Thursday, July 26, 2018

Report: Trump Fuel Standards Rollback to Cost $457 Billion

This is all just modelling and you get out of a model whatever you put in.  And you can be sure that the benefits of avoiding lightweight cars -- which the Obama standards would mandate -- were not included. Lightweight cars give less protection in an accident so cost lives.  How do you cost lives saved?

And one of the "costs" in their modelling -- global warming -- is just a chimera.

The only benefit in the Obama regulations that I can see is less money spent on fuel. But that is a personal cost not a cost to government.  And fuel costs are much more influenced by the ever changing prices charged at the pump rather than anything else.  And Trump's phone call to King Salman of Saudi Arabia will almost certainly do more to arrange affordable fuel than any set of regulations would.  Keeping fuel prices down is a laudable goal but there are many better ways of arranging that than mandating that people drive around in eggshell cars.

As for California keeping it's own stringent standards, the interstate commerce power clearly gives the Feds authority to regulate anything to do with motor vehicles, regardless of anything governor moonbeam might claim

The Trump administration is expected to announce a pause on vehicle emissions standards this week, setting less stringent levels than Obama-era rules and revoking California’s authority to set its own standards. A forecast released Tuesday from clean energy advocacy group Energy Innovation suggests that the policy change will cost the country $457 billion.

Those costs are fuel-related, and do not account for health implications. The group also linked the policy to over 13,000 additional pollution-related deaths.

“It’s hard to overstate the foolishness of this move,” said Hal Harvey, CEO at Energy Innovation.

According to reports on the administration’s plans, Trump officials will keep fuel emissions standards at the 35 mpg fleet average required in 2020. The Obama administration had increased those requirements to 50 miles per gallon, or 36 miles per gallon in real-world driving, by 2025.

The Trump administration’s rollback was widely anticipated after Scott Pruitt, then Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced in April that an agency review of the standards determined they should be revised in a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The plan expected this week would also do away with California’s waiver to set standards more stringent than national requirements, granted by the Environmental Protection Agency under Clean Air Act authority. California’s policies also include EV targets.

Since the administration undertook a review of the standards in March 2017, California has steadfastly defended its legal right to make its own policies. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown said the EPA’s plan to revise standards represented a "cynical and meretricious abuse of power [that] will poison our air and jeopardize the health of all Americans.” In May, the state sued the federal government along with 16 other states and Washington, D.C. Thirteen states plus D.C. use California’s emissions requirements over the federal standards.

Energy Innovation’s analysis finds that economic losses will be most dramatic if the Trump administration revokes California’s waiver. While the policy will bring initial economic gains resulting from the reduced cost of producing less-efficient cars, around 2025 the policy will start costing the country money. Losses accelerate beyond 2030. If the administration leaves California’s waiver in place, the predicted losses will ring in at $274 billion.

The organization’s calculation uses its open-source, peer-reviewed Energy Policy Simulator, which accounts for several sectors of the economy including transportation, land use, electricity supply, buildings, industry and agriculture.

Modeled as a gas tax, Energy Innovation said the policy would top out at an added 57 cents per gallon in 2040.

Loosening emissions standards would also inevitably increase greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Innovation expects the greatest increases in the 2030s, before electric vehicles undercut the share of gas-powered cars. In 2035, the group forecasts an 11 percent increase in emissions with a revocation of the California waiver and a 7 percent increase if the waiver is left in place.

The Obama administration often framed its pollution prevention and climate policies as vital to public health. Energy Innovation’s analysis suggests Trump’s turnaround on vehicle emissions could lead to a bump in premature emissions-related deaths. By mid-century, policy-linked deaths would top 13,000 without California’s waiver and over 8,200 with it.

Harvey points to large metropolitan areas already missing air quality targets, like Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, as those to be most impacted by the higher mortality rate.

“Every time there is an increase in air pollution, especially in a so-called non-attainment area, you increase asthma attacks,” said Harvey. “Those cause increased deaths.”

Many deaths would be in disadvantaged and marginalized communities located near freeways.

