of Energy provides information on this fuel source as well, but it is largely believed that there really is no such thing as "clean coal", nor are we near developing a way to make it reliably "clean."

Considering the "freeze" placed on the EPA and threats to make further cuts to the department, it is hard to believe that “responsible stewardship of the environment” factors very highly into the Trump administration’s plans for energy. All this, and I didn’t even mention the directive about not issuing statements to the public from the EPA and other departments in which the government and science collide; an order responsible for a variety of “rogue Twitter” profiles resisting this perceived gag order.

The America First Energy Plan is, I truly believe, well-intended and aimed at decreasing our dependence on foreign energy while simultaneously creating jobs for Americans. These are ideas anyone can get behind! More jobs! Lower energy costs! Expansion and improvement of infrastructure! But, in an era of wind and solar technologies that are becoming increasingly popular and less expensive, why are we investing in “unconventional” fossil fuels that risk the safety of our environment?

Objectively, I don’t think that the ideas suggested in this plan are intentionally malicious, but they may not be fully realized. And herein lies the danger of the executive order of which Mr. Trump is so fond. One person (including myself) cannot weigh all of the years of scientific research and economic possibilities that such an energy plan entails, and given his short but insane track record, I can’t help but see something dangerous looming on the horizon. Will he sign an order damaging or limiting the scope of the EPA? Will he repeal every environmental regulation in place and start hiring and drilling in Wyoming within the month? Or will he exhibit the restraint and patience required of his position and trust the scientists and legislators with superior knowledge in these areas to pass appropriate laws and fund sound ventures that responsibly seek these resources?

Only a few weeks into his term, it is hard to predict what the new POTUS will do to see his plan through. For my money, it will come at the expense of the environment or the technologies necessary will not be fully developed at all, and our reliance on foreign, harmful energies will continue.