The Environmental Protection Agency’s replacement for the former Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) has finally arrived, to cheers and jeers from all sides.
CPP was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change policies, requiring states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, on average. Under CPP, states would have had to force utilities to shutter dozens of coal- powered electrical plants prematurely. The Energy Information Administration had projected CPP would result in $1.23 trillion in lost GDP (in 2014 dollars) between 2020 and 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. Estimates indicate CPP would have increased people’s electric bills by 11 to 14 percent per year and cost more than 100,000 jobs in manufacturing and other sectors annually.
In addition to its high costs and nonexistent benefits, noted legal scholars argued CPP was arguably unconstitutional and at the very least illegal. As such, EPA announced it intended to abandon CPP in October 2017, responding to lawsuits by more than half the states, a stay imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Trump administration concerns over the legality of the plan, its high costs, and minimal benefits.
Let’s dispose of the crocodile tears from environmentalists first. Had President Donald Trump renamed CPP the Make America Great Again Power Plan and not altered another word in it, environmentalists would have claimed he was gutting environmental protections. They argue every action Trump takes is the end of the world.
Contrary to climate alarmists’ claims, EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule does not spell doom for the earth, will not result in dangerous climate change, and will certainly result in fewer people dying than the CPP it is replacing.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, not being toxic at any foreseeable levels, and therefore, unchecked human carbon dioxide emissions would not result in human deaths. Lives the proponents of the CPP claimed it would save are based on its calculated “co-benefits”—the reduction of regulated pollutants that would decline as a side effect of shutting down coal power plants. The problem is, those pollutants were already being reduced by other laws and fuel switching, so no additional lives would have been saved by CPP. This was an attempt at double counting on the part of the Obama administration.
In addition, numerous studies show current air quality in almost all, if not all, areas is safe for human health, so even reducing pollutants such as mercury, ozone, and particulate matter below current levels would be unlikely to save any lives. The estimates of premature deaths prevented by the further reduction of emissions of regulated pollutants are extremely questionable. Claims ongoing pollution reduction efforts are saving lives are based on epidemiological studies which are not replicable, being based secret science—data developed by researchers who have steadfastly refused to share it or make it public for confirmation and retesting.
In contrast to those “statistical” lives saved, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget reports every $7.5 million to $12 million in regulatory costs imposed on the economy results in a life lost. Thus we can say with some certainty we can all be thankful CPP never took effect, because it would have resulted in thousands of premature deaths. Poverty is the biggest killer, and with CPP raising energy prices and thus costing some people their jobs, health care, and homes, it would have thrown some into poverty and resulted in unnecessary lost lives. EPA estimates ACE will avert approximately $6.4 billion in costs relative to CPP, meaning it produces fewer premature deaths than the Obama rule.
The CPP was terrible, and I’m glad it is history, but still the best I and many of my colleagues and peers can say about ACE is it is a step in the right direction. Fred Palmer, a senior fellow and colleague at The Heartland Institute, said in a press release, “EPA’s proposed Affordable Clean Energy Rule is the first step in removal of the CO2 anchor around the neck of coal in the United States.”
To be clear, ACE is prescriptive, just less so than CPP. ACE requires states to mandate improvements in coal power plant efficiency and provides a specific list of candidate technologies from which states can choose. And ACE is still costly, just less so than CPP. It will result in fewer power plants closing and less of a rise in energy costs than CPP, and that is a positive, but some power plants that will still be forced to close under the new rule.
Unfortunately, simply revoking CPP was not truly an option, because EPA has yet to rescind its endangerment finding, developed without the backing of independent scientific research during the Obama era, that carbon dioxide is a danger to human health and welfare.
In the agency’s press statement and ACE’s executive summary, EPA adopted the same position under Trump as it did under Obama: carbon dioxide is a pollutant in need of regulation. The Heartland Institute has explicitly argued against this view for nearly 20 years, producing voluminous research as proof.
“EPA has an important role when it comes to addressing the [carbon dioxide] from our nation’s power plants,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum, in a press statement accompanying the release of ACE. Does it really? Not if carbon dioxide is not a pollutant endangering human health, which it isn’t. Only the endangerment finding forces EPA to act on this premise.
Seeming to undermine Trump’s efforts to keep the struggling coal industry afloat, ACE’s executive summary states, “This proposal will ensure that coal-fired power plants (the most carbon dioxide (CO2) intensive portion of the electricity generating fleet) address their contribution to climate change by reducing their CO2 intensity (i.e., the amount of CO2 they emit per unit of electricity generated).” I see that statement as game, set, and match for climate alarmists.
Wiser, more politically astute people than I, people I respect and think of as friends, don’t see the situation as direly as I do.
For instance, James Taylor, another senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, said, “The Trump EPA hit a triple with this new rule. With publication of the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule, the Trump administration has yet again fulfilled an important campaign promise. The Obama Clean Power Plan is history.”
Similarly, Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, said in a press statement, “The EPA’s proposed replacement rule is a huge improvement over the so-called Clean Power Plan, which is almost certainly illegal and would be incredibly costly to consumers if implemented.”
