Just when you think you've heard everything, Team Trump comes up with a new plan so incredibly ridiculous and malevolent that it actually manages to surprise you. This time, it's a new proposal to use West Coast military bases as ... government-run coal export centers.
No, really. Because West Coast states have put steep environmental requirements on new would-be coal terminals, the Trump Administration proposal is, Eff it, we'll just start our own coal ports on military bases where nobody can do a damn thing about it! The almost comically crooked Ryan Zinke, still heading the Interior Department mostly because twenty other Trump scandals have overwhelmed his own in recent months, is bold in attempting to justify it as a national security concern.
“I respect the state of Washington and Oregon and California,” Zinke said. “But also, it’s in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities.”
So every U.S. naval officer on the West Coast will have to show up to work each day with a bucket of coal to put on the pile, or something, lest our nation be imperiled by a lack of coal elsewhere in the world? Not quite; the first site being mentioned is the mostly abandoned Naval Air Facility Adak in the Aleutian Islands, but Zinke suggests it’s only the first of several to be used up and down the Pacific coast. The other planned sites are as of yet undisclosed.
There are approximately fifty reasons why this is Deeply And Amazingly Stupid and will probably not go anywhere, unless Ryan Zinke and cohorts go to some rather amazing lengths to force it into being out of pure spite. The first is that there are very few suitable sites to begin with; deep-water ports are difficult to come by on the West Coast. The second is that you would have to get the flippin' coal to the military bases to begin with, which presumably still means sending enormous amounts of rail traffic through places that will still want a say in how that happens. The third is that the long-term export market for coal continues to look quite grim, even if Ryan Zinke and his coal-state buddies commandeer American military bases as free real estate for shipping the stuff. This would be a stopgap at best, a way to squeeze a few more pennies out of an industry doomed to extinction by free-market forces, regardless of what Trump's allies do.
Also, setting aside the astonishing corruption of it all, the glib merger of military and corporate interests represented by such a move would be, ahem, astonishing, even in this climate.
Nonetheless, there seems to be genuine interest in this plan among Republicans of the coal-producing states, partly as sop to a still-powerful lobbying industry, and partly as a way to screw with less-Republican states just for the sake of doing so.
“That might be, for example, retired military facilities or other places where we would be able to use those for exports — frankly, to get around some of the unreasonable obstacles that have been thrown up,” [Wyoming Republican and personification of malevolence Liz Cheney] said.
Wyoming and Montana Republicans may be playing the long game here: Temporarily obstructed from selling coal through western ports, Plan B will be to screw the planet so severely as to make the Pacific Ocean come to them, Rocky Mountains or no. The notion that Trump, Zinke, and the rest of the corrupt crew could manage to repurpose coastal military bases as coal export centers without facing a wave of coastal voter opposition that would strip every last remaining local Republican from power for approximately Forever, however, is a dicey one. The Republican Party is running out of Americans it can afford to piss off.