Trump’s Promise to be America’s Most Dangerous, Divisive President

Today, both President Obama and President-Elect Trump have urged America to keep calm and united. But despite these overtures, many Americans are experiencing a sensation akin to shock following one of the nastiest, most vitriolic elections in American history. One in which Trump repeatedly scape-goated women and minorities in a bald attempt to pander to some of the most harmful social undercurrents existing in our country.

Given the ugly tone of Trump’s campaign and his loss in the popular vote by 200,000 and growing despite apparent wins in the electoral college, Americans and people abroad alike now feel a very valid sense of deep concern for the future of a fractured Nation and an increasingly threatened world. For what Trump has pledged and promised to do during his Presidential campaign represents a very real risk of severe political, climatalogical, physical, and economic harm for this country, her people, and to the people and living creatures of this world.

(Berkley students chant ‘not my President!’ in protest walk out on November 9th. Across America and the world, similar protests were underway. Michael Moore, meanwhile, was urging continuous acts of civil disobedience in opposition to Trump’s election. Currently, over 100,000 people are protesting in New York City alone.)

Disturbing Threats to Jail Political Opponents

Threatened with incarceration for presumed crimes no-one has convicted her of, Hillary Clinton must be among those feeling the shock. Trump threatened to jail her if he was elected President. And many of his followers took up the cry — posting ‘jail Hillary’ signs on the sides of roads or demanding unjust incarceration of a political opponent loudly on twitter.

Unfortunately, if Trump’s current diplomatic demeanor spoils, these election campaign threats could very easily turn real. Trump has the power to appoint a special prosecutor. The power to appoint an Attorney General who agrees with his views. The power to, in effect, ‘rig’ the judicial and prosecutorial system to favor his opinion that Hillary should be jailed.

Trump’s uttering of these words during the campaign has already been deeply damaging. Never before in modern memory has one U.S. Presidential opponent publicly threatened to jail another. But carrying out such an action would be as unprecedented as it would have a terribly chilling effect on U.S. democracy.

An Angry Finger on the Nuclear Button

As Clinton reflects on Trump’s threats to haul her off to trial, others around the world are looking fearfully back at the rage-filled rhetoric of a man who is soon to be equipped with the full might of America’s considerable arsenal. During the campaign, Trump claimed to ‘love war,’ asked, multiple times, during security briefings why the U.S. doesn’t use nuclear weapons, and pledged to ‘bomb the shit’ out of Isis and steal their oil. He’s expressed a desire to turn NATO into a protection racket meant to extort fees from allies. And he’s shown a disturbing affinity toward other aggressive leaders like Vladimir Putin.

If Trump’s belligerence and seeming lack of sense continues post-campaign, there’s a valid concern that he might order a nuclear strike with little in the way of provocation. The President does hold the nuclear codes. And though aides, advisers and a substantial military chain of command provide a buffer between a bad decision and disaster, the fact that a hot-headed Trump ignorant to the devastating consequences of the use of such weapons is the final say in the matter is a serious worry.

Killing Climate Treaties, Promoting Fossil Fuels

As nations around the world look to the U.S. with fear and concern, a number of climate bad actors stand to be empowered by a Trump Presidency. Trump has effectively pledged to cut all funding to climate science and renewable energy research and development. In one fell swoop, this action would remove NASA and NOAA’s ability to track climate change even as the main competitors to fossil fuels — wind, solar, and vehicle battery technology — are effectively stymied. It’s a 1-2 punch that would dramatically harm this nation’s already flagging resilience to a rapidly worsening global climate crisis.

Meanwhile, his board of energy advisers are hand-picked from these bad actor fossil fuel companies and include a long list of climate change deniers. Trump has pledged to bring back coal while heightening U.S. oil and gas production and consumption. He has also promised to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, de-fund the EPA, and back out of the Paris Climate Treaty.

earth-under-fire

(Trump, according to Joe Romm over at Climate Progress, appears likely to go down in history as the man who single-handedly pulled the plug on the potential for a livable climate. I agree with Joe’s lucid but stark assessment — without some kind of significant outside action, we are in a very tough spot now due to this set-back by Trump. We really have been given no rational cause to hope otherwise. Image source: Ring of Fire Network.)

Combined, these actions would have a devastating effect on the currently building but still not sufficient global response to climate change. Backsliding by the U.S. will likely also cost reduced commitments by such varied states as India and China even as other countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada are likely to take U.S. climate inaction as their own excuse to renege on past emissions reduction goals.

Overall, a Trump Presidency that follows through on its anti-stable-climate agenda could cost the world as much as 1-2 C in additional warming this Century (on top of what’s already locked in) by keeping the U.S. and other nations on a business as usual emissions path longer and essentially dismantling much of the progress that was achieved under the Obama Administration. To be very clear, current bad climate outcomes are occurring under just 1 C above 1880s level warming. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas reduction commitments under Paris are setting the world on a path to about 3 C warming by the end of this Century. Trump’s policies, when all is said and done, could easily push that to 4 C or more — which would be utterly devastating.

