Oct 17, 2018

EPA brags up lower emissions while Trump doubts climate change

Amy Harder, author of Generate

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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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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