Trump to tout ‘energy dominance’ at new plastics plant

President Donald Trump is taking a break from his August vacation on Tuesday to visit a Pennsylvania petrochemical plant, where he is expected to hail the facility as a prime example of his administration’s success in securing US “energy dominance and manufacturing revival,” an agenda provided by the White House states.

The Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in Monaca, just outside of Pittsburgh, is scheduled to be finished in the early 2020, and will focus on producing plastic made from byproducts of fracking for natural gas.

The Appalachian region of Pennsylvania and West Virginia are large fracking producers, and the plant could help revitalize the industry which has been hit hard by lower natural gas prices. The massive plant has created 5,000 construction jobs. About 600 jobs are expected to be permanent, The New York Times reported.

But according to the Times, environmentalists are concerned that the plastic eventually produced at the plant will just add to the glut of plastic debris that is not being recycled and is adding to pollution worries.

Trump was asked about plastic pollution ahead of his visit to the plant. The President blamed other countries in Asia, including China, for mismanaging their plastic distribution and disposal.

“It’s plastic that’s floating over in the ocean and the various oceans from other places,” he claimed.

The Trump administration has long supported expanding domestic production of petroleum and natural gas, including loosening Obama-era regulations. His campaign team has also seized on recent attempts to push paper straws and reusable straws by selling plastic straws in hopes of firing up their base over one of the latest culture wars.

Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt, a former petroleum lobbyist, has been touting shattering records for oil and gas sales made through the agency’s Bureau of Land Management. And under Trump, the Energy Department has worked to keep coal and nuclear power plants from closing.

As part of Trump’s quest for domestic energy dominance and deregulation, mitigating the effects of climate change have fallen by the wayside, critics say.

In the latest example, the administration on Monday weakened protections for endangered animal species, a move critics fear will allow for more oil and gas drilling and limit how much regulators consider the impacts of the climate crisis.

The lack of action on climate change has even garnered criticism from one of Trump’s strongest allies on Capitol Hill, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said in July that he “would encourage the President to look long and hard at the science and find a solution.”

While Trump has moved away from calling climate change a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese to admitting that “something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” it’s not likely that the President sees moving away from the oil and natural gas industry as part of the solution.

When Trump imposed tariffs in early 2018 on solar panels coming in from overseas, the Solar Energy Industries Association estimated that more than 20,000 solar industry jobs would be lost. And while most other segments of the energy production industry, including wind power generation, are growing, the President earlier this year went so far as to claim, without evidence, that windmills cause cancer.