Still, Ebell also warns, “It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will find that the replacement rule satisfies the requirements of the 2009 endangerment finding,” and told the Washington Post, “Once you get started down the road of regulating greenhouse gases, there’s no end to it.”
“The rule still perpetuates too much Obama era mythology,” said Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute, in a press release.
Some people say ACE does not preclude EPA withdrawing the endangerment finding at a later date, and they may be right. But I think with the justification EPA offered for ACE—that the agency has the “statutory authority and obligation” to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and that coal power plants are contributing to climate change— it becomes harder to rescind the endangerment finding.
This is one instance where I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong. PLEASE, EPA, PROVE ME WRONG!
- H. Sterling Burnett
SOURCES: The Heartland Institute; The Heartland Institute; NERA Economic Consulting; Laurence Tribe; Federal Register Notice; EPA
IN THIS ISSUE …
Brazil may join U.S. in exiting Paris agreement … Microclimates buffer species from climate extinction … Australian PM scuttles climate goals—but too late to save job
BRAZIL MAY JOIN U.S. IN EXITING PARIS AGREEMENT
In Brazil, the election of the next president may bring a shift in climate policy. The country’s current frontrunner for the presidency, Jair Bolsonaro, says he wants to follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead and take Brazil out of the Paris Agreement if he wins the October election.
At his campaign launch and during subsequent interviews, Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he would withdraw from the Paris pact. In support of his position, Bolsonaro has taken to social media recently to share an interview with Ricardo Felicio, a geographer and prominent climate skeptic, and the day after Trump announced his he was pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement, Bolsonaro shared an article defending the decision titled “The Greenhouse Fables.”
Bolsonaro’s three eldest sons, all elected officials, have been outspoken climate realists.
“Eduardo, a federal representative from the state of São Paulo, posted a homemade video in January characterizing the Paris deal as a globalist conspiracy. ‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ he told viewers from a snowy part of the US,” reports Climate Home News. In 2016, Bolsonaro’s son Carlos, a city councilman in Rio de Janeiro, blamed the “leftist agenda” for the massive amount of media coverage climate change gets, in a tweet. Son Flavio, a federal representative from Rio, has called global warming a “fraud.”
Pulling Brazil out of the Paris agreement might not be easy. Unlike in the United States, Brazil’s legislature ratified the Paris agreement, meaning it would have to approve withdrawal from it.
SOURCE: Climate Home News
MICROCLIMATES BUFFER SPECIES FROM CLIMATE EXTINCTION
In CCW 290, I summarized two recent studies which found species may be better able to adapt to climate change and less threatened with localized extinction than climate alarmists have claimed. A new paper in Nature Climate Change expands on and reinforces those findings.
A team of researchers from universities and research institutes across the UK and from Sweden, examined five million data distribution records for 430 species across England thought to be threatened with extinction due to habitat decline or transformation as a result of climate change. In previous historic periods of climate change, the species survived because of a diversity of microclimates throughout their regional habitat ranges, the study found. Climate models don’t capture the diversity of microclimates well, and this study indicates the microclimates represent “Microrefugia [that] allowed populations to survive adverse climatic conditions in the past … [and] microclimatic heterogeneity has strongly buffered species against regional extirpations linked to recent climate change.”
Interestingly, it seems the species believed to be most at risk of decline or extinction due to climate-induced habitat changes are the very ones that have benefitted the most from the buffering effect of microclimates. “The buffering effect of topographic microclimates was strongest for those species adversely affected by warming and in areas that experienced the highest levels of warming: in such conditions, extirpation risk was reduced by 22% for plants and by 9% for insects,” the researchers write.
SOURCE: Nature Climate Change (behind paywall)
AUSTRALIAN PM SCUTTLES CLIMATE GOALS—BUT TOO LATE TO SAVE JOB
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull removed a pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent by 2030 from his “National Energy Guarantee” plan, after MPs in his own party revolted and threatened to challenge his leadership position. That plank of the energy plan was aimed at meeting Australia’s obligations to cut emissions under the Paris climate agreement. Turnbull’s last-minute effort to save his job over the climate dispute was unsuccessful: he was ousted from power today.
“But after rebel Liberal Party MPs led by former prime minister Tony Abbott threatened to vote against the legislation—which would have triggered a crisis of confidence in Mr Turnbull—the PM decided to back down,” reports the Independent.
Ironically, it was Abbott who actually signed Australia on to the Paris climate agreement, only to claim to colleagues later he’d been “misled” about the deal while in Paris. In the light of recent energy shortages and power failures and sharply rising prices, Abbot has said using energy policy to reduce emissions is “madness,” according to the Independent.
Acknowledging legislation containing the climate provisions would not pass parliament, Turnbull said he was removing them.
“In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver,” Turnbull announced at a press conference. “Cheaper power has always been our number one priority when it comes to energy policy.” After facing reality too late, Turnbull now will be delivering the keys to office to someone else.
The Climate Change Weekly Newsletter has been moved to HeartlandDailyNews.com. Please check there for future updates!