Selected category: Economics

Open Road Ahead for Clean Trucks

rp_iStock_000002312011Medium2-1024x768.jpgOur nation is making great progress in reducing the environmental impact of trucking.

This is tremendous news, of course, as trucking – the main method of transporting the goods and services we desire – is critical to the fabric of our society.

Consider these facts:

We’re making major progress because of a team effort from truck and equipment manufacturers, fleets, policymakers, and clean air and human health advocates. With protective, long-term emission standards in place, manufacturers are investing in developing cleaner solutions and bringing them to market. Truck fleets are embracing new trucks because of lower operating costs and improved performance.

(For a more detailed picture of the widespread support for cleaner trucks, see EDF’s list of quotes supporting recent national Clean Truck standards.)

We must continue this team effort to make further necessary improvements in the years ahead.

Despite our recent progress, diesel trucks continue to be a leading source of NOx emissions, which is why a number of leading air quality agencies across the nation, health and medical organizations, and more than  30 members of Congress are calling for more protective NOx emission standards.

Trucks are also a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully, the new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards mentioned above – which were released this past August and just published in the Federal Register today – will cut more than a billion tons of emissions.

Trucking fleets are embracing cleaner trucks. UPS, for example, is expanding its fleet of hybrid delivery trucks. PepsiCo, Walmart, Kane and others have applauded strong fuel standards for trucks.

Manufacturers are developing solutions to further improve the environmental footprint of trucking.

In the past few weeks alone:

  • Cummins unveiled a 2017 engine that cuts NOx emissions 90 percent  from the current emission standard.
  • Volvo Trucks North American showcased its entry to the DOE SuperTruck program, which is  a concept truck capable of surpassing 2010 efficiency levels by 70 percent and exceeding 12 miles per gallon.
  • Navistar also revealed its SuperTruck, the CatalIST, which hit a remarkable 13 mpg.

The progress we’ve made to date does more than just improve conditions within the U.S. Our strong standards push U.S. manufacturers to develop solutions that will resonate with international markets. For example, the European Union, Brazil, India, Mexico, and South Korea all are exploring new fuel efficiency and greenhouse standards for big trucks. U.S. manufacturers will be well positioned to compete in markets that put a premium on fuel efficiency.

In the coming years, we will need to continue to advance protective emission standards to protect the health of our communities and safeguard our climate. When the time comes, we will be building upon an impressive record of progress and cooperation.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Leave a comment

It’s Time for the Coal Industry to Come Clean

By now you have all heard the coal industry claims that the Clean Power Plan will kill the coal industry. This week federal judges hearing oral argument on the rule will no doubt hear the same. A new report by Sue Tierney of the Analysis Group clearly demonstrates just how misleading these claims are.

Dr. Tierney’s analysis examines changes in the industry since the 1970’s to unpack the factors that led to coal’s rise through 2000 and steady decline since. It shows how shifting economics for energy production have caused cost-effective lower-emitting natural gas generation and zero-emitting renewables to steadily out-compete coal and erode its market share. The analysis also shows how the industry made a large number of badly misplaced bets that have left them with over-burdened balance sheets, and facing bankruptcy as a result of these self-inflicted wounds.

Citing analyses by the Energy Information Administration and others, the analysis shows the irreversibility of these trends as coal is simply no longer the cheapest form of generation. These trends will also continue to drive a transition to cleaner lower-carbon fuels regardless of the fate of the Clean Power Plan. The clear implication is that industry should focus on preparing for the future and adapting to these new market conditions as opposed to fighting long-delayed protections that will help secure a more stable climate, a sustainable economy and vital public health benefits.

The analysis also examines the significant job losses seen since 1980, and finds that here too the blame has been misplaced. Data clearly show that decades ago, increasing productivity and a shift from eastern to western coal led to significant job losses even while the industry’s overall production was in a period of dramatic growth. Remarkably, coal mining jobs fell by one-half from 1975 to 2000 even as coal production increased by more than 60 percent.

