Trump changes US policy: 'Conserving oil no longer an economic imperative'

In terms of its effect on the lives of Americans, as well as the economy, the change of U.S. policy announced by the Trump administration last month to almost no media attention is a big deal.  Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press picked up on it belatedly:

Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the U.S., the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.

The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration's proposal to relax fuel mileage standards.  The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE standards) have had a profound effect on what Americans drive, and where cars are produced.  Steel has yielded to (more expensive and flimsier) aluminum and plastic parts in cars, so that hitting something at 4 or 5 miles per hour inflicts a huge amount of damage on the part that we still call a "bumper" even though it breaks or falls off at the slightest provocation, causing expensive damage.  And smaller, flimsier cars are by the laws of physics, more dangerous to drivers and passengers.

Cars are only the beginning of the implications of this change in fundamental policy.  The so-called "alternative" energy sources, as well as battery-powered cars, are premised on twin grounds of saving petroleum and preventing the release of CO2.  Recognizing that hydrocarbons are abundant, not in shortage, helps refine the decisions to impose expensive electricity on consumers as purely based on the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.

With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation – even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards.  The memo made no mention of climate change.  Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.

President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of "energy dominance" as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.

The new energy reality, thanks to fracking, is taking a while to be expressed in words and investment plans, but it will change the shape of what we drive, where we get power, and what products the American economy excels in producing.  We are already seeing German chemical companies moving some production to these shores, to take advantage of far cheaper power (Germany's green restrictions have driven up power costs there significantly) and the secure availability of feedstock.

Greenies, of course, are apoplectic:

"It's like saying, 'I'm a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped – it's time to start eating again,'" said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.

"If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint," Kloza said.  "There's a downside to living large."

Climate change is a "clear and present and increasing danger," said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.

I expect we'll see the fleet on our roads start to change slowly, as auto-producers adapt to the new reality.  It might even be possible that chrome trim and bumpers that actually work will make a comeback.

1956 Chevrolet Impala (photo credit: Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons).

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