The Trump administration is taking decisive action in support of corporate interests with respect to the fifty-year conflict between corporations and the ecology movement. It is in essence a conflict over government regulations, with the ecology movement advocating strong government regulation of corporations in order to protect the environment, and with the corporate world so opposed to regulation that it has undertaken campaigns to confuse the people by creating a false image of division among scientists.
For example, the Trump administration has taken steps to reorient the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump has appointed a long-time opponent of the EPA to be its administrator. And he ordered the EPA to remove the climate change page from its website, a page that includes links to data on greenhouse gas emissions, including data from individual industrial facilities. Moreover, Trump administration officials have indicated that scientists employed by the EPA will be required to have their research reviewed before permission to disseminate their findings, changing the past policy of encouraging EPA scientists to publish the results of their work in scientific journals.
The EPA in recent decades has been making available information that supports the conclusion that human forms of production have an adverse effect on the environment, including research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Inasmuch as such scientific findings are the basis and the rationale for government regulations that are designed to protect the environment, the dissemination of them by the government undermines the political agenda of the corporations, and to a certain extent it undermines the legitimacy of anti-environmental regulation comments by high public officials. The Trump administration is attempting to eliminate this inconsistency and to bring the EPA in line with the pro-corporate policy of the Trump administration with respect to the environment.
In addition, during his first week in office, Trump issued executive orders that intend to advance the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota is opposed to the construction of the oil pipeline, concerned that a leak could pollute Missouri River drinking water and damage Native American cultural sites. In reaction to protests that attained national and international attention, the U.S. Corps of Engineers decided in 2016 to delay construction, pending a review for possible alternative routes. The Trump administration has asked the Corps to expedite the review or rescind its decision to conduct the review, so that an easement can be issued to Energy Transfer Partners, enabling the company to complete the final crossing under the river.
The tension between the Trump administration and the EPA is one particular manifestation of a general phenomenon of tension between transient high public officials and the permanent bureaucratic structures of the government. The effort to reorient the EPA can be seen as an indication of the intention of the Trump administration to transform the state bureaucracy in accordance with its ideological vision. Indeed, chief Trump strategist Steven K. Bannon, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, declared that the “deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun.
The moves by the Trump administration to defend corporate interests with respect to the environment received ample news coverage during the administration’s first week. But Trump’s January 27 Executive Order on immigration provoked a firestorm and a court battle, thus sidelining the environmental issue. The intense debate that broke out over the order had a relatively narrow focus, concerning the rights of U.S. residents and visitors from seven countries. Important due process issues are at stake here, and certainly the matter is of great importance to the persons affected. Nevertheless, the debate on these matters distracted attention from the defense of corporate interests with respect to the environment, and it also contributed to the negation of any possibility for public discussion of the false ahistorical narrative that frames the war on terrorism or of the root causes of uncontrolled international migration (see “Trump and the war on terrorism, Part One” 2/20/2017; “Trump and the war on terrorism, Part Two” 2/21/2017; “Trump on immigration” 2/22/2017).
One wonders if the January 27 Executive Order was planned deliberately as a distraction. If so, the liberals took the bait: they reacted with the predictable fury, and they took the lead in distracting the people from the essential.
Most transnational corporations for decades have been irresponsibly attempting to deceive the people by hiding or distorting knowledge with respect to the impact of human production and consumption on the environment. But the ecology movement has not had it entirely right. As I will discuss in a subsequent post in this series of posts on Trump, the ecology movement formulated its critique in a form that was disconnected from the struggles of the people for social justice on other fronts, especially the movements of the Third World.