America-First Development and Energy Independence Policies: Implications and Mechanisms Explained by the Treadmill of Production and the Treadmill of Law

Authors: Deseret Weeks*, University of California - Merced
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology, Global Change
Keywords: climate change, neoliberal capitalism, fossil fuel, political ecology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


With major aspirations for fossil fuel development, US America-first energy independence policies benefit short-term fossil fuel corporate interests while undermining climate change management goals and key environmental laws. Kern County, CA is faced with the compounded impacts of climate change in addition to air and water quality issues due to fossil fuel development. In a snapshot case study, this research applies Schnaiberg’s continuum of ecological concern and development trajectories, the Treadmill of Production (ToP), and Treadmill of Law (ToL) to explain the localized impacts of fossil fuel development in addition to accumulative deregulatory activities that favor the fossil fuel industry over socio-environmental wellbeing. This case study verifies that as the ToP expands and chemicals are increasingly introduced into industrial processes, increases in social inequity and disease coincide with greater levels of environmental pollution. Results of this research determine the continuum of ecological concern in the US has shifted far right and that a positive feedback due to the accumulation of federal deregulatory actions since Reagan have created major systemic imbalances. Structural changes needed to remove this positive feedback include reinstatement of environmental laws deregulated under Trump, amendment of Reagan’s executive order for regulatory reviews requiring cost-benefit analysis to include socio-environmental risk assessment, repealing of the ENRON and Halliburton Loopholes, increasing buffer zones for gas and oil development, restoration of the crude oil export ban, and alignment of US energy policies with those of California climate change mitigation laws and programs with no exceptions for the fossil fuel industry.

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