OPINION: EPA head is dead wrong about the government’s role in regulating Big Oil

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By Kyler Jackson and Caleb Snider

In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News on Sunday, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt said the government “should not pick winners and losers” in terms of energy production.

“We shouldn’t have this commitment by the U.S. government to say that fossil fuels are bad, renewables are good,” Pruitt said. “That’s what happened in the last several years.”

Are you kidding me? The government absolutely has the responsibility to deem something bad if it is proven to harm the public’s health, and pollution from the oil and coal industries does just that.

Data compiled for the Global Burden of Disease project found that an estimated 5.5 million people die every year from air pollution, an obvious byproduct of the oil and coal industries.

But I guess fighting for your right to breathe clean air and have safe drinking water isn’t something the government should do, according to Pruitt, who has sued the EPA on 14 different occasions.

Also, according to Oil Change International, as of July 2014, the United States’ fossil fuel subsidies were an estimated $37.5 billion annually, including $21 billion in production and exploration subsidies. That’s not picking a winner?

Of course, these comments by Pruitt aren’t necessarily shocking or new, as disinformation has long been a tactic by Big Oil and their lobbyists.

For example, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that a week before the Kyoto climate talks in 1997, Mobil Oil took out an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post in which they drastically downplayed climate change.

“Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” the ad said. “Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much and where changes will occur.”

However, what Mobil Oil so kindly hid from the public was that a year prior to the talks, engineers at the company had expressed concerns about climate change and began designing and building a “collection of exploration and production facilities that made structural allowances for rising temperatures and sea levels.”

The same article goes on to report that in the early 1990s, the Global Climate Coalition — a coalition comprised of energy companies including Mobil, Exxon and Shell — was formed and for the next decade ran a massive public relations campaign designed to misinform the public about the effects and reality of climate change.

The coalition even went so far as to distribute videos to the White House suggesting that “higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were beneficial for crop production and could be the solution to world hunger.”

What has changed is a political hack and mouthpiece for Big Oil is now head of the EPA and in charge of (de)regulating the oil and coal industries.

And how do you explain to someone like Pruitt, or former CEO of Exxon Mobil and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or other oil executives, that putting profits ahead of people’s health is wrong?

It seems that the only thing these shareholders and CEOs care about is profit. How about explaining to them that their profit will be hurt when more people are struggling to breathe?

No one can have private air, Mr. Pruitt. The actions you take as head of the EPA will affect millions of Americans and yourself alike.

Kyler Jackson is a sophomore in political science and Caleb Snider is a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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