In addition to detrimental health and economic benefits, Harvey said the policy change will leave automakers in a bind. Though manufacturers have lobbied to relax standards in the past, they balked at a potential regulation freeze.

Harvey said the Obama policy aligned federal standards with California’s stricter policies, making it easier for automakers to meet just one standard. If California’s waiver stays put, the U.S. car market will again be torn in two. Car manufacturers hoping to compete in those markets will have to meet the more stringent standards.

“How do you decide your cars [standards] if you have no idea if Trump’s going to win or original regulations are going to prevail? If you’re smart, you’re going to follow the original regulations anyway,” said Harvey. “Car companies have to make multibillion-dollar decisions based on new uncertainty.”

Clarifying the uncertainty will likely be left to the courts. While the administration is already facing legal challenges from some states, the decision this week is expected to prompt more lawsuits.

The two policy actions, freezing the standards and revoking California’s waiver, could find their way to the Supreme Court. Harvey said the courts may decide cases based on the merit of the policy change or defer to the executive branch. President Trump’s recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh — or “Mr. Deference” as Harvey called him — to the Supreme Court may give the administration an edge.

In the past, Kavanaugh has ruled that ultimate authority to craft environmental regulation rests with Congress, not the EPA, although he has called dealing with global warming “urgent.”


Plastic Bans Could Worsen Pollution

As San Diego debates banning food and beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene (EPS), Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Policy Fellow Camille Harmer argue that a ban would likely create worse problems for the environment. As with most other bans, the prohibitionists fail to adequately consider the unintended consequences of restricting people’s choices.

“Such bans take into account only the styrofoam that ends up in the ocean,” Shughart and Harmer write in Fortune. Reliance on substitute products—such as disposable paper cups, paper food cartons, and paper straws—would likely cause greater paper waste, carbon emissions, and water pollution. A disposable paper cup, for example, requires 20 percent more fossil fuel and 50 percent more electricity to manufacture than the EPS version it would replace, Shughart and Harmer report.

“To address the problems caused by plastic pollution, it’s better to target its improper disposal than plastic itself,” the authors continue. “California would be better off to encourage private recycling options, incentivize people to use EPS in more environmentally friendly ways, or wait until alternatives become more viable.”


How ‘Green’ Energy Subsidies Transfer Wealth to the Rich

When the Golden State Warriors, who won three of the last four NBA championships, signed All-Star Demarcus Cousins, sports pundits across the country offered the same opinion: The rich just got richer.

In many respects, the same holds true for energy subsidies.

Federal energy programs promise ambiguous policy goals such as abating climate change, spurring innovation, or reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy. But they often lead to situations that help the rich at the expense of middle- and lower-income Americans. That’s because when the federal government gets involved in the energy business, it transfers billions of dollars to the production and consumption of politically preferred sources and technologies—and many of those involve the poor transferring money to the rich.

For instance, a recent study by the Pacific Research Institute found that more than 99 percent of subsidies for electrical vehicles go to households with incomes of $50,000 or higher, and nearly three-quarters go to households with an annual income of $100,000 or more.

Poorer Americans can’t access the $7,500 tax credits because of the high prices of electric vehicles, even after accounting for the generous subsidies, which means they help pay for the subsidies through their taxes but can’t themselves get eligible for the subsidies or other benefits, such as carpool lanes.

To make matters worse, some major car companies are forced to sell electric vehicles at a loss to comply with state mandates and regulations. As Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute explains:

California, along with the nine states that have adopted California’s policy, mandates that zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) comprise a set percentage of the automobile market. The mandated minimum market share for ZEVs is currently scheduled to grow from 4.5 percent of sales in 2018, to 22 percent of the market by 2025; and Gov. Jerry Brown is even contemplating a complete ban on sales of cars with internal combustion engines after 2040.

Complying with these mandates requires companies to maintain ZEV credits that equal their share of the mandate, based on the company’s specific sales. Acquiring sufficient credits requires manufacturers that do not sell enough ZEVs to either sell ZEVs in California at a loss, purchase credits from companies whose ZEV sales exceed their credit requirements, or pay a $5,000 fine per credit that the company is short.

