Trump Pick for Top Environment Post: Carbon Dioxide Is 'The Gas of Life'

Kathleen Hartnett White is an unabashed defender of fossil fuels who has argued against the endangerment finding and the Endangered Species Act.

Kathleen Hartnett White arrived at Trump Tower last November while then-President-Elect Donald Trump and his transition team considered who to bring into the administration. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

President Donald Trump has picked Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas regulator and unapologetic advocate of expanding U.S. fossil fuel production regardless of carbon dioxide emissions, for the top White House environment post.

Putting her in charge of the Council on Environmental Quality, which has been rudderless since Trump took office, would place an extreme denier of mainstream climate science, a hero of those who oppose urgent action on global warming, at the fulcrum of federal interagency policy discussions on energy and environmental matters.

White has argued against the federal government's "endangerment finding" that carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas feeding worldwide climate change, is a danger to human health and the environment. If confirmed to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, she would be coordinating environmental efforts across the federal agencies.

As a fellow of the conservative Austin-based think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, White leaves a long paper trail that will surely be fodder for her confirmation hearing. The group has been funded by fossil fuel interests, including Exxon and the Koch brothers.

She has decried regulation of carbon dioxide, which she calls "the gas of life," and co-authored last year's paean to the fracking boom, "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." Her co-author, economist Stephen Moore, founded the Club for Growth, the political action group that weaponized the primary process to successfully move the Republican party to the right over the past two decades.

"An invisible, harmless trace gas in the Earth's atmosphere, CO2 is a plant food," White said last year in a Q&A with the Orlando Sentinel.

In her 2014 monograph, "Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case," she wrote: "Humanity's use of fossil fuels has released whole populations from abject poverty. ... Until energy sources fully comparable or superior to fossil fuels are securely available, policies to reduce emissions of CO2 should proceed with caution lest they prematurely exhaust the well-springs of mankind's greatest advance."

She has also promoted tactics for undermining the Endangered Species Act, claiming its protections for endangered wildlife imperil prosperity.

In its announcement Thursday of Trump's intent to nominate White, the White House highlighted her role on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (2001-2007) and as a former director of the Lower Colorado River Authority.  

White's appointment to a top position in the administration has long been rumored; she met with the president-elect in Trump Tower while he was mulling his choice for Environmental Protection Agency administrator. But her supporters betrayed no sense of disappointment when Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was named to that post instead.

At an energy policy summit that the Texas Public Policy Foundation co-hosted with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., last December, the group's president Brooke Rollins, said she expected that there would be "something very special" ahead for White in the Trump administration.