Environmental ignorance: Big Oil controls Trump’s America

Chris Ludlow, Co-News Editor

If the United States is meant to represent liberty, democracy and freedom, then why are private oil corporations able to hold influence on government positions of power?

In the century since climate change was theorized in 1896, very little has been done to reverse the harmful effects humanity has inflicted on the planet despite recent advances in renewable energy and clean transportation.

Unfortunately, environmental protection in the U.S. is now on the verge of a large step backwards due to the rolling back of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) protections. President Donald Trump’s stance on climate change and the powerful lobbying of the coal industry has already resulted in budget cuts to federal environmental and climate agencies.

While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, who retired from his position just weeks before Trump’s inauguration, may be the most blatant example of oil interests in government. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is just one of many politicians who has used his influence to aid the coal industry.

A New York Times investigation from 2014 discovered that energy lobbyists had drafted letters for Pruitt when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt sent these letters to the EPA, the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and President Barack Obama. The letters took a hard-line pro-energy view that emphasized the economic hardship caused by environmental laws.

So why do private oil corporations hold such a large influence over our government? Politicians are elected to represent the people, their people. Pruitt’s actions show his inability or unwillingness to work for the interests of the people, instead fighting for the economic benefit of an industry that is unapologetically destroying the earth.

Despite overwhelming evidence of climate change, one-third of seats in Congress are now held by politicians that deny the existence of climate change caused by humans according to a study from the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan progressive public policy research group.

At this rate, the environmental legacy of the new administration will be highlighted by a complete lack of understanding of the underlying science and an agenda that spreads misinformation. In a troublingly ignorant statement coming from the head of the EPA, Pruitt said this month that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change. To some, false statements like this may seem harmless. But when these statements come from the person that controls environmental protection in our country, they come with devastating consequences.

The most significant environmental action so far has been an executive order signed by Trump in favor of moving ahead with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. The order cleared the largest protest camp at Standing Rock and requested construction proceed once again despite widespread opposition.

Since then, Trump has eased several mining regulations, undone a financial disclosure requirement for energy companies and is considering budget cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EPA, both of which are at the forefront of climate change research.

It’s truly shocking that the existence of climate change caused by humanity is controversial at all. Facts support the theory, and there is no speculation. But according to the Pew Research Center, 20 percent of Americans believe there’s no evidence that supports climate change. It’s a travesty we are still debating this issue as if it were a matter of opinion. And the fact that there is such a debate demonstrates the oil industry’s influence over the public’s understanding.

The denial of climate change may have been understandable in the past when the research wasn’t fully developed, but now we’ve come to a period when it can no longer be ignored. We’ve all heard the oceans are acidifying and rising, polar ice caps are melting, average temperatures are spiking and storms are intensifying. So what will it take for all of our politicians to open their eyes to the situation and begin working collectively to undo the harm humanity and the fossil fuel companies have done?

This administration is doing everything within its power to undo the science and research into climate change and hide facts from the American people. Choosing not to believe in climate change does not make the reality any less evident. The world we live in is changing, and the signs exist for all to see. We are in a race against time and nature. The leaders of the world must listen to the voices of the people before the day comes when we simply waited too long to take action.