President Joe Biden

A big green turnaround

As the US government flips, a few random looks back, and a peek ahead.

Hope you're enjoying America's first weekend under Joe Biden. Is it too soon for a little Trump-era nostalgia?


Let us pause to remember Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke. You do remember Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, don't you? They were Trump's initial EPA Administrator and Interior Secretary, respectively. Both left beneath their own ethical clouds. Both are now working in "consulting" roles for a battery of companies the two used to regulate. According to an investigation by Bloomberg News, Zinke signed with both a gold mining company and a pipeline maker in 2019. Such consulting is legal for high-ranking ex-officials. Federal lobbying was forbidden for five years after leaving office due to an Executive Order written by President Trump—until Trump himself revoked that same order hours before he left office.

Pruitt has found similar work with a midwestern coal company, according to the Indianapolis Star. The Washington Post reported Pruitt pitched his services as a sort of celebrity spokesmodel to the National Association of Manufacturers shortly after leaving government. NAM said they did not retain Pruitt.

Both men were investigated Congressionally and criminally, with no charges against either.

In his first days in office, Biden marked his climate turf with spectacular gestures. With mere strokes of his pen on Inauguration Day, he restored U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Accord and pulled the critical permit for completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Before Inauguration Day, Biden assembled a climate A-Team that included John Kerry as an international superdiplomat; former EPA head Gina McCarthy as Kerry's domestic counterpart; ex-Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as Energy Secretary.

But a major question in President Biden's assembling climate team lies with his designated Senate point person, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. The coal-friendly, moderate Democrat will face re-election next year if he chooses to run for his third Senate term.

I'd also like to see some gentle persuasion brought upon those whose rigid beliefs hijack their lives, but from my 12 years in Washington DC, I think it's a near-impossibility. There's a sad example in plain view in the middle of the city: The bedraggled few who still patrol the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in vain hope that their buddies from 50 years ago are still Missing In Action, alive in Hanoi tiger cages.

If you think for a minute that climate denial is on its deathbed, consider these poor souls' deathgrip on fantasy.

Three final, loosely related thoughts about how our nation's Capitol could serve us better:

    1. Anyone who has anything to do with politics should be term-limited: Senators, consultants, lobbyists, and especially TV pundits;
    2. Anyone who refers to Washington as "This Town" has clearly been in "That Town" too long, and;
    3. Anyone who looks at our national convulsions of the last few weeks, few months, or four years and concludes that "the system works" should be escorted outside the Beltway and given a permanent expulsion.

    Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

    His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

    Banner photo: President Joe Biden address the crowd and nation during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. (Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr)

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