These market shifts have affected local mining communities. But as the analysis makes clear, these trends have been decades in the making and are driven by profound changes in the energy markets and the way in which coal is produced. Much as the coal industry and its allies like to divert attention from these fundamentals, rolling back life-saving measures to protect our climate and public health from power plant pollution won’t bring back past levels of coal mining jobs or production. However, there is ample room for coal mining companies to support these communities in transition by engaging constructively in the debate on how to move forward in light of these market fundamentals, and how best to harness unique local opportunities. These companies owe it to their workers and communities to do so.

The Clean Power Plan is essential for ensuring vital reductions in climate pollution from the power sector, America’s largest contributor of these emissions. It is expected to deliver $54 billion in annual climate and health benefits while saving up to 3,600 lives each year. It is possible that these benefits could also result in some incremental reductions in coal consumption, depending on how states themselves choose to design their strategies to cut pollution. However, most analyses find that these declines would be only a fraction of those driven by market forces over the past decade.

Therefore, instead of distracting investors and local communities through unfounded attacks on EPA and the Clean Power Plan, coal companies should be honest about what is really driving the erosion of their market share and of their balance sheets. They should come clean about the fact that lower carbon generation is simply beating them in the marketplace and that they made a bunch of bad bets when times were good. So doing would help everyone engage in a more serious and honest discussion about how to move these communities forward and transition into a position of success in the modern energy economy.

There is no time to waste – let’s start working together to forge such solutions for these communities.

About the analysis: This independent report was commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund but solely authored by Susan Tierney. Dr. Sue Tierney is a Senior Advisor at the Analysis Group, specializing on electric and gas economics and policy.  She formerly served as the assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, state cabinet officer for environmental affairs, and state public utility commissioner.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Jobs, Policy| Read 2 Responses

New Analysis: Clean Power Plan Compliance Within Reach for Litigating Companies

rp_scales_of_justice-300x280-300x280.png (EDF Attorneys Tomás Carbonell and Martha Roberts co-authored this post)

Tomorrow – Tuesday, September 27th – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear argument about the historic Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan places the nation’s first limits on climate-disrupting pollution from the electricity sector, which is responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide.

Many utilities, power producers, and state regulators recognize the importance of addressing climate change – and support the Clean Power Plan. However, some in the electric industry have instead chosen to take a reactionary, obstructionist position against climate progress. They are participating in litigation against the Clean Power Plan. A wide array of prominent legal experts have concluded that these companies’ legal arguments are unsupported. Moreover, in many cases, opponents’ claims are even contrary to their own actions. (See Opening Brief of Petitioners on Procedural and Record-Based Issues, page 12, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016)

EDF has just released a new analysis of this issue. It examines a diverse selection of power companies that are litigating against the Clean Power Plan, including Southern Company, American Electric Power, Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Tri-State Generation & Transmission.

We find that:

  • Overall, power sector emissions of climate pollution are already 21 percent below 2005 levels. As a result, the sector is already two-thirds of the way towards meeting the 2030 emissions reduction requirements of the Clean Power Plan.
  • Even though these particular companies are opposing the Clean Power Plan in court, they are already using a variety of approaches to drive significant cost-effective reductions in climate pollution from their existing fossil-fuel powered units, thanks in large part to favorable economics for lower and zero-carbon generation.
  • These are the same practical, cost-effective methods that EPA identified as the “best system” of emission reduction for climate pollution from power plants, and that formed the basis for the emission limits in the Clean Power Plan.
  • With these investment decisions, power companies are well positioned to comply with the Clean Power Plan, even though they are making claims to the contrary in court.
  • These companies’ own actions affirm the reasonableness of the Clean Power Plan targets as well as EPA’s approach in setting the standard, even though the companies are repeatedly claiming otherwise in court.