Prospects for escalating climate policies to achieve a less than 2 C warming this Century are now also pretty bleak as Trump rolls in. In my opinion, it would take a wholesale rebellion by energy investors through the necessary act of divestment in fossil fuel industries and reinvestment in renewables to achieve this goal — first by sapping the political power of the agencies that keep putting people like Trump into office and also by removing capital for current and future projects.

David Roberts over at Vox is rather less sanguine:

The truth is, hitting the 2-degree target (much less 1.5 degrees) was always a long shot. It would require all the world’s countries to effectively turn on a dime and send their emissions plunging at never-before-seen rates.

It was implausible, but at least there was a story to tell. That story began with strong US leadership, which brought China to the table, which in turn cleared the way for Paris. The election of Hillary Clinton would have signaled to the world a determination to meet or exceed the targets the US promised in Paris, along with four years of efforts to create bilateral or multilateral partnerships that pushed progress faster…

 That story is gone now. Dead. The US will not provide leadership — it will be an active, and very powerful, impediment. Under unified Republican leadership, progress on lowering emissions in the US will halt and reverse and US participation in international efforts to combat climate change will cease.

Deregulation + Trickle-Down Isolationism is Bad Economic Policy

Following the Great Recession, Obama and a number of effective economic leaders managed to save the world from complete financial disaster. Helpful polices by Obama and the democrats, including the maintenance of Wall Street oversight, now serve as a thin veil protecting the U.S. and the world from another financial collapse. However, Trump’s pledges to bring back pretty much all of the failed republican economic policies promoted by the Bush Administration that were so destructive while adding still more of his own trouble to the brew risks severe economic consequences.

Trump has pledged to deregulate Wall Street — enabling economic bad actors to have the same free reign that set up conditions for the financial crash back during 2008. He has threatened trade wars with China and other partners — a policy that would have a chilling impact on global markets. He and his republican allies have promoted policies that would hobble the Federal Reserve in ways that would deeply undermine the national economy. And he has promised to produce a massive tax cut for the wealthy while slashing supports for the faltering middle class and poor in this country — further worsening the systemic inequality that has already so deeply harmed and divided our nation.

Economist Paul Krugman is not optimistic — warning of a global recession arising from a Trump Presidency:

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state much of the world is still in, eight years after the great financial crisis… So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

While the threat of a new global recession may not be immediately imminent, Trump’s overall economic stance doesn’t provide much in the way of benefit to anyone but the super-rich while adding to the risk that bad actor financial agencies will again crash the markets at some near or long term future date.

Building the Wall

Related to this likely damaging set of economic views is Trump’s continued pledge to deport millions of Hispanics while erecting a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Following through with the promise would turn the U.S. into a closed society for the first time in its history as a nation even as it risks the economic collapse of a country along our southern border. And just the expectation of fallout after Trump’s election today has already sent the Peso into free-fall.

Historically welcoming to immigrants, U.S. innovation and competitiveness has been driven by a constant influx of new people, new cultures, new ideas. Trump, like the rest of us, hails from immigrant roots. Following through with such a walling off of our neighbors and the creation of a ‘fortress America’ would steer away from a policy of openness to neighbors that has lasted for the better part of two Centuries. And while trade agreements with Mexico should certainly be managed to keep the needs of the American people (and not international corporations) firmly in mind, a wholesale shutting off of our relationship with that large and developing neighbor would ultimately be harmful to U.S. interests.

No Electoral Mandate

In the spirit of unity, I’ve done my best to strike a conciliatory tone. But this is difficult when there is so much at stake and when so many greedy corporate hands are now ready to manipulate majority republican congressmen, senators, and the President. To be very clear, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary. So this country didn’t elect Trump. As with Bush in 2000, the electoral college did the deed. This means that more people in this country wanted Hillary’s presidency and policies than those who wanted Trump’s agenda. As a result, Trump can claim no solid electoral mandate.

Overall, despite a pause in the hostilities coming from Trump, severe underlying policy dangers present themselves from a Trump Presidency. An enabling majority in Congress amplifies the risk that these dangerous policies will emerge and that an electorate that has been at least somewhat disenfranchised by Gerrymandering, voter suppression on the part of republicans, and overall intimidation and abuse, will continue to generate harmful and worsening fractures in American society. As with everything else, a worsening climate crisis further threatens to exacerbate these problems even as it generates serious issues all on its own. And the ushering in of yet one more climate change denier into office only serves to create more of a disconnect with public desires for renewable energy access and climate change related action.

Overall, this is a tragic day for America and the world. One with ever-more threatening clouds on the horizon.

Links:

Donald Trump Could Jail Hillary Clinton

Exxon Concedes it May Need to Declare Lower Value for Oil in the Ground

Economic Fallout From a Trump Presidency

Trump Lost the Popular Vote

Trump Already Having a Damaging Effect on Mexico

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Climate Hawk

(Note this is RS post #1000. One that will live in infamy.)

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Gas Prices Rising Again? Why Drill Baby, Drill Hasn’t Helped

Every year we hear the same thing. More US drilling will result in more oil production, driving down prices. And, every year, massive ongoing drilling efforts fail to deliver these promises. Instead, though US oil production increases at significant costs to US land, environments, and increasing damage via CO2 pollution, prices have remained at historically high levels.

