Jan 16, 2019

Andrew Wheeler blames forest management as cause of wildfires

Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler told senators during his confirmation hearing Wednesday, "I think the biggest issue with wildfires is forest management ... not drought."

Why it matters: Studies show that climate change, which is leading to hotter, drier summers in California, is tied to the sharp increase in large wildfires in that state and other parts of the West, along with a lengthening fire season, Axios' Andrew Freedman notes. Forest management and population growth are also factors, but they don't explain the entire situation.

Other highlights from the hearing...

  • On carbon emissions: Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, said he expects carbon emissions from power plants will fall more than 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), a rule that pushes for greater coal plant efficiency.
    • Reality check: A new paper in Environmental Research Letters predicts carbon emissions will actually see increases as high as 9% in 18 states in 2030 as a result of ACE. The EPA itself has said any reduction in CO2 in coming years will almost entirely be market-driven and would only amount to about a 0.7–1.5% reduction.
  • On if climate change is a hoax: "I’ve not used the hoax word myself," Wheeler said in a response to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.).

Go deeper: Andrew Wheeler's confirmation hearing could be a 2020 practice round

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The new oil-cutting pact will help the market but hardly rescue it

The new OPEC-Russia agreement to steeply cut production should help the oil market avoid a complete meltdown, but it's nowhere near enough to undo the damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts say.

Why it matters: It's the first major coordinated response to the pandemic that's creating an unprecedented collapse in global oil demand and has pushed prices to very low levels.

Premier League players launch fund to help U.K. medical workers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Premier League players have launched an initiative called #PlayersTogether, which will funnel part of their salaries to the National Health Service to support the U.K.'s front-line workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: This decision came at the conclusion of a protracted argument between players, clubs and even government officials over who should bear the brunt of lost revenue in the midst of the pandemic.

Go deeperArrow47 mins ago - Sports

GOP worries Trump has only weeks to sharpen coronavirus response

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans are increasingly concerned not only about President Trump’s daily briefings but also his broader plan to ease the nation out of the virus crisis and back to work. This concern is acute — and spreading. 

Why it matters: Trump can easily address the briefing worries by doing fewer, but the lackluster bounce-back planning is what worries Republicans most.