EDITORIAL: Time to guzzle again?

York Dispatch
A car is filled with gasoline at a station in Windham, New Hampshire. Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the U.S., the Trump administration declared recently in a major new policy statement.

All of us heard it from our parents growing up.

"Turn off the lights when you leave a room."

"If you're cold, put on a sweater."

"Stop driving around, you're wasting gas."

Apparently, we don't need to do any of that any more. 

The Trump administration, with no fanfare (never a good sign with this bunch), made a policy change earlier this month.

With the growth in natural gas and other fuels, the U.S. doesn't have to import oil any more, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said.

The policy cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked U.S. shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”

In other words, conservation is passe. Crank up the AC, bring back those incandescent light bulbs, go find a 1975 Oldsmobile and fill it up — and none of that wimpy ethanol blend, either!

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Yes, America, now that oil prices have dropped and our country is producing plenty of oil and natural gas from fracking, the Trump administration wants you to consume all the petroleum and coal products you can.

There's a proposal to freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, an idea the administration says would eventually increase oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day.

Programs that provide incentives for electric cars, biofuels and other conservation efforts are under fire.

An announcement is expected soon to roll back federal restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, a centerpiece of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service. 

It's true, oil prices have dropped. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel. Now, it's right around $65. 

But other things have changed, too. 

“If you look at it from the other end; if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere … you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”

That downside is commonly known as climate change. 

Burning fossil fuels pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn traps heat. The planet has warmed 1.62 degrees since the Industrial Revolution, according to NASA and nearly every other scientific organization in the world. 

That warming is evident in everything from the increasingly savage wildfires in the western United States to deadly heat waves in Japan and Europe to monsoon-like rains here in York — remember that week last month when we got more than 9 inches of rain?

Allowing new cars to burn more fuel will only make the situation worse. Pushing energy companies to use more coal will only make it worse. Turning away from developing technologies in alternative energy will only make it worse.

What would make it better would be continuing to support conservation efforts, improving gas mileage in vehicles, continuing a switch to renewable energy.

The best solution would involve having an administration that understands science and cares about what we're doing to the planet.

Don't expect that from this White House.