Trump’s Pollution Plan ‘Worse Than Doing Nothing,’ Study Finds

There’s no chance that we’ll solve our current climate crisis by doing nothing, but in the case of Donald Trump’s White House, doing something might actually be less effective than doing nothing. By that I mean that the administration’s proposed pollution plan could be so counterproductive at fixing the environment that we’d be better off if there was no policy at all.

That’s the conclusion of research soon to be published in the journal Environmental Research Letters that looks at what kind of effects the Affordable Clean Energy Rule will have on emissions. Crunching the numbers, it appears that the coal-friendly plan would result in about 11 million extra tons of CO2 by 2050 than if they just eliminated emissions policy altogether.

To be fair, the proposal is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at power plants modestly, with the emphasis on modestly since it amounts to just 0.6 percent over the course of a decade. Indeed, that’s a little bit better than nothing, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that the same policy offers incentives to power plants that use coal, which is, by design, likely to keep coal plants open longer than they would be able to otherwise. Bear in mind that the only reason our emissions levels have decreased to this point is the collapse of the coal industry, which results in less extra dirty emissions in our air.

Of course, Trump has sworn to protect coal miners’ livelihoods despite it being impractical, which is probably why coal plays so prominently in the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. At best, he’ll be delaying the inevitable demise of these coal plants and dirtying our air in the meantime.

Another motivation may be to devilishly advocate for the end of policy and environmental regulations overall. If the Trump administration can put together such a lousy plan that even environmentalists say, “We’d prefer that you did nothing,” they could run with that as a prevailing mentality.

That’d be an incorrect read, however, since there are plenty of policies and approaches that can help our environmental dilemma. For example, Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan – which the Trump admin finally successfully purged late last year – was massively better than Trump’s approach. The same research anticipates an intact Clean Power Plant would have yielded 62 million fewer tons of emissions than the Affordable Clean Energy Rule will produce.

In other words it’s not that doing nothing is a great tactic, but it may be preferable so long as Trump’s energy lobbyists-turned EPA directors at the helm.

Doing nothing seems to be a theme at this EPA in light of some other news that the EPA is pressing charges against rule-breaking polluters at a lower rate than anytime in the past 30 years. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of broken emissions laws that they could be enforcing, it’s that there’s an apathy toward doing so – which in turn tacitly gives corporations permission to ignore the rules.

Clearly, we need to install a new administration – one that believes in the environment and accountability – to take power as soon as possible. Until then, we sadly can’t even count on the supposedly pro-environment plans they propose to actually be of any benefit.


shana l
shana l2 months ago

The best way to combat pollution is to eradicate Trump and his administration. Trump has proved time and time again what a extreme danger he is to all humanity. We have one chance on this planet and we need politicians who actually care about the future of this world. Individuals need to do better and help save the planet. Small steps do count! Stop using plastic straws. Use a reusable water bottle. Bring a travel mug. And be energy efficient.

Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

Both parties are corrupt. The Democrats are refusing to support Medicare for all, free colleges, worker coops, marijuana legalization, and a pullout from Afghanistan and Syria, because they are crooks like the Republicans, and bought and paid for by corporations and Wall Street.

David C
David C2 months ago

apologies to the future

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill2 months ago

Resistance to Trump is coalescing the left.

Karin Hanson
Karin Hanson2 months ago

The biggest pollution in this Moron in Chief's plan is himself!! He is out to destroy his country's environment, economy and democracy! WAKE UP people

Susanne R
Susanne R2 months ago

David F. - The "worst president in history" hasn't retired. He might resign and leave the country. He might be impeached. He might even be indicted. But he hasn't retired. We're still suffering through his presidency. And for your information, the national debt has increased to $22.50T since trump took office.

Regarding your comments about the growth of the national debt during the Obama administration: "The budget for Obama's first year in office was set by George W. Bush and during the 2009 fiscal year, it created a $1.16 trillion deficit. Bush had left the White House but it was the next guy who picked up the tab.

Comparing the numbers is simple. Knowing who the numbers belong to, and more importantly who to blame, is the useful information."

It appears that you haven't mastered the "who to blame" part. Obama had his work cut out for him when he inherited Bush's recession. (Think "sub-prime mortgage crisis.")


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

shana l
shana l2 months ago

Trump is our country's living and breathing nightmare. So proud to have NOT voted for him. But to what end. He's systematically killing our country.

Julia R
Julia R3 months ago

This president and his administration is a total failure! All Trump and his administration have been doing since the tragic day that he was elected has been and undoing progress that had been made in many areas and now damaging our environment in every way that they can! What a legacy of incompetence and destruction this man has laid behind him! I hope that he is impeached or jailed soon while they're is still something left in our country.

David F
David F3 months ago

Susanne R. 2006 Pelosi sized the government purse strings (House along with senator Obama) and promised the 100 day restructuring of the government. Pelosi and Reid voted to keep raising the dept ceiling.

The 8.42 Trillion debt grew from 2006 when the Pelosi owned the purse strings, to $19.947 TRILLION when the worst President in history retired.

11.5 Trillion increase
It would have been far worse if the Repubs had not taken the House back.