TrumpWrap: Executive Order is All Cost, No Benefit, EPA Cuts Take Shape, DoE Drops References to Climate Change, and Congressional Committee Targets Climate Science
Donald Trump’s executive order on climate change and energy will cost U.S. taxpayers more than US$58 billion by 2030, an analysis by the Center for American Progress shows, underscoring that climate change is an economic problem as well as an environmental crisis.
“The largest cost to American taxpayers, according to the CAP analysis, would come from rolling back the Clean Power Plan,” ThinkProgress reported last week. A 2015 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found the CPP would deliver public health and climate benefits worth $54 billion per year by 2030, against $8.4 billion in implementation costs. A separate study by Harvard University pointed to annual savings of $38 billion.
Trump’s rollback relied on a coal-funded study by NERA Economic Consulting that projected double-digit power rate increases in many states as a result of CPP implementation, “though other studies have shown that electricity prices would actually have fallen,” ThinkProgress notes.
Other Trump policy changes, unravelling Obama-era initiatives on methane emissions and on coal leasing on federal lands, will cost taxpayers billions, as well.
Oxfam America climate policy manager Heather Coleman warned the executive order threatens local efforts to build resilience against intensifying natural disasters. “The president is playing politics with people’s lives,” Coleman told media. “These reversals are coming at a moment when the impacts of climate change are intensifying.”
“If you don’t want to call it climate change, that’s fine,” agreed Gretna, Louisiana Mayor Belinda Constant, co-chair of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. “You can call it whatever you want, but the point is, we’re dealing with this new reality and we have to address it head on.”
Rocky Mountain Institute Chief Scientist Amory Lovins, meanwhile, was out with an analysis showing that everyone—including automakers—will lose from Trump’s effort to loosen vehicle emission standards.
“We are going to work on the CAFE standards so we can make cars in America again,” Trump said. “Actually, under CAFE standards evolving since 1978, the industry in 2016 sold an all-time record 17.55 million vehicles,” Lovins responded.
“But such continued success is not guaranteed. Twice before, weak foresight has nearly destroyed U.S. automaking: first when 1970s oil shocks favored higher-mpg Japanese products and Detroit avoided a rout only by responding to President Ford’s 1975 CAFE law, and in 2009 when two of the Big Three needed restructuring and an $80-billion bailout.” The new emissions rule is working, Lovins contended, and auto industry sales are surging. But “the White House, fed inflated claims of job loss, seems eager to use that review to gut the rules, replacing a well-working compact and its stable planning basis with uncertainty, acrimony, and conflict.”
Meanwhile, an EPA spending plan obtained by the Washington Post showed how the agency plans to implement Trump’s proposed 31% budget cut. A total of 56 programs would be scrapped, including pesticide safety, water runoff control, and NAFTA environmental cooperation, while fuel efficiency verification staffing would be cut by more than half.
At the same time, Bloomberg published a list of U.S. climate programs that appeared to have been left unscathed by the March 28 executive order. They included the ban on hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, methane limits on livestock waste and landfills, and aviation emissions. “The fact that Trump is willing to let these Obama-era measures stand—at least for now—indicates his White House may be taking a less dogmatic stance toward climate change than one would expect,” the news agency noted.
At the U.S. Department of Energy, meanwhile, a supervisor in the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy advised staff not to use the phrases “climate change”, “emissions reduction”, or “Paris Agreement” in memos, briefings, or other written communications, Politico reported last week.
“Another DOE source in a different office said that although there had been no formal instructions about climate-related language in their office, there was a general sense that it’s better to avoid certain hot-button terms in favor of words like ‘jobs’ and ‘infrastructure,’” Politico noted.
DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler said no new directive had been issued, and “no words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department.” That assurance, “given the administration’s record of truthfulness, is practically a confirmation,” responded Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank.
“Thus would the Department of Jobs and Infrastructure, formerly the Department of Energy, be forced to change the name of its Office of International Climate and Clean Energy to the Office of Hot-Button Terms. Or perhaps it should be the Office of Puppies and Lollipops, so that people would come to see global warming as a good thing.”
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the House Science Committee held an inquisition a hearing last Wednesday that pitted Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann against a lineup of three climate deniers. “Under the leadership of Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the committee has become known for harassing climate scientists and challenging government science agencies under the guise of oversight,” noted writer Bob Berwyn on the Pacific Standard.
“In some ways, the hearing was simply the continuation of a long-running bit of political theatre that might be funny if it weren’t a matter of life and death for millions of people around the world who are already feeling the effects of climate change.”
The three deniers advised Congress “to fund ‘red teams’ to investigate ‘natural’ causes of global warming and challenge the findings of the United Nations’ climate science panel,” the Washington Post reported. “A main mission of red teams would be to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change, including the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose reports are widely considered the authority on climate science.”
While “red teams” are a method used by some organizations to improve their performance by setting up an in-house devil’s advocate, applying that system to settled climate science is “a completely ridiculous proposition,” Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Post.
“The scientific community, in its various forms and in professional journals, has a very well-established, time-tested, and by and large quite effective process for evaluating alternative hypotheses about any body of science—and that’s called independent peer review,” he added.
“The notion that we would need to create an entirely different new approach, in particular for the specific question around global warming, is unfounded and ridiculous, and simply intended to promote the notion of a lack of consensus about the core findings, which in fact is a false notion.