It’s no real surprise, of course, but it didn’t take that long before Oklahoma’s former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, now head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, openly revealed his anti-environment philosophy and his crass and open embrace of the fossil fuel industry.
Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, does not believe that CO2 is a primary contributor to climate change. Honestly, this is pathetic. pic.twitter.com/zFM0H1sG35
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 10, 2017
When asked recently in an CNBC interview whether he thought carbon dioxide had contributed to global warming, Pruitt responded:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
This very important “no” contradicts his agency’s own web site and his earlier comments at his confirmation hearing in which Pruitt conceded “. . . the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner.” For the record, there is no question among numerous and credible scientists that carbon emissions accelerate global warming through the amplification of the greenhouse effect.
But let’s be clear again that Pruitt is a halfway decent manipulator of the political landscape, and his ongoing and intentional slippery comments about global warming are aimed at financially benefiting the oil and gas industry, which has openly funded his campaigns and endorsed him for years. His comments, which drew swift condemnation, are not at all surprising for anyone following his political career in Oklahoma.
So just to state the obvious: President Donald Trump appointed Pruitt as head of the EPA and Republicans confirmed his appointment to dismantle environmental protection and to give a financial boost to the oil and gas industry, which is in a major slump, maybe even a permanent realignment. Given that knowledge, there seems to be little point beyond creating a spectacle in teasing Pruitt into making outlandish comments about climate change and global warming.
Pruitt will absolutely continue to make outlandish and goofball comments, which always pass for intellectualism and leadership in Oklahoma, but what matters more, all hyperbole aside, is the damage he will inflict on the planet as the top EPA administrator.
What might conceivably save us, however, is that that the world’s oil barons—from Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm to the Saudi Arabian monarchy—have created such a major fossil-fuel glut that the oil and gas industry is resetting itself. This is combined with the growth of renewable energy and the implementation over the years of fuel efficiency standards. The oil market, as prices continue to show, has imploded on its own excess.
Have we reached peak oil demand? Will carbon emissions start to recede as the use of wind and solar energy grows geometrically? Have we reached a point of no return in terms of global warming?
Those will never be the questions Pruitt will publicly address or even maybe even privately consider. What Pruitt will do is sell a program of relentless drilling for fossil fuels and favorable terms for those companies which do so even as the glut continues. His absolute last concern will be global warming. Only a major catastrophic global warming event would demand or create any action on his part. Pruitt has the best job in town these days because he’s getting paid for doing nothing.
Pruitt, it should be noted once again, is closely tied to the oil and gas industry through campaign donations, which have obviously made him a surrogate for its interests. That’s no exaggeration. The majority of voters in Oklahoma—there was little local vocal protest against Pruitt’s anti-EPA and anti-Obama agenda when he served as the state’s attorney general—are now also directly responsible for enabling him. Anyone in the world concerned with the environment should realize that these voters and even some Oklahomans who incredibly self-identify as Democrats or even progressive gleefully want Pruitt to dismantle the EPA for simple ideological reasons if nothing else or are so apathetic and self-loathing they simply don’t care.
Oklahoma is also home to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, perhaps the world’s best known denier of the impact of carbon emissions on global warming, which continues to generate extreme weather patterns, melting Arctic ice and rising sea levels. Hamm, who I mentioned earlier in this post, has served in some capacity—most likely just as a figurehead billionaire—as an advisor and supporter of Pruitt, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma’s overall right-wing extremism and political apathy among its intellectuals has turned the state into an environmental wasteland caused by the negative impact of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The storage of the wastewater related to the fracking process, scientists confirmed, is responsible for the numerous earthquakes the state now experiences, some of which have caused damage to property.
Pruitt and Inhofe, who have done nothing to stop the earthquakes here, have enjoyed political success among the state’s vast number of religious fundamentalists, who have a narrow and reductionist anti-abortion agenda and are urged through the pulpit to support Republicans no matter how much the GOP as a political party works against their economic interests.
Oklahoma is a case study in right-wing extremism, which isn’t exactly startling news, but it does beg some outside scrutiny now that Pruitt has taken control of the EPA to effectively change its mission to the polar opposite from protecting the environment to allowing the oil and gas industry to further damage the environment. Anyone who believes in Pruitt’s claims that there’s a balance in supporting the financial interests of the fossil-fuel conglomerates while also protecting the planet needs to spend some time in Oklahoma.
What Pruitt, Inhofe and other Republican leaders in the state of Oklahoma are hiding right now is that the state itself is collapsing into economic and budgetary chaos created by their own disinterest and ideological blindness. Why slash the taxes of millionaires and billionaires, for example, while cutting funding for public education the most of any state in the nation on a percentage basis over the last several years? It a slow but steady suicide that now threatens the state’s viability.
As I’ve written before, Oklahoma has come to Washington D.C., and it isn’t Woody Guthrie’s Oklahoma, folks. It’s a hillbilly oligarchy, which fits perfectly with a president who tells fibs, big and small, spews hate, and is vested in making the rich richer while convincing the rubes through tweets he’s on their side.
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