WH Says We Don't Need To Save Energy
Reversing decades of US policy, the Trump administration says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative. AP: "Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, 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. Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which 'in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,' the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving 'the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.' 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."
WH To Unveil Coal-Friendly Emissions Policies
Former Koch lawyer turned top Trump EPA official to deliver major win for big polluters. Common Dreams: "With President Donald Trump expected to unveil a plan on Tuesday that would enable states to decide whether to regulate coal plant emissions, defanging former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, the New York Times on Sunday published a detailed profile of William Wehrum, an ex-lawyer for corporate clients like Koch Industries who now leads air pollution policy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With Wehrum's climate-wrecking deregulatory agenda and ethics conflicts so clearly outlined in the report, journalist Jonathan M. Katz warned on Twitter, 'Even if the president ends up in prison, we're going to be paying for this era for the rest of our lives.' Wehrum is credited with pushing for the anticipated coal-friendly policy, and numerous other rollbacks of Obama era regulations on big polluters. As Bruce Buckheit, who led the EPA's air enforcement office under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, put it, "They basically found the most aggressive and knowledgeable fox and said, 'Here are the keys to the henhouse.'"
Trump Remaking U.S. Judiciary At Record Pace
Inside Trump’s judicial takeover. Rolling Stone: "(White House Counsel) Don McGahn has spearheaded the administration’s unprecedented campaign to reshape the American judicial system, filling courts with judges who share Trump’s goals of dismantling environmental protection, rolling back civil and reproductive rights, and gutting labor laws — in other words, destroying the so-called administrative state. 'These efforts to reform the regulatory state begin with Congress and the executive branch,' McGahn said in his speech, 'but they ultimately depend on courts.' On the campaign trail, Trump told evangelicals and other wavering Republicans they had no choice but to vote for him: “You know why? Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court judges.” He talked about judges nonstop and even released a list of 21 potential Supreme Court picks that he had gathered with the help of the Federalist Society and the archconservative Heritage Foundation. He would enter office with the most judicial vacancies since Bill Clinton — largely thanks to Republican filibustering of Obama’s nominees — and his administration has filled those vacancies as fast as possible. As of this writing, Trump has put 26 new judges onto the appellate courts, more than any other chief executive at this point in the presidency. He has also nominated over 100 district-court judges and gotten 26 of those picks confirmed. These judges are overwhelmingly young, ideological and now set to serve lifetime appointments. And then, of course, there’s Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first pick for the Supreme Court, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s second Supreme Court nominee, who stands a strong chance of confirmation."
U.S. Mercenaries Want To Privatize War In Afghanistan
Erik Prince is launching a cable news tour to convince Trump to privatize the war in Afghanistan. ThinkProgress: "Growing impatient with the conflict in Afghanistan as it stretches into its 17th year, President Trump is becoming more receptive to appeals to privatize the war, advisers to the president told NBC News. The privatization proposal would involve replacing soldiers with mercenaries who report to a special U.S. envoy, who would in turn report directly to the president. The idea is the brainchild of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who claims the scheme will save billions of dollars and help quickly resolve the conflict. Military experts disagree, disputing the purported savings and raising alarm about the ethical dilemmas, most notably the potential lack of accountability, sparked by relying on private contractors to fight U.S. wars. Last summer, Prince pitched his idea to hand over Afghanistan to mercenaries in a PowerPoint presentation to Trump advisers as the White House mulled its next move in the region. The administration ultimately decided to authorize a troop surge instead. Now, in a move that coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration’s troop surge announcement, Prince told NBC News he’s launching an 'aggressive' media campaign to convince Trump to reconsider his proposal. Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, told NBC News he is confident he’ll be able to schedule time to speak more with Trump officials about his ideas in the coming days."
Trump's Mega-Deficits May Become Permanent
Trump trillion-dollar-plus deficits are putting America on a path to fiscal ruin. USA Today: "It became very clear this month that neither the Trump White House nor its allies on Capitol Hill want you to know that the federal budget is already in very bad shape ... and getting worse. It happened when the U.S. Treasury, the official keeper of Washington’s financial results, issued its monthly statement for the first 10 months of fiscal 2018 about federal revenues and spending and, therefore, the budget deficit. Treasury showed what no president ever wants to admit: the deficit is spiking. The federal government’s red ink this year is already 21 percent above what it was in 2017 and there are few prospects that the bottom line will improve anytime soon. Except with infrequent and unsubstantiated platitudes about how the situation is going to get better, the Trump White House and Republicans in Congress have been doing everything possible not to talk about the budget this year. To avoid tough questions and politically embarrassing votes, the House and Senate have even refused to consider a budget even though they are required by law to adopt one. Unlike the trillion-dollar budget deficits that occurred during the Obama administration that were temporary and largely the result of the Great Recession, the Trump deficits that will soon reach and exceed $1 trillion are permanent and will only get worse in the years ahead."