Consequently, the sales mandate has become a subsidy to companies, such as Tesla, that sell more ZEV-qualified vehicles than required by the mandate; and, a penalty on companies whose ZEV sales fall short of the required mandate. The $700 million earned by Tesla via these credit sales, which does not even account for all the credits Tesla has amassed, exemplifies that these subsidies and penalties can be substantial.

Energy subsidies benefit not only wealthy individuals, but also wealthy companies in the form of blatant corporate welfare. The federal government’s loan guarantee program is another subsidy program where government-backed loans have, time and again, gone to companies that simply don’t need any support from the taxpayer.

You don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to see that some of these projects have financial backing from giant tech firms, massive energy utilities, large investment banks, and other successful corporations.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program granted more than $1 billion in loans for Nissan and Ford to retool their factories. This program is simply a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to these massive companies. These companies should have no trouble financing a project without government-backed loans if they find it is worth the investment.

Eliminating favoritism in markets will benefit all Americans—individuals and businesses alike—not just the privileged few.


Conservatives get ready to battle a GOP carbon tax bill

Trump would be  unlikely to sign it so this is just a virtue claim

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., on Monday will become the first Republican to introduce national carbon pricing legislation in nearly a decade, which is prompting an effort by people in his own party to kill it.

“There is a real interest in pretending this is a live issue, but it’s not,” Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, told the Washington Examiner. “What they do is say some Republicans like the idea of the carbon tax. But it will never ever happen. The Republican Party has made it very clear that they are overwhelmingly opposed to a carbon tax.”

Norquist's group will host an event Monday to highlight conservative opposition to the bill, which is designed to tempt Republicans into supporting a tax on carbon emissions by getting rid of the federal gas tax. While Curbelo's supporters are hoping it can gain traction among Republicans, Norquist predicts it's already dead, in part because it would increase federal tax revenues and spend them.

“It’s a really horrid bill if you read it,” Norquist said. “This is a very regressive across the board tax on energy. It is extorting money from American industry. If you had to have the anti-Trump bill, to go against everything he is doing, this is the kill American manufacturing bill.”

Others say Curbelo's action shows Republicans representing states already feeling the impacts of climate change, such as Florida and its rising sea levels, are interested in finding solutions.

“The fervency of opponents’ responses demonstrates that these ideas could have real traction and can happen more quickly than most people think," said Joseph Majkut, a climate scientist at Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank supporting a carbon tax.

Many economists say a carbon emissions tax is the most cost-effective way to fight climate change, and thus could appeal to GOP skeptics.

“It's no secret that attempts to raise the gas tax have created political problems, as have efforts to impose a carbon tax,” Majkut said. “So, if you are standing up a carbon tax and getting rid of the gas tax, it will to a large degree offset the increased costs drivers pay at the the pump. It is an open question whether that is going to help the politics of the bill.”

Curbelo's bill represents the quandry some Republicans are in when it comes to climate change. He is a moderate Republican facing reelection in a purple state whose bill is strategically designed to bridge the wide gap between his party and Democrats.

His bill would impose a tax beginning at $24 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020, but which rises 2 percent annually above inflation. At the same time, it repeals the federal taxes on gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels.

“There are a couple of elements in the Curbelo bill that are very positive and that Republicans should like,” said Josiah Neeley, the energy policy director of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank. “One is the tax swap idea, that if you put in a carbon tax, you can use that to replace revenue from other taxes. This is a standard part of the GOP tax playbook going back to 1986, with the Reagan tax bill, and to last year’s tax cuts."

In a nod to Trump, the legislation would use the revenues from the carbon tax to fund improvements to America’s crumbling infrastructure, some of which would be directed for flood-mitigation projects and other initiatives to protect against climate change. Seventy percent of the money would go to the Highway Trust Fund, the nearly depleted funding source that spreads money to states to help pay for transportation projects.

Another 10 percent of the carbon tax proceeds would be used as grants for low-income households, a provision intended to combat conservative critics who say taxing oil refineries, gas plants, and coal mines for the carbon dioxide they burn would disproportionately harm poorer people who spend more of their income on energy.

