The EPA, Climate Change and our Economy

After watching President Trump abandon his promise to improve, “repeal and replace” the Congress-approved Affordable Care Act after just 17 legislative days, I joined America in disbelief in the gap between rhetoric and results leveraged by the highest office in the land and the Republican-led Congress.

I am now more concerned than ever with the possible failures yet to come. Specifically, I am concerned that President Trump and the Republican Congress intend to roll back four decades of progress made toward protecting the environment. And they are doing it in the name of “ending the war on coal.”

This picture from the “Energy Independence” signing ceremony yesterday illustrates my concern. The photo-op is lined with young men without explaining that it was market forces and technology, not actually EPA regulations, that are ending coal jobs and the promise implied to a future coal-dependent workforce. This new effort by the President is not an improvement of existing energy or environmental policies — it is likely to ensure that entire regional economies are left behind. Ironically, most in the front row looked like the Soldiers I served with in Iraq (Soldiers who were in the Middle East for many reasons including to secure access to cheap foreign oil). That does not sit well with me. I work very hard to provide opportunities to allow people find the education and training they need for the new economy — I don’t mislead anyone that we can bring coal jobs back in the numbers they are promising.

Still photo from video on website from the signing ceremony

It’s also worth noting it was a previous Republican President, Richard Nixon, that established the Environmental Protection Agency in response to our rivers and lakes literally catching on fire due to irresponsible dumping of toxic chemicals by unchecked special interest and disenfranchised municipal authority. President Reagan made significant commitments to study and document the causes and solutions of the acid rain that was destroying our rivers and forests, awakening millions of Americans to the dangers of environmental mismanagement. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land and commented on the importance of the natural state, writing:

We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.

I give the example of these three Presidents to suggest that, in taking the long view, the protection of our natural resources is not a Democrat or Republican issue, but, at its heart, it is an American issue.

Today is a real 1–2 gut punch for those like me that have welcomed the progress made over time to protect our environment. First, as I read about President Trump’s plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan, I realized his efforts were not actually designed to improve our business climate or decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Instead, I saw an attempt to live up to a pandering campaign promise to bring back coal jobs. To really help people in the coal industry, we must be honest with the men, women, and families who are currently depend on the misplaced hope of the coal industry’s revival. We need to invest in education, new industries, and a new reality for our fellow Americans.

In an OP-ED this week, in the Dallas Morning News, Michael E. Webber, the deputy director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin points out that “the future of energy runs through Texas, not Washington.” He outlines the reality that low prices for natural gas and introduction of machinery and automation have shed jobs in the coal industry, not efforts to protect our environment. It is in that spirit of using facts and analysis that I co-found a new company where we are working to bring together experts, data and solutions to help companies and public institutions manage disruptive change. And that is why I’m frustrated with politicians who use emotional rhetoric to block a real discussion and analysis of the way forward.

If a data-denying President was the only challenge, the damage might be mitigated. However, Republican Lamar Smith, the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, will hold a hearing today today to “examine the scientific method and process as it relates to climate change.” Before the hearing starts, it’s already being billed as ‘high theater” between Rep. Smith’s loyalist climate change deniers and senior scientists in the US Government.

I argue that Rep. Smith, like the President, is not actually working to protect business or the environment, but instead to use protectionist policies to prop up an issue where the free market has already spoken. Even worse, Rep. Smith’s actions aren’t tied to a delivery of hyperbolic campaign promises. He actually denies the science, he glosses over the facts, and in turn puts at risk the quality of the environment we leave to our children.

I agree with Webber, “the future of energy runs through Texas, not Washington.” I hope you will join me in taking a serious look at the forces that are impacting our economy as well as our environment. My goal is work through complex problems to improve our economy while protecting the quality of all Americans, especially those involved in building our new energy economy. And it can start right here in Texas.

It’s why I am taking a serious look at running for Congress against Rep. Lamar Smith. I welcome your support here at our website.

The EPA, Climate Change and our Economy was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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