Californians have experienced the horrors of oil drilling firsthand. In 1969, an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara proved to be calamitous, spilling over three million gallons of oil and doing monumental damage to the coastal habitat, which happens to be some of the most sensitive in the entire United States.
Citizens of California have not forgotten the damage that oil drilling can bring to their state and its ecosystems, so when Donald Trump proposed new offshore oil drilling in California, members of both Democratic and Republican parties in the state, including Republican governor Jerry Brown, voiced strong opposition.
Trump’s proposal affects more than just California’s shores, however. The plan seeks to sell off around 90 percent of the United State’s oceans to be used for offshore oil drilling. This would be devastating for the economic and environmental resources of coastal areas, and goes against the very notion of states’ rights, which Republicans often cling to so dearly.
In attempting to push this proposal through, Donald Trump is spitting in the faces of Republicans and Democrats alike who do not wish to have oil drilling off their states’ coastal shores.
If anything, this proposal shows that Trump’s streak of conservative populism which got him elected is firmly dead and buried. Instead of investing in energy that would be healthy for his voters and for their environment, he is disregarding the wants and needs of states (even those that are Republican-controlled) and choosing instead to aid the oil and gas industries.
With renewable energy resources ready to be harnessed and used, these antiquated fuel sources are being kept alive only by politicians who are seeing massive paychecks from those industries.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Chevron, Exxon, BP and Citgo Petroleum, among other fossil fuel donors, gave millions for Trump’s inauguration alone, clearly confident that they would be safe to flourish and grow under Trump’s administration.
It cannot be overlooked, also, that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, was the CEO of Exxon Mobil before joining Trump in his cabinet. Between the donations and the interests of his cabinet members, it seems clear that Trump’s interest in this massive expansion of offshore drilling is not for the benefit of the American people.
The backlash from officials in his own party makes things interesting, as this may very well be the biggest disagreement that Republican state officials have had with the president’s policy since his election (which seemed to turn him from populist to neoconservative almost overnight).
If Trump wants to keep whatever shred of a mandate he may have, he would be wise to back down from this decision. Both Republicans and Democrats have to live in the environment, and neither would like it to be ruined, diseased, toxified, or destabilized by hazardous oil drilling. When it goes wrong, and it is very likely that it will, Donald Trump will be the one that people will blame.
Republicans and Democrats have always been crafty in creating legislation that seems like it will help everyone, but really does the opposite: tax cuts for the wealthy, welfare “reform,” standardized testing, the 1994 Crime Bill, etc. This is how both parties manage to trick voters so easily: there is a facade of care for the average person.
However, this massive expansion of offshore oil excavation cannot be misconstrued or misunderstood when it eventually goes wrong and wreaks havoc on some unfortunate states’ coastal inhabitants. In the event of such a disaster, there will be nothing to hide behind for Trump, whose supporters have found themselves in a toxic environment as a direct result of his policy.
Tourist economies will likely be hit, causing people to lose jobs. Many of these people will likely be Republicans. This drilling policy is almost asking Trump’s voters to turn against him. As such, it would be more than advisable for him to reverse this decision completely.
If he will not do it for concern of the environment or the well-being of the American people, he should at least do so for the sake of his own popularity, whichever he finds most important at the time.