Curbelo’s proposal would also restrict the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. That anti-regulatory gesture would prevent a future Democratic administration from creating another Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature program to force power plants to reduce carbon emissions.

“The pause or suspension of EPA’s regulatory authority is appealing,” Neeley said. “That may not seem like a pressing thing right now because Trump is not pursuing climate change regulations, but over time, that authority will come back into play, and being able to get out from under that is a real positive.”

Despite the outreach to Republicans, it’s unlikely Curbelo’s bill or any carbon tax legislation can pass the GOP-controlled Congress anytime soon.

Last week, all but six House Republicans voted to approve a nonbinding, GOP-leadership-backed resolution declaring a potential carbon tax harmful to the economy.

Supporters of the Curbelo bill seek to overcome the political hurdle in Congress with data.

A new independent study, led by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, found that Curbelo’s legislation would cause little damage to the overall economy, while dramatically reducing planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill would cause reductions in annual gross domestic product between 0.1 and 0.2 percent in the 2020s, while prompting total employment to decline by only between 0.02 and 0.04 percent.

The study projected that Curbelo’s bill would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and 27 to 32 percent reductions by 2025, ahead of the goals set in the Clean Power Plan.

More than two-thirds of these projected emission reductions are expected to occur in the electric power sector, as the tax would prompt acceleration of the ongoing trend of cheaper, less carbon-intensive natural gas replacing coal, and zero-emission renewables, later on, expected to replace gas.

The Curbelo proposal, like any carbon tax, would increase the price of energy-intensive goods such as electricity, home heating fuels, and gasoline. It would hit some industries, such as coal, particularly hard, reducing coal production 50 percent relative to current policy by 2030, the report said.

“A carbon tax doesn't really have meaningful effects on aggregate macroeconomic outcomes,” Noah Kaufman, a Columbia economist and author of the study, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s not a big deal for GDP or income growth. But it absolutely does have a disproportionate impact on certain groups, with coal mining being the biggest one. The broad takeaway is that using a carbon tax can achieve emissions reductions at a low cost, although there are important winners and losers to worry about too.”

Neeley hopes Republicans can appreciate the benefits of Curbelo’s bill, although his expectations remain modest.

“The support for this idea is still low for Republicans, but the growth trajectory is in the right direction,” he said.


Weather catastrophe in Australia: Farmers crippled by the 'worst drought in 100 years' are facing another TWO YEARS of scorching temperatures and no rain

On past form, one has to expect that this is another long-range prediction that the BoM will get wrong.  On principle I predict substantial rain some time over the next summer.

It's not only form, however that makes this an odd prediction.  We have just had an El Nino over 2016/2017 and there is normally at least 10 years between them.  Secondly, El Nino brings warmer water to the East coast and warmer water means MORE rain, not less. So, farmers:  Don't sell your farm yet.

An El Niño event has been predicted for the end of the year, leaving farmers already struggling with a devastating five-year drought facing disaster.

The Bureau of Meteorology announced the odds of an El Niño system forming this year are now twice as high as normal.

El Niño events often result in severe droughts, bringing higher temperatures, lower than average rainfall and increased risk of bushfires, lasting as long as two years.

If an El Niño does form in the latter half of 2018, it could prove catastrophic for parched Australian farmers who have been crippled by a years-long nationwide dry spell which some are describing as the worst drought in 100 years.

BOM senior forecaster David Crock said on Wednesday there is typically about a 25 per cent chance of an El Niño pattern developing.

The likelihood of one forming is now at 50 per cent, approximately double the normal probability.

'During El Niño, rainfall in eastern Australia is typically below average during winter–spring,' the Bureau of Meteorology stated.

'Daytime temperatures are also typically warmer than average for southern Australia. A neutral ENSO phase has little effect on Australian climate.

'Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest the tropical Pacific will continue to warm.

'Five of eight models indicate this warming will reach El Niño levels in the southern hemisphere spring, while a sixth model reaches El Niño levels in December.'




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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