Let's Make America 1950 Again

Let's Make American 1950 Again

Congressman Kevin Cramer thinks Donald Trump should take us back to the 1950s when big cars got 18-20 miles per gallon if the driver was lucky.

The 1050's were a time when American's believed that resources -- petroleum, as well as clean air and water -- were limitless. Congressman Cramer would like to see the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stop the Clean Power Plan and Methane curbs, according to Laura Curtis in  Bloomberg. His proposals are not only contrary to the Paris Accords and common sense, they are fighting a change that the boards of directors of Exxon and Chevron will have to face in the coming years.

Congressman CramerMr. Cramer's notion of 'Making America Great Again' would bring about a states-first regulatory regime, rolling back a lot of the federal regulations. "Let states handle methane and fracking," Mr. Cramer said. He went on to add that he’s told the Trump campaign that it should advocate letting two popular government programs, the Renewable Fuel Standard and production tax credit for wind power, expire. “I think the whole thing should be allowed to expire because the market has been created.” he said, referring to the RFS. The same logic applies to the wind tax credit, which was extended through 2019 in last year’s spending deal, and shouldn’t be extended he believes. He went on to say that he thinks the 'national security' angle will be the most persuasive in making this argument to the American people.

The problem is that this is logic is both short sighted and incoherent.

  • Markets: If the standard for government support is when "markets have been created", then why has the petroleum industry been rewarded with never-expiring tax breaks that has supported a virtual monopoly over our fuel supply for over 100 years. Congressman Cramer has received over half a million from the industry, while the American taxpayer is scheduled to hand over at least $38 billion in tax breaks over the next ten years.

  •  RFS Successes: The RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) has been America’s most successful clean energy policy of the last decade, curtailing carbon emissions by 34-88 percent, reviving rural economies, supporting over 850,000 jobs, and saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump, according to Blake Williams of the Americans United for Change.

  • Energy Security: If we are concerned about about energy security, we should advocate for a program which keeps jobs and supply right here in the U.S. The petroleum industry hasn't seemed to care where product comes from, even if that means staying dependent on hostile overseas regions.

It is important to think about what our politicians are saying, and to examine whose interests those comments benefit. Long term, the petroleum industry is facing a downturn, and their own shareholders are advocating changes in response to climate change. According to Fortune, “Companies like Exxon and Chevron, they’re clinging to bygone assumptions,” said Anne Simpson of CalPERS, which holds Exxon shares worth about $1 billion.

Anne Simpson, CalPERS“If they [Oil companies] want to still be in business in 30 years, they have to understand the changes that are taking place.” Ms Simpson said Exxon and Chevron should ramp up investments in clean energy to avoid being caught by sudden technology shifts.

Another proposal would increase shareholder buy backs, while stopping investments in coal and oil. This is a long term 'wind-down' strategy that was rejected by the board but supported by other large shareholders. 

Shanna Cleveland, CeresShanna Cleveland, Senior Manager, Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative at Ceres added: "These strong votes at Exxon and Chevron coupled with high votes at Occidental, AES, Anadarko, and Southern Company sent a powerful message that investors see climate change as a material financial risk. They underscore the ongoing momentum post-Paris and urgency to prepare for a low-carbon transition. Fossil fuel companies, like Exxon and Chevron, can no longer act as if nothing has changed."

What the future holds is uncertain. What is clear is that the 1950's won't come back. As we shift to fuels that are less damaging to our air quality, those with the knowledge of how fuels work could -- and perhaps should -- be on the forefront of that change.