It was refreshing to see President Trump remind the world in a speech at the White House this week that America leads the world in making our air and water safe while growing our economy.
Sadly, the press has failed to adequately report American environmental progress, and it seems hostile toward the president using his platform to celebrate it. Case in point — one story distributed by the Associated Press (and recycled by many upon the announcement of Trump’s remarks) went to great lengths to try to find something negative to say about American air quality. Experts have already weighed in about the misleading nature of the AP’s story, because it used a tortured analysis that inflates the significance of isolated measurements and ignored decades of compelling data.
The president wants the American people to hear the full truth about how much progress has been made, because once there is more recognition of the effectiveness of our model, it can be replicated across the rest of the world to bring about similar progress.
Speaking of the rest of the world, the United States should challenge our allies and trade competitors to follow America’s example and meet our environmental standards. Other nations lag far behind American reductions in dangerous particulate matter, mercury, and ozone. It is frustrating that so much time and attention has been spent on climate change agreements based on modeling and debated projections, yet we have not secured a single international agreement regarding the pollutants we know kill people.
Hopefully the president’s remarks will lead to global discussions that focus on air and water quality — and the energy poverty we know creates human hardship and shortens lifespans. After all, what good is it to strive for a perfect environment, if we are not improving the health of the humans who live in it?
It is also important to point out that challenging the world to meet America’s standards is not just good for humans overseas — it will also benefit Americans by making sure we don’t keep exporting jobs and importing pollution. Because American industries are required to install costly pollution controls, our global competitiveness is impaired by the lack of standards in the countries with whom we compete.
This un-level playing field is especially pronounced in globally competitive manufacturing industries that have too often moved their operations from the less-polluting American system to nations without sufficient environmental standards. Pollution overseas does not just stay there. Experts agree that internationally transported particulate matter, mercury and ozone are major contributors to air and water pollution in the western United States.
Ironically, by opposing liquified natural gas export facilities based on anti-fossil fuel ideology, West Coast states are slowing the reduction of the very pollutants Asia transports to them.
We must face the fact that developing nations in Asia and around the world will not slow their energy consumption to reduce pollution because they are dealing with a much more pressing problem — lifting billions of people out of energy poverty, which shortens life and limits opportunity, especially for women. The cheapest energy will dominate this expansion, which is why the experts predict global fossil fuel consumption to increase dramatically because it is by far the most affordable for human consumption.
America has demonstrated for the world that environmental gains can be achieved by use of fossil fuels, not despite them. America has found a clean way to harness fossil energy through high efficiency, technology-equipped power plants and refineries, as well as improved manufacturing techniques like Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steelmaking.
One need only track the timing of improvements over the past half-century to discern that, indeed, it was private sector technology, not radical ideology and central planning, which made American air and water safe. Thankfully, coal, steel, oil and gas workers are still around and doing their work cleaner and leaner than ever before.
Hats off to the president for celebrating the progress America has made and challenging the world to return sanity (and humanity) to the forefront of global environmental policy.
This commentary originally appeared in the Daily Caller on July 9, 2019.
Mike Nasi is the director of the Life:Powered project and an environmental and energy attorney with Jackson Walker LLP in Austin, Texas. He has been practicing before state and federal environmental and energy agencies and appellate courts for 25 years.