What Trump gets wrong about coal, natural gas and carbon emissions - Axios
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What Trump gets wrong about coal, natural gas and carbon

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The closest thing President Trump has to a climate and energy policy is actually a collection of contradictions.

He touts natural gas as a carbon-cutting mechanism, but he also promises to bring back the carbon-emitting coal industry. He talks about "clean coal," but his actions will make it harder for "clean coal" technology to make any headway.

Why it matters: Misleading statements are nothing new in Washington. But these contradictions are becoming the Trump administration's core policy framework. Top officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have over the last couple of weeks repeatedly pushed these contradictory positions, so let's take a closer look at them.

Carbon emissions:

Trump and his top advisers credit fracking, the technology that's unlocked vast reserves of cleaner burning natural gas over the past decade, for why U.S. carbon emissions are at levels not seen since before 1994. That's true for the most part, but the rest of the administration's logic on this front is not.

Fracking is lowering emissions because natural gas, which burns 50% less carbon emissions than coal, is displacing coal in America's electricity mix. Pruitt and others cite the boom in natural gas to show America is addressing carbon emissions regardless of the Paris climate deal.

They also say, though, that withdrawing from the accord and repealing Obama-era environmental regulations will help bring the coal industry back. By Pruitt's own logic, if the Trump administration were to revive the coal industry, it would actually raise U.S. carbon emissions, undermining their only talking point associated with climate change. The EPA didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

"Ironically, the most successful thing the Trump administration could do to bring back the U.S. coal industry would be to restrict the U.S. natural gas production, but that's not what they're trying to do either," said Trevor Houser, partner at the analysis firm Rhodium Group. "They're unlikely to succeed in bringing coal back, but if they were, U.S. emissions would go back up."

Data: Energy Information Administration; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Coal:

Trump talks a lot about "clean coal" and bringing back the coal industry. The term "clean coal" refers to technology that captures carbon from facilities like coal-fired power plants instead of emitting it into the air. Trump doesn't actually talk about the technology when he uses the term.

He's wrong on both accounts: He can't revive the coal industry, and his administration's early moves are actually hurting the chances of "clean coal" technology taking off.

Market forces outside of the Trump administration's control, like Asian demand for coal and cheap natural-gas prices, are likely to keep the long-term future of the U.S. coal industry somewhere between stagnant and negative. That's the reality no matter what Trump does with the Paris deal or Obama-era regulations.

One Obama regulation helped expedite many companies' decision to convert to natural gas: a 2012 rule imposing the first-ever federal limits on power-plant emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollution. The Trump EPA has signaled it may try to reverse at least parts of that rule.

But if it succeeds, it wouldn't bring back the coal plants that shut down. Power companies have already made the decades-long investment decisions to shift to natural gas and renewable energy, and market forces will ensure most companies don't revert back to coal.

"Clean coal":

Two early policy moves by the Trump administration would do more harm than good for developing this type of technology, which is expensive and won't get very far without market or policy incentives:

  • The president's budget proposed to slash the Energy Department's funding for fossil energy by 54%, which among other things provides research and development for "clean coal" technologies. A request for comment to the department wasn't returned.
  • EPA is working to repeal an Obama-era rule cutting carbon emissions from power plants, which could have provided a signal to encourage investment in this type of technology.

Natural gas:

The administration is undercutting the climate benefits of natural gas in three ways by trying to eliminate voluntary and regulatory actions to cut down on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the primary component of natural gas. Oil and natural-gas companies sometimes inadvertently emit methane while producing and moving the fuel when infrastructure like pipelines aren't available.

  1. Last week, the Interior Department delayed a rule requiring new standards for methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells on public lands.
  2. Also last week, EPA delayed for two years another rule setting methane standards for new wells.
  3. Trump's budget proposed eliminating an EPA voluntary program cutting methane emissions, which has widespread support by industry.

Even major oil and gas companies say some type of regulation or voluntary program is important to show the public the industry is responsibly producing a climate-friendly fossil fuel.

