Trump loves fossil fuels; California wants clean energy. Cue collision

FILE – Former President Donald Trump attends closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at the New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York, on January 11, 2024. Trump’s lawyers have appealed to an appeals court in New York York sought the collection of the former president’s $454 million civil fraud judgment while he appeals. Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing Wednesday that he plans to post a $100 million appellate bond instead of a bond covering the full amount, which would automatically halt enforcement. (Shannon Stapleton/Pool photo via AP, file)
(Shannon Stapleton / AP/Pool)

Trump loves fossil fuels; California wants clean energy. Cue collision

Global warming

Doyle McManus

March 31, 2024

Donald Trump says he’s not worried about climate change.

Before he became a presidential candidate, he said global warming was a hoax invented by China to kneecap the American economy.

The climate has always been changing, but recently the country shrugged its shoulders.

If elected president, Trump says, one of his priorities on “day one” will be increasing oil and gas production, or, as he puts it: drill, baby, drill!

With more fossil fuels, he promises, we will become rich and happy again.

These positions are at the heart of Trump’s campaign to win back the White House. And they put him on a collision course with California, where the Democratic-led government, backed by most voters, has made a clean energy economy a key goal.

It’s breathtaking how easily this man can be manipulated, Governor. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. His only interest is pleasing the CEOs of Big Oil, and mortgaging our children and the planet in the process.

A large majority of Californians support their state’s ambitious climate goals, the Public Policy Institute of California found in a survey last year. Nearly two-thirds say they believe protecting the environment should be a priority, even if it slows economic growth.

In attacking the state’s environmental agenda, Trump often portrays California as a disaster zone, often in exaggerated or fabricated stories.

If you look at California, you have blackouts and blackouts every day, he claimed in a campaign video last year. People can’t turn on their air conditioners. (False; California hasn’t had any significant power grid issues since 2020.)

If he wins a second term, Trump plans to scrap President Biden’s programs promoting renewable energy. He has said he would offer tax breaks to oil, gas and coal producers; withdrawal of federal subsidies for solar, wind and other renewable energy projects; and reversing Biden’s efforts to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

On my first day in office, I will end all of that,” Trump said last year, referring to EV tax credits and other subsidies. he might add




limit the number of cars and trucks that qualify for the subsidy.)

Former aides say Trump is also likely to revive two of his first term goals that led to clashes with California: repealing the state’s strict vehicle emissions standards and opening more federal waters to oil drilling, including off the Pacific coast .

He failed in both, partly because of opposition from California and other states, but also because of the incompetence of his administration.

During its first term, the Trump administration took something of a blunderbuss approach. Their proposals were not well thought out. They often didn’t hold up under close scrutiny, says Richard M. Frank, a professor of environmental law at UC Davis



of the law

. Now they appear to be trying to learn from those mistakes. … They could be a lot more strategic the second time around.

The clearest example is Trump’s attack on California’s strict auto emissions standards.

The 1970 Clean Air Act allows the federal Environmental Protection Agency to limit air pollution from cars. It also gives California the ability to impose stricter standards because of its decades-long battle to reduce smog, under a “waiver” the EPA normally grants each year.

Congress also allowed other states to adopt California’s standards; 17 states and the District of Columbia have done so.

In 2019, after automakers complained that California standards were a burden, Trump announced he would rescind the regulations.

California’s state

exemption “to produce much cheaper cars for consumers.

His decision was part of


a broad effort to roll back federal regulations that limit car fleets


Fuel consumption.

Newsom and then Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has sued the federal government, accusing it of doing so


EPA had exceeded its authority. The case wound through the courts until


Biden took office and restored California’s waiver.

Trump has not explicitly discussed attacking California’s waiver again. But last year, the conservative Heritage Foundation gathered a team of former Trump aides to put together a policy agenda called Project 2025. The roughly 900-page document lays out a detailed strategy for repealing or limiting California’s emissions standards.

It suggests that instead of revoking the waiver,


EPA could limit California standards to smog-producing pollutants like ozone, and not to greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. If that doesn’t work, the agenda says:


EPA could try to prevent other states from adopting greenhouse gas standards.

They recognize they made a mistake the first time and create a roadmap to try to do better the second time, says Dan Becker, an environmental attorney at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. They basically pick any of the areas where California can act and go after each of them.

Becker said the strategy could focus on taking the case to the Supreme Court, where a second Trump administration could try its luck before a 6-3 conservative majority.

If a second Trump administration tried to revoke the waiver, Newsom said at a news conference in February, the state would go to court again.

We know the playbook, he said. We had success time and time again [in Trumps first term] in the courts, and we are confident that this will continue.

Offshore oil drilling could lead to a new standoff.

In 2018, Trump proposed opening federal waters along the entire Pacific coast, as well as Alaska and the Atlantic coast, to oil and gas drilling. That caused a storm of opposition, even to Trump’s surprise from Republicans.

And the Trump administration became embroiled in the federal regulatory process.

They made procedural mistakes that slowed everything down, said Kassie Siegel, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

If he wins a second term, Trump would


has broad authority to open the continental shelf to oil leases, but he would face other problems.

One is economics: deepwater drilling in the North Pacific is expensive and risky. Oil companies are more interested in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, where known reserves are greater.

The other is local politics. When Trump proposed opening the Pacific coast to drilling in 2018, California’s legislature quickly passed a law banning new oil pipelines, piers and other infrastructure within three miles of the coast. That could make it prohibitively expensive to move oil from offshore wells to onshore refineries or terminals.

Oil companies know that any attempt to drill new wells off the coast of California would generate enormous opposition. A 2021 PPIC poll found that 72% of Californians, including 43% of Republicans, oppose the idea.

A third potential conflict: wind. Offshore wind farms are a big part of California’s clean energy plans, which aim to provide about 13% of the state’s power supply by 2045. But wind is Trump’s least favorite energy source.

‘Windmills rot. They rust. They kill the birds. It is the most expensive energy there is,” he said last year. There is much more to say about that, and I will return to it in a later column.

Newsom says he doesn’t believe Trump will get a second term.

It didn’t happen, he said at the February press conference. Still, just in case, we are trying to future-proof California in every way possible.

We’re not just a punching bag here,

the governor

added. We try to assert ourselves.

But environmentalists are still concerned.

The problem is that a second Trump term would come if the climate crisis is more serious than during his first term, Becker said. Everything the scientists predicted is happening faster than they expected. … But Trump doesn’t believe it’s a problem, doesn’t want to solve it and would only make it worse.”

That helps explain why so many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, have supported Biden’s reelection even as they have criticized many of his decisions: They have considered the alternative.


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