Why?

Unfortunately, the answer to this particular question is a complex one. But the gist of the problem can be summed up in one simple phrase. The oil, and its related fossil fuels, are depleting, dirty and harmful to the environment, and they are geo-politically dangerous.

Depleting…

In the early 2000s, when oil prices were around 20-30 dollars per barrel, about 5,000 wells were drilled in the US each year. US daily oil production was around 6.5 million barrels per day and the cost of producing a marginal barrel of oil was around $15 per barrel.

Today, more than 20,000 wells are drilled each year. The amount of oil produced per well is much, much lower. And many of these new, rapidly drying, wells must be repeatedly fracked to get at hard to reach and diffuse underground deposits. The cost of producing a marginal barrel is around $75 to $80 dollars and the price of oil itself ranges from 80-120 dollars per barrel on the world market.

The US, for all its massive drilling and investment efforts, now produces a little more than 7.2 million barrels of crude oil each day. To just keep that number flat, it will have to increase the number of wells drilled each year even beyond the current 20,000. To increase oil supplies, US drilling efforts will likely more than double. More and more drilling for harder and harder to reach pockets of oil means continued upward pressure on prices. In all likelihood, the cost of a marginal barrel will continue to rise or, at least, remain at a level high as new technology fights an ongoing battle against depletion.

Depletion has also delivered a high volume of low-grade oil that is difficult to refine into gasoline. The issue is that every bit of oil that can be found is being sucked from the ground, regardless of quality. As a result, easy to refine oils are now scarce. So depletion creates a second price pressure as refiners scramble to acquire the means to turn low-quality oil into high-grade gasoline.

In the face of depletion, demand is still rising. China, India, and the Middle East consume more and more oil each year. Though the US and Europe continue to increase efficiency, demand growth from emerging economies more than makes up for any efficiency gain. Currently, more than 80 million new gasoline-powered vehicles are produced each year. This production creates an un-meetable demand for a depleting commodity.

During October and November of 2012, world oil demand reached an all-time high around 90.1 million barrels per day. But world oil supply lagged about 800,000 barrels per day behind this number. This kind of situation, which has become common-place since the mid-2000s, shows that boasts by the world oil industry of being able to meet demand via fracking and other new avenues are mostly hollow. Fracking, instead, is an irrational scramble to supply markets by any means necessary.

In addition, though oil production in the US comes at a very high cost, production in other countries is even costlier. Russia and Saudi Arabia both boast marginal production costs above $90 dollars per barrel. And drilling in both countries has been a frantic effort to slightly increase production. The risk for these countries is that large drilling efforts eventually fail and major oil fields go into rapid decline. Such events would wipe out many of the supply gains achieved via fracking. And, as time goes by, the risk of another super-giant field collapse increases.

Dirty and harmful to the environment…

With climate change producing increasingly severe weather and resulting in very rapid sea ice melt in the Arctic, oil producers face a growing number of strengthening protest movements. 350.org, a movement dedicated to returning world CO2 levels to a ‘safe range’ under 350 ppm, spear headed pipeline protests that have stranded oil supply within the US.This stranded supply pushed US oil and gasoline prices lower even as it resulted in higher world oil prices. In addition, protest movements are pushing divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Broad protest action against fossil fuel companies is the direct result of a failure to transition to more sustainable energy: wind, solar, and vehicle to grid technology. Now, the oil companies face disruption via political and non-violent action that will also likely have a deleterious effect on their efforts to expand production. The result is that increasing damage and disruption due to climate change and related protest movements are also likely to keep oil and related gasoline prices high.

Geo-politically dangerous…

Much of the world’s oil production occurs in geo-politically unstable regions. Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iraq and Iran account for more than 20% of world oil supply. Mexico and Russia account for 15%. Political turmoil and supply chain disruptions consistently impact these regions.

Geo-climate also now impacts major oil producing regions. The Gulf of Mexico falls under the gun from intensifying hurricanes, the US northeastern refineries have also been consistently impacted by major storms such as Irene and Sandy. The Bakken fields of North Dakota and Canada are under the gun for powerful direct wind-line storms should ice melt from Greenland continue to intensify. Arctic drilling efforts are also likely to be hampered by powerful storms and erratic weather in those regions.

The time for transition is now…

In fact it was yesterday. But since we didn’t transition away from oil yesterday, today will have to suffice. As mentioned above, oil is dirty, dangerous and depleting. It is a substance that involves severe and increasing risks for price shocks and even worse risks to the climate. Assurances that prices will substantially fall or that climate change risks will not emerge are imprudent at best and madly irresponsible at worst.

Therefore, oil should be considered something we must wean ourselves off of as rapidly as possible. Everything else is just pandering to a false hope.

In the end, massive efforts to exploit depleting and increasingly diffuse and hard to reach oil supplies are unlikely to succeed in long-term reductions in gasoline prices. In fact, such production faces a growing list of political risks and challenges. Further, such production is likely to fall under increasing threat from a less stable climate, both through the impact of storms on production and refining infrastructure and through a growing response by protest actions.

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