This is not the first time some of these companies have advanced deeply flawed “sky is falling” claims about clean air safeguards. Back in the 1970’s, AEP published a series of Washington Post newspaper ads claiming:

There is no way on God’s green earth that the present sulfur-dioxide emissions standards can be met. (Washington Post, April 30, 1974, AEP Display Ad 13)

Not surprisingly, coal plants across the nation are routinely meeting sulfur dioxide limits far more stringent and at very low cost.

This was also true in 1990, when AEP told the Boston Globe that bipartisan solutions to address acid rain could lead to:

the potential destruction of the Midwest economy.

Of course, they then proceeded, along with the rest of the industry, to go out and comply at a small fraction of the costs predicted by EPA. This same story is playing out again today.

The Clean Air Act has achieved deep reductions in pollution and delivered benefits exceeding the costs by 30 to 1 – all while our economy has prospered, and all at a small fraction of the costs predicted by obstructionists in the power industry.

The Clean Power Plan is no different. As our analysis shows, day by day it becomes clearer that the reductions it requires are wholly consistent with driving trends in the industry, and that the benefits will far exceed any cost of compliance.

The full analysis is available here.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

The Clean Power Plan: Driving Down Electricity Bills for Families

rp_dollar-499481_1920-1-1024x724.jpg(EDF Fellow Will Bittinger co-authored this post)

Here’s one fact you may not know about the Clean Power Plan – it can save you money.

The Clean Power Plan puts the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It’s a crucial step in our efforts to combat climate chaos and protect public health. But it can also help American families save money.

EPA’s analysis of the Clean Power Plan concluded that once the rule is fully implemented in 2030, it will lower the average consumer bill by about seven percent.

The Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Illinois Citizens Utility Board – all groups that serve and protect electricity customers – have confirmed these benefits. In a compelling amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief, these three leading consumer advocacy groups highlighted the host of empirical evidence showing that the Clean Power Plan can drive electricity costs down and deliver substantial benefits to consumers, especially those in low-income communities.

According to their brief:

Independent analyses confirm [EPA’s] projection: initiatives taken to meet the rule’s requirements could, by 2030, reduce household electric bills by as much as 20 percent across the board. (Ratepayers Brief at page 8).

Where would the savings come from? The Clean Power Plan will spur vibrant investment in energy efficiency — and by saving energy we can cut both carbon pollution and costs.

As the consumer advocacy organizations note:

[The] Clean Power Plan leverages energy-efficiency opportunities to achieve greenhouse-gas emission reductions in a way that directly benefits consumers, low-income households, and other electricity ratepayers. (Ratepayers Brief at page 2).

In particular, low income communities have a robust opportunity to benefit from the Clean Power Plan’s support for energy efficiency.

One important element of EPA’s plan, the recently proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program:

explicitly focuses on ensuring that the power program’s benefits reach low-income Americans … [t]he American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has calculated that this program could represent $1.2 billion worth of investment in projects in low-income communities… Such incentives would help encourage cost-effective energy-efficiency upgrades for multifamily rental housing – where many low-income Americans live. (Ratepayers Brief at page 9 and 10).

Because low-income households pay a disproportionate share of their income on energy, energy efficiency programs funded by this program will have a significant benefit in lowering energy bills for these families.

The consumer advocacy organizations also refute any hyperbolic, wrong-headed claims that the Clean Power Plan will cause increased electricity costs. Claims like these – which have been advanced by major polluters and their allies who are fighting the Clean Power Plan – wrongly assert that energy efficiency and low cost clean energy opportunities will cause economic disaster.

Local community leaders have challenged these misrepresentation. Rev. Dr. Lester A. McCorn, senior pastor at the Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore, called them a “smear campaign” designed to fight lifesaving standards and protect polluter profits.

These kinds of “sky is falling” claims are, sadly, a familiar scheme to prevent climate progress. When we set the schemes aside, we can see that we have a chance to seize enormous potential by implementing the Clean Power Plan and supporting America’s transition to a low-cost clean energy economy.

