October 23, 2020

The Trump administration has eased up restrictions on air pollution amid a respiratory disease pandemic

Even as the world faces COVID-19, the Trump administration is moving ahead to allow more air pollution from vehicles, corporations, power plants, and oil and gas drilling.

Watching the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been like watching what seems to be the horrific rollercoaster season finale to the reality TV-show presidency. Nothing is scripted, and it could all change at any second.

For one thing, who could have predicted that far-right Trump supporters would have reacted to coronavirus the way they have? A pandemic from China would seem to be the perfect storm to rally all the typical responses from paranoid, anti-globalist, largely xenophobic conservatives. 

However, rather than responding with alarm, they have done the opposite. Fringe Republicans and particularly evangelicals are still showing disbelief and skepticism that coronavirus poses a serious threat at all.

As Ross Douthat, Opinion Columnist for the New York Times put it:

“If there was ever a crisis tailored to the conservative mindset, surely it would be this one, with the main peril being that conservatives would wildly overreact to such a trigger.”

However, after several phases of a quickly-changing response, Douthat notes:

“…there remains a current of conservative opinion that wants to believe that all of this is overblown, that the experts are wrong about the likely death toll, that Trump should reopen everything as soon as possible, that the liberal media just wants to crash the American economy to take his presidency down.”

It defies generalizations of the conservative mindset, but that’s where we are in 2020. The world is upside-down, and Republicans now take their leads from the always self-serving Cult of Trump.

For another example of Trump Republicans seemingly abandoning reality and doing the opposite of what a rational human should do, consider this headline from the Washington Post today:

“Trump administration moves forward with looser air rules as respiratory disease grips U.S.”

The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people every year, with 200,000 annual deaths in the United States. However, the Trump administration is moving forward with allowing more corporations to pollute America’s air as we face a respiratory disease pandemic. When you get into the details, it only becomes even more egregious.

Even as scientists are considering that pollution may make us more susceptible to coronavirus infection, Trump is plowing ahead with allowing more pollution from cars, and oil and gas drilling. Not to mention, the EPA issued a memo on Thursday that gives petrochemical plants and power companies the green light to “determine on their own if they can report their operations’ air and water pollution levels during the virus outbreak.”

Commons sense would tell any rational person that pollution is as grave a threat to our survival as a species as this pandemic. Must scientists prove that we are more vulnerable to infection before Republicans would care to exercise some due caution during a pandemic? Really?

“Air pollution reduces our body’s ability to fight infection,” Moms Clean Air Force co-founder Dominique Browning said. “Pollution from power plants and trucks and cars is also one of the causes of the underlying heart and lung problems that make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.”

By the Trump government’s own analysis, Trump’s rollbacks of Obama-era mileage standards for cars and other vehicles, “shows that the new standards would lead to between 440 and 990 premature deaths each year” due to the increase in air pollution from tailpipes.”

Clearly, Trump’s response to coronavirus has been alarming and horrifying to millions of progressive people. However, it’s just a small part of the massive big picture.

Americans face threats to our health on many fronts, not the least of which is Trump’s failure to provide a plan for affordable health care. Instead, average citizens must constantly watch their backs, be it from attacks by insurance companies, polluting corrupt corporations, or now a horrifyingly botched pandemic response.

Below, see how social distancing has saved many thousands of lives by reducing air pollution temporarily, even as Trump seems intent to make it worse.

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