A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: Overseeing destruction of the planet, president declares he is great environmentalist


With all the attention being afforded his derisive comments aimed at military personnel, his abject failure to address the COVID-19 crisis, the ever-increasing volume of his racist dog whistling and, well, his general imbecility, little notice is being given to President Donald J. Trump as he oversees the destruction of the planet.

Fires are raging in California, hurricanes are popping up like bubbles in a Coke, ice sheets are melting at a worst-case imaginable rate and global temperatures in 2020 are moving at a pace to become one of the planet’s two warmest years in the 141 years of temperature records, and all the while Trump, aka aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, does nothing.

Nero famously fiddled while Rome burned. Trump drives a tee shot into the rough at one of his golf clubs and declares a mulligan while the planet fries.

To hear the man tell it, of course, he’s the greatest environmental president of them all, a regular John Muir he is. During a campaign stop – they’re all campaign stops for this guy these days – at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Florida this week, our boy humbly laid claim to the title of heavyweight environmental champion of the world.


The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

“Who would have thought Trump is the great environmentalist?” he asked without a hint of irony. “You hear that? That’s good, and I am. I am. I believe strongly in it.”

This is one of those famous Donnie Boy jokes, right? The only individuals who would view this guy as “the great environmentalist” would be the sort Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush once described as “the crummy moronic type.” Sierra Club Political Director Ariel Hayes  was substantially more accurate in her assessment:
“Failing to adequately fund Everglades restoration, attempting to sell off our waters to corporate polluters, and rolling back more than 100 environmental protections doesn’t make you anything other than the worst president ever for the environment and climate.”

Seems pretty clear.

Trump laid claim to the environmental mantle after signing a memorandum instructing Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt – whoever the hell he is — to prohibit oil and gas drilling in ocean waters off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida, as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, for 10 years.
The declaration, understandably, carries the support of environmentalists. But if you think it all sounds a little funny – not funny haha, just funny – you have good reason.

For one thing it’s a Trump initiative and everything he does should be viewed with a jaundiced eye. What renders it curiouser and curiouser, to quote Alice, is that in January 2018 Trump moved to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans. He has consistently in the past supported efforts to boost American energy production to lessen reliance on foreign sources.

So, what’s different now? Well there’s this thing called an election coming up, Trump wants to return to office and Floridians aren’t exactly enthusiastic about oil rigs popping up along their coast. Trump barely carried the Sunshine State four years ago and polls show him running neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Joe Biden this go-round.

Hence The Don’s sudden environmental conversion. Next he’ll be dying his hair green instead of whatever color you can’t find in nature he drowns that mop in these days. And it should be noted, while he’s continuing the practice of prohibiting drilling in waters along certain portions of the Atlantic coast he’s opening up what had been Alaska’s untouched Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, which the Natural Resources Defense Council called “an unprecedented decision that threatens the Gwich’in people’s and other Indigenous groups’ ways of life in addition to exacerbating both the climate and biodiversity crises.”

Trump’s antics on a variety of fronts have taken the public’s eyes off the incredible damage his policies continue to wreck on the environment. A lot of people hear, and are understandably upset, with the president of the United States essentially refers to those who answered the call of military duty losers. At the same time it detracts attention from something like the administration moving to gut protections for national forest lands – providing the fossil fuel industry with easier access for drilling and fracking.

The idea that Trump is an environmentalist is ludicrous. His laugh-inducing history goes clear back to the beginning of his misbegotten presidency with the appointment of Kentucky’s own village idiot, Scott Pruitt, as his first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In an administration filled with embarrassing appointments, Pruitt, late of Danville, Lexington and with a Georgetown College degree in hand, took the cake. He proved so derelict in his high position that even Trump arrived at the point he couldn’t stomach him any further.

According to a 2018 study in The American Journal of Public Health, “the Pruitt-led EPA has moved away from the public interest and explicitly favored the interests of the regulated industries.”  On March 9, 2017, in an interview on CNBC, Pruitt made clear he “would not agree that” carbon dioxide is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

What a beaut this guy was. He was ousted not because he destroyed the agency from within – which he did — but because he had a tendency to use his high public office to satisfy his creature comforts, like having a chauffeur drive him around to find a certain brand of moisturizer he preferred.

Of course things haven’t gotten any better since his departure under his successor, Andrew Wheeler, a one-time coal industry lobbyist and a critic of placing limits on  greenhouse gas emissions.

Regardless, Trump has rather infamously been storming through the environment like the Incredible Hulk. He has vowed to exit the Paris Agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing rising global temperatures. He has sought to weaken standards — again set by the Obama administration — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly those from coal-fired power plants.

Trump has further rolled back clean water rules aimed at streams, wetlands and groundwater and removed the threat of climate change from the list of national security concerns. The EPA is also finalizing rules to repeal standards limiting methane emissions from new oil and gas equipment nationwide and exempting existing operations, responsible for about 85 percent of the industry’s emissions, from any controls at all.

Meanwhile he continues the quixotic effort to resurrect the use of coal, a tremendously dirty source of energy that has worn out it’s welcome from power plant operators seeking cleaner burning options.

All of this obviously shows Trump holds little interest regarding the very real danger of global climate change, which threatens the planet’s long-term existence as a result of rising sea levels and ever-increasing temperatures that will create problems both told and untold.

Trump has, in fact, been all over the map on climate change. He has in the past characterized it as “mythical,” “nonexistent,” and “an expensive hoax.” He once buffoonishly said the issue was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

At other times, in that weird way he has of contradicting himself and then acting like he never expressed any other position all along, he described climate change as a “serious subject” that is “very important to me.”

In the end it doesn’t matter what he says. He’s not going to do anything to address a problem that may prove to be the most consequential of his administration. The earth, like it or not, is in extreme peril as a result of pollution and the consequences of man-made global climate change.

Lena Moffitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, said the nation deserves better “than the Trump administration’s complete neglect of science and our health.”

“The Trump administration continues its reckless and shameful agenda to gut environmental and health protections in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, which they have completely failed to handle,” Moffitt said. “Advancing fossil fuel development and its pollution threatens our health, environment and climate— all which are facing overlapping crises.”  


Related Posts

Leave a Comment