In the end:

Refusing to shift America’s energy infrastructure towards cleaner, more affordable energy would only leave low-income Americans with higher costs over time – for electricity and for preventable adverse health effects. (Ratepayers Brief at pages 14 and 15).

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed

Compliance with Clean Power Plan is Within Reach — Even for States Opposing It

(Tomás Carbonell, EDF Director of Regulatory Policy and Senior Attorney, and Diane Munns, EDF Senior Director of External Affairs, co-authored this post)

In one week – on Tuesday, September 27th – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument in legal challenges brought by the coal industry and its allies against the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the nation’s first ever climate pollution standards for the power sector, which is the largest source of climate pollution in the United States, and one of the largest sources in the world. (According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the next largest sector – light-duty vehicles, which includes passenger cars and most pickup trucks – accounted for roughly one-half the emissions of the power sector in 2014.)  As a result, the Clean Power Plan is one of the most important measures the United States has ever taken to combat the threat of climate change.

The Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, yielding up to $54 billion in annual climate and health benefits and saving up to 3,600 lives each year.

The good news is that the United States’ power sector is already rapidly reducing emissions by transitioning toward low cost, lower carbon sources of generation. In 2015, emissions were already 21 percent below 2005 levels. That’s almost two-thirds of the way toward the 2030 emission reduction target reflected in the Clean Power Plan. The rate of emission reduction we have seen over the last decade far exceeds the rate that would be required to achieve the Clean Power Plan targets by 2030. Meanwhile, analysts are projecting that the combination of falling prices for renewable energy and the extension of federal tax credits will drive a significant surge in new renewable development (see here, here, and here for just a few examples).

Even though powerful market forces are already driving dramatic progress in reducing climate pollution, opponents of the Clean Power Plan have argued in court that the plan represents a dramatic “restructuring of nearly every State’s electric grid” and have also argued that compliance with the Clean Power Plan’s emission reduction goals is “impossible.”  (See Opening Brief of Petitioners on Core Legal Issues, page 6, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016, and Opening Brief of Petitioners on Procedural and Record-Based Issues, page 12, West Virginia v. EPA, No. 15-1363, D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2016)

To evaluate these claims, EDF commissioned an analysis to examine how far measures already planned by power companies could go towards helping achieve the Clean Power Plan emission targets in the states that have challenged these standards.

What the analysis found stands in stark contrast to allegations by the litigating states and power companies.

About the Analysis

M.J. Bradley and Associates conducted the analysis using its publicly available Clean Power Plan Compliance Tool. The analysis drew on multiple, widely-used sources of industry-provided information on investments in new generation and planned retirements, and was based on policy scenarios and assumptions provided by EDF. The analysis is cited in a court declaration filed by EDF clean energy expert Diane Munns, and was recently featured in a Reuters article titled “Most states on track to meet emissions targets they call burden.”

Finding #1: All 27 litigating states can comply with the Clean Power Plan by leveraging planned investments coupled with flexible compliance programs

The analysis found that all 27 states opposing the Clean Power Plan could come into compliance with their emission reduction targets all the way through 2030, without making any additional investments beyond those that are already planned by power companies or required under existing state law. All state regulators need to do is take advantage of the inherent flexibility provided by the Clean Power Plan and adopt flexible compliance programs that allow power plants to fully leverage the benefits of planned investments – such as by allowing companies to average across their sources or trade compliance credits across states lines.

As Clean Air Act experts have noted, this compliance approach is familiar territory under our nation’s clean air laws. The Supreme Court recently upheld this approach in reviewing EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule, and many of the litigating states have already successfully adopted these types of emissions trading programs to achieve compliance with limits on soot and smog pollution from power plants.