Featured

How Netflix knows what you want

Matt Rourke / AP

Four out of five shows watched on Netflix were found by subscribers thanks to recommendations offered them, AP's Frazier Moore reports:

  • "Most every row of program suggestions (even generic-seeming categories like "Comedies" and "Dramas") is tailored for each subscriber."
  • "[A] legion of Netflix 'taggers' screens every program, tagging different elements that compose it."
  • "Viewer habits gathered by Netflix from its 100 million accounts worldwide add more grist to the mill."
  • An example of the secret sauce: "[F]ans of the 2015 film 'The Big Short,' which deals with Wall Street dirty tricks, have been found to respond to the money monkeyshines that animate 'Ozark.'"
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An onstage version of Trump 'screaming at the television'

Rick Scuteri / AP

Instant media reactions to Trump's Phoenix rally, which was followed by protests that police dispersed with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray.

  • CNN's Don Lemon: "He is clearly trying to ignite a civil war in this country. ... He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. ... A man backed into a corner, it seems, by circumstances beyond his control — and beyond his understanding."
  • NBC's Kristen Welker: "[T]his whole Charlottesville criticism ... has really been getting under his skin. This was his attempt to sort of revive the argument, to re-litigate it."
  • Fox News' John Roberts: "The president had ... a clear win last night with his speech about the new policy on Afghanistan ... But now he's completely changed the subject again."
  • Jon Favreau of Pod Save America, and co-founder of Crooked Media: "Trump's angry that the media reported exactly what he said so he held a speech to deliver a sanitized, redacted version on live television ... I believe Trump just called out the @crookedmedia! ... Trump's going to shut down a government that's controlled entirely by his own party. Very cool."
  • MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, on the omission of "many sides": "The president has lied to his audience tonight."
  • CNN's Brian Stelter began his late-night Reliable Sources newsletter with the single word: "Poison."
  • CNN's Brian Lowry: "[M]uch of this felt like an aging rock band playing the hits ... But he seemed to ratchet up the rhetoric on his enemies list, which has grown lengthier."
  • N.Y. Times Jeremy Peters, to Brian Williams on MSNBC: "In a lot of ways, what we heard from President Trump tonight was just an extended version of the shouting matches that he's been having behind closed doors at the White House, whether it's screaming at his aides, or screaming at the television. ... I see someone who just doesn't want to lose an argument."
  • WashPost's Bob Costa, to Brian Williams: "Steve Bannon, gone from the White House, but he might as well have been a ghost at this Phoenix event. He hovered over everything."
Featured

Read the original Uber pitch deck

To mark the ninth anniversary of the original Uber idea (then called "UberCabs"), co-founder Garrett Camp posted online the company's first pitch deck. Back then, Uber's business was all about providing private car rides to its members in a more efficient (thanks to smartphones and tech) and affordable way.

  • The deck claimed customers shouldn't have to wait for more than five minutes to get picked up, and predicted early on that passengers would want to share rides.
  • The original service was focused on premium rides, but the original deck mentioned eventually turning to less expensive cars like the Toyota Prius. Uber's first UberX cars, in 2012, were in fact Priuses.
  • Today, countless companies describe themselves as "the Uber of X." Back in 2008, Uber compared its concept to another existing company: NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that sells part ownership or shares of private business jets.
Featured

Phoenix police use tear gas at Trump rally protests

Matt York / AP

Police deployed tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and rubber bullets on Tuesday night to break up protest crowds after President Trump's rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • "Officers responded with pepper spray to break up the crowd after people tossed rocks and bottles and dispersed gas, Phoenix police spokesman Jonathan Howard said," the AP's Jacques Billeaud and Clarice Silber reported from Phoenix.
  • "But some witnesses said that events unfolded differently," per NYT's Simon Romero, "with protesters throwing a water bottle or two in the direction of the police, before the police fired tear gas into the crowd."
  • "The handling by the police of this peaceful protest was reprehensible," Jordan Lauterbach, a 31-year-old bartender, told the NYT. "I was gassed tonight for exercising my right to express my views. I was disgusted by that."

Videos and tweets below:

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The shift in Medicare spending

Medicare is the largest purchaser of health care services in the country, and over the past decade, there's been a gradual change in how those taxpayer dollars are spent, according to data from the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Since 2006, Medicare is shifting money from physician practices and inpatient hospitals (where a person needs an overnight stay), and toward private health insurers and other companies that run the Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs. Spending also has increased in outpatient settings.

