Fossil Fuels Lead the Interior Department’s New Energy Webpage

The environmental agency’s new energy webpage stresses “removing burdensome regulations.”

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Jun 8 2017, 7:31pm

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Government agencies are slowly realigning their missions toward those of President Trump. This shift is visible online, where government websites have been selectively and quietly scrubbed of Obama-era information.

Shortly after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's confirmation on March 1, 2017, the agency's energy webpage was changed to reflect Trump's "America First Energy Plan." According to the page's source code, it was last updated on May 19, 2017, though it's unclear when the bulk of the edits occurred.

I reached out to the Interior Department for comment but did not immediately hear back.

As of February 11, 2017, the page, then called "New Energy Frontier," stressed the importance of developing "conventional but also renewable resources on our nation's public lands." This line has since been removed. It also listed, seemingly in order of importance, domestic energy sources as follows: solar, wind and waves, hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, oil and gas, and coal.

The page's current iteration, which has been retitled to the Trump-ian sounding "American Energy," inverts the prioritization of renewable energy over fossil fuels. Instead of emphasizing responsible development, it now lauds the possibilities of unburdened resource extraction—conveniently ignoring that some fuels, like coal, are more harmful than helpful to America's economy.

The Interior Department's new energy webpage.
The Interior Department's old energy webpage.

"The Department of the Interior will increase access to public lands and balance conservation with the unleashing of America's energy opportunities. And removing burdensome regulations at the Department, the United States will benefit from a stronger economy," it states.

While Trump and Obama may have agreed on energy independence, the previous administration adopted an "all of the above" strategy which included boosting renewables. This didn't always win Obama the support of environmentalists, but during his leadership, clean energy development more or less doubled, and more acres of federal land were protected than in any other presidential era.

Trump announced last week that the United States, at his command, will withdraw from the monumental climate change treaty known as the Paris Agreement. His decision was condemned by world leaders around the globe.

We can likely expect more changes to agency websites. It's not uncommon for institutions to match the viewpoints of sitting presidents. However, under Trump, a disturbing trend has emerged—agencies are quietly scrubbing vital information, such as climate change resources, from public-facing pages with little to no transparency.

"Let me make one thing clear," Zinke said in March, "the Interior Department is in the energy business…"