Dec '16/Jan '17

Editor's letter

Interesting times

By Ryan Bergen

Ryan BergenI held out until just after midnight on election night before finally turning off the TV and the befuddled commentators who were struggling to articulate the how and why of what was unfolding in the United States as swing states broke Donald Trump’s way.

While nothing in life is certain, the next few years seem especially fraught as we wait and watch to learn which of this protest-candidate- now-president’s bold declarations find expression in actual policy and what effects they may have. That a political candidate will not follow through on much of what he promises should calm certain concerns. The recklessness of some of his statements, now harnessed to the power of the American presidency, however, has a lot people holding their breath.

His promise, for example, to revive the U.S. coal industry translated into a bump for coal company share prices following his election, but as Cecilia Keating reports in her post-election story, “Campaign promises and economic pressures,” market watchers are skeptical Trump’s presidential heft can change the direction of the domestic coal industry.

The appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does, however, make it clear that coal miners now have someone well aligned with their stated interests. The National Mining Association argues that EPA rules have done far more damage to the fortunes of the coal industry than has cheap natural gas. Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, has been a relentless antagonist of the EPA with a lawsuit against the federal government for regulatory overreach in the courts right now.

What will the consequences be if the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide opts out of the coordinated global effort to reduce emissions? Like the election night pundits, I am at a bit of a loss, but, since it is the eve of the new year, I will risk this prediction: If such international agreements are put aside and those in charge of the EPA dedicate themselves to pulling it apart, the recent standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline will be just the first in a litany of drawn out public confrontations over resource projects. Whose interests will that serve?

Ryan Bergen

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