Data: Medicare Payment Advisory Commission; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act contributed to some of this shift by cutting Medicare payments to hospitals. But what's happening in Medicare is representative of the health care system at large: the shift to defined benefits and narrow networks of hospitals and doctors, and avoiding hospitalizations whenever possible.

Where more Medicare funds are flowing:

  • Medicare Advantage: Roughly 20 million seniors and disabled people are now enrolled in the politically popular program, which represents 27% of all Medicare dollars. Seniors give those plans high marks, and it's a profitable business for insurers. But there are concerns that Medicare Advantage isn't saving money and that insurers are gaming the program.
  • Part D: The growth of drug prices has blown away the growth of pretty much every other economic good, and Medicare is barred from negotiating discounts with manufacturers. That inevitably has resulted in more money going into the Part D program (14% of all Medicare spending), and the benefits managers that run it.
  • Outpatient hospital departments and clinics: Technology has made it possible for Medicare enrollees to get some procedures and go home the same day, and it's cheaper than treating someone in the hospital. But hospitals also have been buying physician offices and controversially converting them into hospital outpatient departments, resulting in higher fees for the same services.
Featured

Trump details his agenda during Phoenix rally

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump opened his Phoenix rally tonight with a nod to the upcoming GOP agenda: "We are fully and totally committed to fighting for our agenda and we will not stop until the job is done." He spent the majority of his speech blaming the media for race relations in the U.S., particularly after Charlottesville, but here are some agenda items Trump talked about:

Border wall: "If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said in a message to "obstructionist Democrats."

Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio: "Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe? So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? You know what, I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine. OK? But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good."

NAFTA: "And you know that one of the worst deals that anybody in history has ever entered into. We have begun formal renegotiation with Mexico and Canada on NAFTA. And I must be honest, and I've been talking about NAFTA for a long time and I'm sorry it's taken six months, but we have to give notice, and after the notice is given then you have to wait a long time, anyway. Personally, I don't think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such bad deals, both of the countries, but in particular Mexico, that I don't think we can make a deal. So I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point. Probably. But I told you from the first day that we'll either renegotiate NAFTA or we will terminate NAFTA. I personally don't think we can make a deal without termination, but we'll see. You're in good hands."

Tax reform: Trump promised to pass the "first major tax reform in over 30 years." And he said if Congressional Democrats don't support him in this legislation, they'll be "stopping you from getting a massive tax cut."

Filibuster: "So I have a message for Congress tonight. Your job is to represent American families, American people, American workers. You need to represent them on the border, on taxes, on health care — one vote. And on every other issue that affects their lives. And for our friends in the Senate, oh boy."

  • To McConnell: "The Senate, remember this, look, the Senate, we have to get rid of what's called the filibuster rule. We have to. And if we don't the Republicans will never get anything passed; you're wasting your time. We have to get rid of the filibuster rule right now. We need 60 votes and we have 52 Republicans, that means that 8 Democrats are controlling all of this legislation. We have over 200 bills. And we have to speak to Mitch and we have to speak to everybody."
Featured

Brazil antitrust agency challenges AT&T-Time Warner deal

AP

Brazil's antitrust authority said the merger of AT&T and Time Warner should not be allowed to go through unless the companies agree to changes, such divesting certain assets, to prevent the combined company from hurting competition.

Why it matters: Brazil is one of the remaining countries (along with the U.S.) that needs to sign off on the $85 billion deal, which has gotten regulatory authority from 16 countries. While it's hard to know how the recommendation will impact the U.S. review, it will likely be noticed by the Department of Justice since critics of the deal have drawn parallels in the U.S. market.

"I think this will harden any existing concerns DOJ has about the deal," said Gene Kimmelman, former DOJ official who is now CEO of Public Knowledge, an opponent of the merger.

Specifics: "The new company would also have the capacity and incentives to take various forms of discrimination against its competitors in both markets, which could weaken the competitive environment." the Brazilian antitrust authority, known as CADE, said in a statement Tuesday, according to a translation by the FT.

