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Bill Straub: Stance of Pruitt, Trump, McConnell on global warming issue does a disservice to the nation

WASHINGTON – Apparently they don’t offer course work in science or mathematics at Lafayette High School and Georgetown College, two of the educational institutions that deigned to issue a degree to Scott Pruitt, but they must offer some great classes in magic – the administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency just conjured up 50,000 new coal mining jobs out of thin air.

Pruitt, yet another politician on the national stage proving to be a cross for the commonwealth to bear, proudly proclaimed on several of the Sunday morning gab fests that the coal industry has taken off under President Trump and his efforts to make America great again.

“Since the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector,’’ Pruitt, squealing with delight, said on Meet the Press. “In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.”

Wow, that’s terrific, 50,000 new coal mining jobs since Oct. 1. It’s particularly remarkable given that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only an estimated 51,000 coal jobs in all of the U.S. in May 2017.

Either the mining industry was in significantly worse shape than anyone suspected before Trump and Pruitt took over, or the product of the Lexington educational system is, like his boss, making stuff up as he goes along.

The latter, it’s fair to say, is more likely. The down-on-its-luck coal industry has experienced some modest gains – up about 1,200 jobs nationwide over the past year – but it still employs, as The Washington Post recently noted, fewer workers than Arby’s fast food joints, perhaps because Arby’s serves curly fries while your basic coal mine most decidedly does not.

Now, let’s give Pruitt the benefit of the doubt (difficult for any right thinking individual to do given his exuberance for destroying the planet) and assume he was temporarily insane with delight over Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. In that case the entirety of the nation’s mining and lumber sector, not just coal, including those who sweep up at the end of the day, shows a gain of about 47,000 jobs since October.

But it really doesn’t help his argument. Most of those new slots in the mining and lumber sector are support personnel, meaning they aren’t headed underground. And most of those new posts are in the oil and gas industries.

All of which means Pruitt and the Trump administration are churning out the usual propaganda trying to convince the American public that their efforts to undercut all the environmental gains achieved during the administration of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, including the nation’s disgraceful withdrawal from the Paris accords, is destined to return the good, ol’ US of A to easy street.

This crew managed to capture the White House and associated agencies with promises that the coal industry will rise like the phoenix and the road heading into Wheelwright over the Timothy Hall Memorial Bridge will be covered in black dust. It’s an empty promise, doomed to failure, and they’re hoping to maintain support in the hills and hollows by asking folks to swallow phony-baloney statistics and worthless promises.

It’s obscene. And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, are there, not only cheering the fraud but throwing it around like five-dollar bills at a strip club.

Dumping on the Paris accords shows just how far these jamokes are willing to go to keep their racket alive. Under the agreement, signed by all the nations in the world save for Nicaragua and Syria, each country is expected to develop plans for mitigating the dangers presented by global climate change and develop plans for addressing said problem. The accord doesn’t contain a mechanism to force any of the signatory countries to hit a target by a specific date.

And why was this agreement found necessary? An overwhelming number of climatologists and other involved scientists maintain that human production of greenhouse gases, primarily from burning coal, is causing the planet to grow warmer. In the long run, that climate change will wreak havoc with the environment. Coastal areas face flooding because of the resulting snow melt. Wildfires will become more intense and the season will last longer. Hurricanes will be stronger.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Rising temperatures will likely lead to increased air pollution, a longer and more intense allergy season, the spread of insect-borne diseases, more frequent and dangerous heat waves and heavier rainstorms and flooding. All of these changes pose serious, and costly, risks to public health.’’

Trump, Pruitt, McConnell and the rest choose to deny or ignore the true dangers of global climate change simply because they want to. It gets in the way of their agenda and provides an opening to disaffected workers who are willing to reach for any life preserver thrown in their general direction, even if it ultimately results in carrying them to the ocean bottom

Coal combustion, primarily from power plants, represented 24.5 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Worldwide, coal is responsible for 44 percent of global CO2 emissions. The pact was expected to reduce coal burning, thus mitigating global climate change.

And it was nixed by Trump, with the vocal support Kentucky’s unholy trinity—Pruitt, McConnell and Paul. Our ersatz president said he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement “as someone who cares deeply about the environment,’’ which is rather like saying the cat cares deeply about the canary.

He called the potential energy restrictions – all of them voluntary – “onerous,’’ and said the accord “is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.’’

So much rubbish, so few garbage men. While jobs in the coal industry are in decline, save for those mining metallurgical coal used in steel production, new opportunities are availing themselves in the energy sector that don’t require carbon combustion – wind, solar and even nuclear.

Trump, Pruitt, McConnell and the rest choose to deny or ignore the true dangers of global climate change simply because they want to. It gets in the way of their agenda and provides an opening to disaffected workers who are willing to reach for any life preserver thrown in their general direction, even if it ultimately results in carrying them to the ocean bottom.

It also results in a lot of cash for their campaign coffers, which, of course, is the most important consideration of all.

Trump and the Kentucky unholy trinity are more interested in finding insignificant factors about global warming that they can use to their benefit in dismissing the dangers than to take seriously what the scientists are fervently warning. They site studies that grossly overstate costs and potential job losses in a sector that already has bled jobs over the past several years.

They are doing the nation and, in this case, the world a grave disservice.

But, boy, the politics sure look good.

It is the epitome of cynicism. Why should anyone be surprised?


Washington correspondent 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.

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