Finding #2:  Even if they do not take full advantage of these program flexibilities, the vast majority of litigating states can comply with Clean Power Plan goals through 2030 through planned investments alone

The analysis also considered very conservative scenarios where states do not take advantage of these program flexibilities, and each state comes into compliance solely through in-state investments and existing state policies – without engaging in trading of compliance instruments with any other states. Such constraints seem unlikely, given that most of the litigating states are already taking advantage of interstate trading in other Clean Air Act programs for the power sector and requested that interstate trading be an option under the Clean Power Plan.

Even in these very conservative scenarios, as many as 21 of the 27 states challenging the Clean Power Plan could fully achieve their emission targets through the first three-year compliance period of the Clean Power Plan (the period from 2022-2024) by relying exclusively on existing generation, investments already planned within each state, and implementation of respective existing state policies. The study also found that as many as 18 of these states could comply all the way through 2030 as a result of these measures. Also, since this analysis was completed, Arkansas announced that it was already in compliance with the 2030 emissions targets. This suggests that at least 22 of the states could comply through 2024 as a result of planned investments, and that 19 states could comply through 2030.

For the minority of states that were not found to meet their Clean Power Plan emission reduction targets through planned investments alone, this analysis indicates that very modest additional measures would be sufficient to close the gap. For example, it finds that all of the states could come into compliance in the first three-year compliance period merely by deploying cost-effective energy efficiency measures and developing new clean resources at a rate comparable to the average of their neighboring states.



Finding #3:  The Clean Power Plan has an essential role to play in reducing emissions from the power sector

While the analysis shows that these states are well positioned for compliance, it also reaffirms the importance of the Clean Power Plan in delivering the needed reductions in climate pollution over the long term.

This is because building new clean generation alone is not enough – it is also vital to ensure that the benefits of these investments are fully realized. By establishing nationwide emission limits through 2030, the Clean Power Plan will provide clear market and regulatory signals to power companies that encourage them to cost-effectively deploy their generation in a manner that reduces climate pollution. However, any delay or disruption in the implementation of the Clean Power Plan would interrupt those signals and put these eminently achievable reductions in climate pollution at risk.

Power companies, states, and others agree: compliance is readily achievable

We aren’t the only ones who have concluded that the Clean Power Plan targets are eminently reasonable. Our results are consistent with recent, independent economic analyses by the Nicholas Institute, M.J. Bradley & Associates, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and others. All of these analyses predict very low compliance costs because favorable economics for lower and zero-carbon sources of electricity are expected to continue driving sustained investment in these resources even in the absence of the Clean Power Plan. As a result, states around the country are well positioned for compliance.

Notably, states and power companies from across the country have themselves affirmed this very point:

  • In Georgia, an official at the state Public Service Commission, Sheree Kernizan, affirmed that: "We were already on track under the proposed rules to kind of meet the goals anyway – without doing anything – and this was prior to the 2016 [integrated resource plan] that was filed this year …. and [Georgia Power Company’s] talking about adding more renewables, continuing the energy efficiency programs that have been in place."
  • The state of Arkansas announced in May that it has already met the 2030 emission targets in the standards by moving to cleaner and more affordable sources of energy.
  • The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the state can comply with the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions without changing anything until at least 2025.
  • Oklahoma’s two largest utilities, PSO and OG&E, both say they’re on a path to compliance with the Clean Power Plan by the 2030 deadline.
  • Analysis conducted by Pace Global for the Arizona Utilities Group shows that the state can comply with the Clean Power Plan based on investments already planned under business-as-usual. (The Arizona Utilities Group consists of Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc., Arizona Public Service Company, Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, Tucson Electric Power Company, and UniSource Energy Services.)

(You can find even more analyses and statements about how states and power companies are well positioned to achieve Clean Power Plan targets here.) 

At this point it is abundantly clear that America is rapidly transitioning to a low carbon economy – yielding enormous benefits for climate and public health, and opening new economic opportunities in communities across the nation. With the price of low-carbon resources at all-time lows, the market is already strongly driving this transition. The Clean Power Plan is a common sense framework that can provide an essential role in harnessing this momentum and providing a clear, certain path forward to protect against climate change — while at the same time giving states the ability to achieve emission reductions in ways that maximize local public health benefits for communities affected by air pollution.