  • CADE also said the proposed deal would allow Time Warner to gain access to sensitive information from all its competitors through Sky (one of Brazil's biggest operators, of which AT&T owns a 93% stake, according to Bloomberg).
  • And AT&T would have access to conditions negotiated by its rivals through Time Warner (one of Brazil's largest pay-TV programmers), "significantly harming businesses and consumers in the pay-TV segment."

In the U.S. A coalition of public interest and consumer groups made a similar argument in a letter to the DOJ last month:

"As both a major programmer and a major distributor, it would be able to use information from both sides of the negotiating table to give itself better deals than its rivals can obtain—it would necessarily know, for instance, what its programming rivals are charging for their content, and what its distribution rivals are paying."

AT&T disagrees: AT&T says the deal benefits consumers and will help provide competition to the likes of Google and Amazon. "AT&T and Time Warner will work with Cade to clarify any issues they may have to promptly reach a final resolution on the matter," the company said in a statement to Bloomberg.

What's next: In Brazil, a decision is expected in November, although that deadline could slip up to 90 days. In the U.S., authorities are reportedly pretty far along in the review and are discussing conditions with the companies, according to WSJ, indicating that the deal is on the path to approval. AT&T still expects the deal to close by the end of the year.

Featured

Trump blames media for racial tensions in U.S.

Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump gave his first campaign-style rally since the violent protest (and subsequent fallout) of Charlottesville. He spent the majority of his speech blaming the media for race relations and the growing divide among Americans:

"Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets, the failures of our public school, the destruction of our wealth at the hands of our terrible terrible trade deals made by our politicians that should've never been politicians, and the hostility to our local police that work so hard and do an incredible job."

Why it matters: After last week refining his first comments on Charlottesville (where he blamed "many sides" for the violence), Trump returned to earlier form tonight, turning to go-to talking points like railing against the "fake" and "dishonest" media, instead of taking a more conciliatory approach as the nation's president. As Axios' Mike Allen has regularly written, "This is not normal."

Trump continued: "Truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up sources ... they don't report the facts, just like they don't want to report that I spoke out against hatred and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists and the KKK."

On his Charlottesville comments: Trump blamed the "fake" media for mischaracterizing what he said about Charlottesville, but he misquoted himself and left out the most controversial part of his remarks, in which he said people "on many sides" were to blame.

  • Trump said during the rally: "'We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.' This is me speaking. 'We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.' That's me speaking on Saturday. Right after the event."
Trump was clearly playing to his staunchest supporters tonight at a campaign-style rally and they interrupted him with chants of "drain the swamp" and "CNN sucks."




Featured

Top Arizona Republicans won't attend Trump's rally

J. Scott Applewhite and Ross D. Franklin / AP

Top Arizona Republicans won't be attending Trump's first rally since Charlottesville tonight, VICE News reports. The expected absences: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (though he greeted Trump upon his arrival), Arizona's state Republican party Chair Jonathan Lines, Sen. Jeff Flake, who's been one of Trump's most vocal critics recently, and Sen. John McCain.

Why it matters:

  • Arizona swung for Trump in the presidential election, so presumably Republicans would be there for him.
  • But this comes at a time when Republicans aren't willing to back Trump in the fallout after Charlottesville.
  • Brian Stelter reports Shep Smith couldn't get a single Republican to defend Trump on Fox News, MSNBC's Chuck Todd tried all 52 Republican senators, and none would come on the show, and CNN's Kate Bolduan said only one out of 55 Republicans said yes.
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Breitbart emails leaked, editor vows to do Bannon's "dirty work"

Breitbart EIC Alex Marlow, via YouTube / Real Time with Bill Maher

Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, as well as other top editors at Breitbart, told an email prankster acting as Steve Bannon that they "would do Bannon's 'dirty work' against White House aides," according to CNN.

Why it matters: This is the third high-profile prank in the past two months.

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry thought he was speaking with the Ukraine prime minister, discussing "geopolitically sensitive topics [like] cyberattacks, potential pipelines for Russian gas and the Paris climate accord," per Politico.
  • Then-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci got into an email altercation with who he believed to be Reince Priebus after he was fired.
  • Alex Marlow told the prankster over email he could have Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump "out by the end of the year." The same prankster contacted Breitbart senior editor Joel Pollak, in which Pollak gave him his phone number to talk further about Jared and Ivanka.