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Rightwing think tank ‘wages war on our children’s future’

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Picture: REUTERS/Amr Alfiky/June 13, 2023 – Former US President Donald Trump, who is again making himself available to run for president in the next US election. The Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership would serve as a policy blueprint for the first 180 days if Trump — or another Republican — were to gain control of the White House in January 2025, the writer says.

By Olivia Rosane

Close down the Department of Energy’s renewable energy office. Cut cash flow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of environmental justice. Stop the nation’s electrical grid from expanding to include wind and solar. These are all items on a right-wing think tank’s to-do list for the next Republican presidency.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Presidential Transition Project released the ninth edition of Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise in April, and that mandate includes significant rollbacks to federal efforts to tackle the climate emergency, as E&E News reported Wednesday.

“Make no mistake: this is a battle plan,” End Climate Silence founding director Genevieve Guenther tweeted in response to the news. “The war being waged is against our children’s future.”

The Heritage Foundation, formed in 1973, has long been an influential player in conservative politics. It released the first edition of its Mandate for Leadership ”policy bible” in 1981, and boasted that President Ronald Reagan implemented almost half of its suggestions within his first year in office. Former President Donald Trump’s year-one uptake of the 2016 edition’s advice was even higher, at 64 percent.

The foundation is no stranger to delaying climate action. Between 1997 and 2013, it was a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, the longest-running group of climate-denying organisations, according to the Climate Investigations Centre. It has also accepted a total of $870,000 in grant money from ExxonMobil, $25,000 of which was designated for climate change-related activities.

However, its current suggestions come at a particularly urgent moment in the effort to phase out the use of the fossil fuels cooking the planet: This month saw the hottest day in recorded history, deadly carbon-fuelled heatwaves on three continents, and a new study finding that an important North Atlantic current could destabilise this century.

“Everyone involved in this effort should be ashamed of themselves.”

“Wildfire smoke from Chicago to NYC, ocean temperatures hot enough to kill you in Florida, record low sea ice, record heat in Arizona and the GOP is focused on repealing all climate legislation,” Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) tweeted. “Everyone involved in this effort should be ashamed of themselves.”

The document would essentially serve as a policy blueprint for the first 180 days if Trump — or another Republican — were to gain control of the White House in January 2025, as E&E News explained. Climate and environmental rollbacks in the document include

  • Axing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations;
  • Stopping the focus on “grid expansion for the benefit of renewable resources or supporting low/carbon generation” and instead expanding natural gas infrastructure and overall fossil fuel use;
  • Downsizing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA offices including the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, and the Office of Public Engagement and Environmental Education;
  • Preventing other states from adapting California’s stricter environmental standards for greenhouse gases; and
  • Banning the use of scientific studies including private health data in setting EPA regulations.

“What this does is it basically undermines not only society but the economic capacity of the country at the same time as it’s doing gross violence to the environment,” Clinton-era National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official Andrew Rosenberg, now a senior fellow at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy, told E&E News.

More than 400 people contributed ideas to the final document, which was written by former Trump staffers, industry lobbyists and consultants, and conservative policy experts. The section on the DOE was penned by Trump Federal Energy Regulatory Commission appointee Bernard McNamee, while the EPA section was written by Mandy Gunasekara, who served as the agency’s chief of staff under Trump.

The document doesn’t limit itself to climate and energy policy, but rather contains a chapter on each of the major federal departments.

“Project 2025 is not a white paper. We are not tinkering at the edges. We are writing a battle plan, and we are marshalling our forces,” Paul Dans, director of Project 2025 at the Heritage Foundation, told E&E News. “Never before has the whole conservative movement banded together to systematically prepare to take power day one and deconstruct the administrative state.”

Writing in The Progressive Magazine, Bill Blum warned that the overall plan sought to enhance executive power at the expense of the U.S. system of checks and balances:

One of the project’s more disturbing aims is to bring all federal agencies under direct presidential control, ending the operational independence not only of the Department of Justice and the FBI, but also the Federal Reserve, which oversees the banking industry and regulates interest rates; the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees television, radio, and the internet; and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which enforces antitrust and consumer protection laws.

Doug Bessette, an associate professor at Michigan State University’s department of community sustainability who studies clean energy, called Project 2025 “truly a terrifying plan and document.”

“I work in and often for the interests of rural, typically conservative, communities,” he tweeted, “and this plan is unbelievably out of touch with the bulk of them.”

Olivia Rosane is a Common Dreams staff writer

This article was first published in Common Dreams