Oct 17, 2018

EPA brags up lower emissions while Trump doubts climate change

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to unveil new federal data today that shows U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased 2.7%, according to a release viewed by Axios.

Why it matters: This drop, between 2016 and 2017, is due largely to market forces and moves by President Obama and Congress, and occurred before President Trump officially took office. EPA's announcement contrasts with Trump, who in recent days has dismissed climate change as an issue.

"Thanks to President Trump's regulatory agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources."
— Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement

The big picture: Today's move is in line with previous conflicting statements from the administration. Trump publicly doubts climate change, yet in official moves, EPA and other agencies stick largely with the scientific consensus, which is that human activity is driving the Earth's temperature up.

Details:

  • Reported emissions from large power plants have dropped 4.5% since 2016 and nearly 20% since 2011.
  • These declines are driven mostly by market forces of cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas replacing dirtier coal in the electricity sector. Trump wants to bring back coal, which would raise emissions, though he's unlikely to succeed.
  • The decline is also due to renewable energy growth, driven by state energy mandates and federal tax credits over the past decade.
  • A 2012 air-pollution regulation Obama issued also drove a lot of coal plants to shut down. Trump wants to review that, though it's unlikely to bring back any coal plants.

Between the lines: EPA is repealing all of Obama's climate-related regulations, though given the plethora of natural gas available and dropping renewable-energy prices, the regulations are unlikely to have a big impact either way.

Reality check: As I said in this recent Harder Line column, Trump administration officials tout how America's greenhouse gas emissions are at levels not seen in decades. Yet these same Trump officials don’t say they actually care about climate change, which is what these emissions are all about.

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American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

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Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."