President Donald Trump’s ultra-conservative EPA chief spent a good 15 minutes on Tuesday morning getting grilled by MSNBC panelists about Trump’s recent decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. It was not a smooth interview. At one point, host Joe Scarborough had to pause it because Pruitt repeatedly refused to answer a basic yes-or-no question on climate change. Still, Pruitt’s interview did reveal the Trump administration’s warped view of environmental policy. They want Americans to believe that:
1) The Paris climate agreement has nothing to do with climate change.
Pruitt refused, three times, to say whether he discussed climate change with Trump during their deliberations over the accord.
WILLIE GEIST: In your conversations, you never talked about whether climate change is real and whether it’s impacted by humans?
PRUITT: The focus of our discussions was and has been on the merits and demerits of the Paris accord.... It was a very informed and thoughtful approach. We took weeks evaluating this. And he put America first with respect to this decision.
GEIST: And climate change never came up?
Pruitt then launched into an extended answer about how Trump would continue to engage with other countries, but that they believed the Paris accord was unfair to the United States.
GEIST: So the conversation about Paris—which at its core is about climate change and the world’s impact, and human impact on it—you never raised that with president Trump in a meeting?
PRUITT: The focus of the discussion was on the merits and demerits of what Paris sought to achieve.
Scarborough interjected, asking Pruitt two more times whether he spoke to the president about about the reality of global warming. Later, Pruitt accused Scarborough and his panelists of misdirection. “The reason you’re asking this question is to get away from the merits and demerits of the climate accord,” he said. Pruitt thinks it’s off-topic to discuss climate change during a debate about a climate change agreement.
2) Trump’s actions are creating a coal job boom.
Pruitt’s interview on Morning Joe came after three separate interviews on Sunday in which the he claimed that the promise of Trump’s environmental policies had contributed to 50,000 new jobs in the coal mining sector since the fourth quarter of last year, and 7,000 new coal mining jobs last month. Those numbers were false. Only 1,000 coal jobs have been added since Trump became president, and only 400 last month, according to the Washington Post. Pruitt was conflating regular mining jobs—like copper and gold mining—with coal mining jobs.
An EPA spokesperson later admitted Pruitt had flubbed, so Pruitt tweaked his talking point for Morning Joe. Confronted by panelists about how the coal sector is dying while renewables are growing, Pruitt responded: “We’ve had almost 50,000 jobs created in the fourth quarter of last year in the mining sector, including coal. So we see optimism in this sector.” Pruitt did not mention that the vast majority of those jobs are not coal, indicating he still wants people to believe the boom is bigger than it actually is.
3) The environment is just fine the way it is.
In defending Trump’s decision on Paris, Pruitt focused on stabilizing the electricity grid and preventing high electricity bills, not improving the environment. In fact, Pruitt repeatedly talked about how much America has already done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the last two decades—reductions that are largely due to the country’s overall increase in use of natural gas over coal.
Pruitt rejected the notion that the U.S. should promote renewable sources of electricity to further those emissions reductions. “What we ought to be talking about is how we burn coal, how we burn electricity using natural gas, using the latest technology to reduce emissions,” he said. And yet, Pruitt recently halted a regulation that would have required oil and gas companies to use the best available equipment to prevent leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The whole interview is here: