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Boy Scouts: Leave the Environment Better Than You Found It

Yesterday in a speech at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree, the President of the United States joyously proclaimed that the U.S. would soon be an energy exporter. The Secretary of Energy and top Administration boy scout, Rick Perry, energetically applauded behind him. Great, right!? Except, unfortunately, he is not referring to clean energy -- which is the type of energy most of the developed (and developing) world are wanting to buy.

Secretary Perry, along with his colleague and former eagle scout EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, intends to accomplish this by making it easier to extract and transport fossil fuels by rolling back environmental and public health regulations, building pipelines and making incredible deals for countries that still want to use cheap and toxic oil and gas. To create and support these markets, they promote an economic theory that if we greatly increase production by opening up new drilling, fracking and mining in protected areas, we can flood the market with low cost oil and gas, making it cheaper, more affordable and desirable against the growing supply and demand for energy sourced from renewable solar and wind production. To successfully apply that strategy, we (are complicit if we let them) will need to exploit parks and protected wilderness areas, cut off and into mountains and the Earth's core, and support manufacturing and product use that will burn fossil fuels.

Beyond the irony of this pitch being made from a bully pulpit address to 40,000+ boys gathered to celebrate their commitment to country, community and conservation, they push this message in front of the release (or not) of new evidence contained in a Department of Energy report intended to back up their rich fossil fuel strategy. Unfortunately, their report did not do that. Instead, it shows the continued job growth and trending future of clean and efficient energy production and how moving in this direction will save consumers and business in the U.S. more than a half a trillion dollars. They may want to keep this report on the down low.

Clean energy advocates, and 11 states, are not going to let this happen. Specifically, States are suing the U.S. government for actions to delay the implementation of several energy efficiency rules that were already fully reviewed and finalized by our federal agencies. The new Administration fears these rules, that support energy efficiency guidelines, will lower the demand for fossil fuels. That objective is, of course, consistent with our national policy for cost savings and energy efficiency, but it would not support their energy export plan. They would rather have our businesses and citizens use and pay more to consume fossil fuels.

This is not about climate denial. Perry, Pruitt and even the President have acknowledged there is a health and environmental cost to pollution from carbon emissions. If you believe in global warming or not, there is no denying that oil, gas and coal are limited resources. They do not grow back. They are up in smoke when we use them. Industry giants like General Electric, Tesla and ExxonMobil know this. That is why they are paying attention to work on energy storage, electric vehicles and energy efficiency. Industry trends are moving toward (not away from) solutions that develop products and systems that use renewable sources of energy and materials.

As these markets shift, we will face disruption. My hope is that our government will stop holding its breath and join the clean energy movement to help communities shift to new solutions and new growth strategies. If we approach this challenge with the fervor put into protecting the old systems, we can move forward together -- not backward.

To the 40,000 boy scouts at the Jamboree yesterday, who listened to this provocative pitch from the President, pay attention to these trends as you work to earn your merit badge for conservation, sustainability and ecology. Remember the words the President shared with a pride we all share about the boy scout tradition -- the golden tenet and lesson of scouting to leave the environment better than you found it. I commend the President for including this in his speech. Were his two top scouts listening? Was he?

Finally, I urge all 40,000+ of you to sign the petition to support a youth constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. U.S., filed by Our Children's Trust against the U.S. government. This lawsuit asserts that, through the government's affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources. The fossil fuel industry, which had earlier joined the U.S. government against the lawsuit, has since dropped out, leaving the Trump Administration to fight its battle once again.

Show your support for the climate youth with an RSVP on facebook!

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