Fossil fuels? Plastic? Trump says more is better

By AFP
Published: August 14, 2019
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Whilst environmentalists decry fossil overuse, US president senses opportunity. PHOTO: ONLINE

Whilst environmentalists decry fossil overuse, US president senses opportunity. PHOTO: ONLINE

MONACA, UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump has seen the future and it is oil. And plastic.

Where most environmental scientists and the US allies fear that overuse of fossil fuels is driving the planet into crisis, the US president spies’ only opportunity.

In a speech on Tuesday to hundreds of workers building a new Shell petrochemical factory near Pittsburgh, Trump did not bother paying even lip service to environmental concerns. He just wanted to make clear that America is winning.

“We’re the number one energy producer and I’m so proud of that,” he said.

Already, the United States has won “independence” from the former Middle Eastern guardians of the oil spigots, Trump said.

Next up? “Dominance.”

Trump said that his priority on entering office had been to halt “the war on energy.”

Ending “the far left’s energy nightmare” is at the core of his presidency, he said.

The crowd, comprised mostly of men in high-visibility safety vests and work boots, cheered.

The Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex will make manufacturing-grade plastic out of liquid natural gas extracted through fracking from the Marcellus Shale deposit.

The facility, a huge web of pipes and half-constructed buildings, is a symbol of Trump’s aggressive pro-fossil fuel agenda – and a powerful statement to his working-class voters that he meant business when he promised to restore the US manufacturing base.

Pennsylvania is a particularly important target: the state will be one of the vital pieces in the 2020 presidential election puzzle and Trump is struggling.

But plastic?

The material, once celebrated as a near-miraculous by-product of hydrocarbons, is increasingly seen as a scourge, clogging up rivers, circulating forever in the seas, invading the food chain, and showing up everywhere from the deepest ocean to the seemingly pristine Arctic.

All that, Trump says, is someone else’s fault.

“It’s not our plastic. It’s plastics that are floating over in the ocean,” Trump told reporters on the way to the Shell plant.

“Plastics are fine, but you have to know what to do with them. But other countries are not taking care of their plastic use and they haven’t for a long time.”

Trump’s focus on old-school heavy manufacturing and fossil fuel energy production goes far beyond just visiting the occasional new factory.

He has sought to rewrite strict environmental protection rules that he referred to on Tuesday as “horror stories.”

Trump gleefully told the crowd that his Environmental Protection Agency chief, Andrew Wheeler, “knows how to break it up.”

Breaking it up means the Trump administration’s dismantling of regulations put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan, which sought reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

As he mentioned in his speech, Trump has also pushed to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a remote and beautiful area of Alaska, to oil drilling.

One of his first acts as president was on an even bigger scale: pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to unite the planet in a joint push to reduce carbon emissions.

Without US participation, the massively ambitious plan lacks both the world’s biggest economy and most active leader.

But Trump told workers that the restrictions imposed in the agreement would have “taken away our wealth.”

“They didn’t want you to drill. They didn’t want you to frack. They didn’t want you to do steel,” he said. “It wasn’t for us. It was good for others.”

Democrats lining up to take on Trump in 2020 have pushed back vigorously on environmental issues.

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