The wrangling between Trump’s advisors was always about how best to burn more fossil fuels

Supposedly at war over climate change, key advisors Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon watch on as Trump signs orders to green-light the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (Photo: Office of the President of the United States)

As United States President Donald Trump was deliberating his country’s future in the Paris climate deal, there were two internal camps marshalling their arguments.

But the wrangling in the White House was not a debate about climate change. It was over how best to burn more fossil fuels.

In one corner were the fossil fuel apologists, the climate science denialists and the network of conservative think tanks that have used conflicted cash to keep their arguments flowing.

For them, leaving the United Nations pact would help the US regain a competitive advantage and put their economic prosperity first. The costs of climate change impacts were never factored, because for them, they do not exist.

In the other corner, there were groups who, on the face of it, seemed unlikely bedfellows.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner – both presidential advisors – recruited of the likes of Hollywood star-turned-climate campaigner Leonardo diCaprio and former Vice-President Al Gore to sit down with the president.

In the uncertain months leading up to this decision, much was made of her influence on her father. But, on this issue at least, that appears to have been overblown.

Rex Tillerson told his senate confirmation hearing that the US should stay in the agreement to protect its own interests (Photo:

Ivanka was joined by Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who oversaw a long-running programme designed to confound climate action as the CEO of Exxon. He was also pushing for the Trump administration to keep a seat at the UN table.

At least two coal companies, Peabody Energy and Cloud Peak, had tried to convince Trump to remain in the Paris deal. Oil and gas giants Exxon and Conoco also voiced support for the Paris deal.

This internal fight represented two different approaches from a fossil fuel industry trying to sustain itself. One approach is to bulldoze and cherry-pick your way through the science of climate change and attack the UN process — all to undermine your opponents’ core arguments.

Another approach is to accept the science but work the system to convince governments that “clean coal” and efficiency gains are the way forward.

The latter was exactly the rationale reportedly deployed by coal firms like Peabody Energy and Cloud Peak.

According to White House officials quoted by Reuters, these firms wanted Trump to stay in the Paris deal because this gave them a better chance of getting support for “low-emission” coal plants. They might also get some financial help to support the…