If anyone was in any doubt about whether Donald Trump would be a willing puppet of the fossil fuel industry once in office, yesterday he made his intentions clear. He intends to be Big Oil’s puppeteer in chief.
Ignoring climate change and trampling on the rights of Indigenous peoples, the President signed executive orders on the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (see picture).
“It’s going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers, back to work,” said the president. “We will build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes. … Like we used to in the old days.”
This is so simplistically short-sighted that it is frightening. You can have all the jobs you want but if you have runaway climate change, dirty air and water, jobs won’t really matter in the end.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Trump – like the Brexiters in Britain – hark back to a mystical time in the fifties when life was simplistically good. The only problem with this is two fold –it never existed in the first place and even if it did, its sixty years ago and the world has long since moved on.
In the sixty years since the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached record levels.
As the Badlands National Park twitter feed defiantly noted yesterday: “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”
Trump might ignore the science and the evidence, but like King Kanute he can’t hold back the tide of climate change impacts.
In his simple “America-first” attitude Trump also signed an order promoting the use of American-made steel for oil pipelines. Sounds good on paper, but wrong in practice. As my colleague Lorne Stockman pointed out yesterday, the move “has myriad implications that will likely cancel out whatever benefits Trump thought he might be conferring on the U.S. economy and workers.”
As Lorne notes: “Back in 2011, researchers at Cornell University studying the spurious jobs claims being made about the Keystone XL project, found that while nearly half the project’s steel had already been contracted, none of the primary input materials were being made in the U.S. Nearly 80% of the steel contracted by TransCanada for the project at that point – 40% of the total needed for the pipeline – was being manufactured in Canada by a Russian-owned company. The other 20% contracted at the time was to be imported from India.”
The other thing is that Trump seriously underestimates the environmental movement and Indigenous rights movement which has found a renewed energy and common purpose with KXL and the Dakota Access pipelines.
“A powerful alliance of Indigenous communities, ranchers, farmers, and climate activists stopped the Keystone and the Dakota Access pipelines the first time around, and the same alliances will come together to stop them again if Trump tries to raise them from the dead,” said Greenpeace USA Executive Director, Annie Leonard.
She added: “Instead of pushing bogus claims about the potential of pipelines to create jobs, Trump should focus his efforts on the clean energy sector where America’s future lives.”
David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International said: “Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do … We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”
The Indigenous Environmental Network added that it was “alarmed” by the announcement, saying: “These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples. The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.”
It is still unclear if Trump still actually owns shares in Energy Transfer, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline. Having sold most of his shares, the press are reporting that he still held $50,000 last summer. No one knows what is the case now. Trump’s Energy Secretary pick, former Texas Gov Rick Perry, is also a paid board member of Energy Transfer Partners.
Likewise the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters are vowing to resist the Executive order: “President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” said Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault.
Others were equally outraged: Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation who works with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council, said: “We can’t back down now. We have to continue to stand to protect the water for future.”
Xhopakelxhit, a member of the Nuu Chah Nulth, Coast Salish and Cree issued a plea for support, adding: “If you want to stand with Standing Rock, this is the time people should be there.”