Litigating states and power companies should stop wasting money fighting against the protection of public health and the environment, and instead focus more fully on how to seize the opportunities of a clean energy future and maximize benefits for communities and consumers.


Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Read 1 Response

In Win for Environment, Court Recognizes Social Cost of Carbon

This post was co-authored with Martha Roberts. It originally appeared on EDF's Market Forces)

If someone was tallying up all the benefits of energy efficiency programs, you’d want them to include reducing climate pollution, right? That’s just common sense.

Thankfully, that’s what our government does when it designs energy efficiency programs—as well as other policies that impact greenhouse gas emissions. And just this month, this approach got an important seal of approval: For the first time, a federal court upheld using the social cost of carbon to inform vital protections against the harmful impacts of climate change.

So what is the social cost of carbon and why does it matter? It’s a crucial part of the development of climate safeguards and essential to our understanding of the full costs of climate pollution. We know that climate change is a clear and present danger now and for future generations—one that will result in enormous costs to our economy, human health and the environment. And yet, these “social” costs are not accounted for in our markets, and therefore in decision making. It is a classic Economics 101 market failure. Every ton of carbon dioxide pollution that is emitted when we burn fossil fuels to light our homes or drive our cars has a cost associated with it, a hidden one that is additional to what we pay on our utility bills or at the gas pump. These costs affect us all – and future generations – and are a result of the negative impacts of climate change. If we don’t recognize these hidden costs—we aren’t properly protecting ourselves against the dangers of climate pollution.

The social cost of carbon (or SCC) is an estimate of the total economic harm associated with emitting one additional ton of carbon dioxide pollution into the atmosphere. To reach the current estimate, several federal agencies came together to determine the range and central price point – roughly $40 per ton – through a transparent and rigorous interagency process that was based on the latest peer-reviewed science and economics available, and which allowed for repeated public comments.

It’s critical that we protect against the damages and costs caused by climate pollution. So it’s a no-brainer that when considering the costs and benefits of climate safeguards, we must take into account all benefits and costs – and that means including the social cost of carbon.

In their court opinion, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed wholeheartedly. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein noted that their decision “upholds a foundation” of “countless” climate protections. In particular, their opinion made two important findings:

  • First, the court affirmed that the DOE was correct to include a value for the social cost of carbon in its analysis. The judges concluded that “[w]e have no doubt” that Congress intended for DOE to have authority to consider the social cost of carbon. Importantly, this conclusion reinforces the appropriateness of including the SCC in future carbon-related rule-makings.
  • Second, the court upheld key choices about how the SCC estimate was calculated. The court agreed that DOE properly considered all impacts of climate change, even those years from now, or outside our borders. These choices, the court concluded, were reasonable and appropriate given the nature of the climate crisis we face.

DOE itself acknowledged “limitations in the SCC estimates.” We couldn’t agree more. As new and better information about the impacts of climate change becomes available and as our ability to translate this science into economic impacts improves, regulators must update the current social cost of carbon estimate. There is still much we do not know about the full magnitude of climate impacts and much that cannot be quantified (as is true of all economic impact analysis) – which means that SCC estimates are likely far lower than the true impact of climate change. But as the Seventh Circuit recognized, their inclusion is a vital step in the right direction for sensible policy-making.

This decision already has positive implications more broadly—in particular, for the Clean Power Plan, our nation’s historic program to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Just last week, EPA submitted a letter in the Clean Power Plan litigation noting that the Seventh Circuit’s decision further demonstrates the error of challenges to the treatment of costs and benefits in the Clean Power Plan rulemaking. It’s just another affirmation of the rock-solid legal and technical foundation for the Clean Power Plan.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Policy| Comments are closed
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