Selected category: Jobs

New records just released under FOIA raise an important question: Did the Trump transition team consider dismissing EPA’s Inspector General?

Recently released documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that President Trump’s transition team considered — then decided against — dismissing EPA’s Inspector General.

Myron Ebell, who headed the transition at EPA for then-President-Elect Trump, emailed an EPA career staffer on January 13, 2017 that the transition team, “want[ed] to retain the EPA’s IG for the present.”

Ebell wanted to relay the information to the Inspector General “without any formal communication.” He went on to express a strong preference for delivering the message himself, rather than delegating to EPA career staff.

These documents were released under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Myron Ebell’s stint leading the EPA transition was a brief departure from his usual job at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where his polluter-funded work aims to slash health and environmental protections and spread climate denialism. It is currently unclear why he — or any member of the Trump transition team — needed to reach out to EPA’s Inspector General for a conversation about job security.

Notably, Ebell’s January 13, 2017 email message was expressly hedged, indicating only that the Inspector General would be retained “for the present.”

For 30 years, dismissing Inspectors General has not been a normal part of presidential transitions. Only President Reagan — the first President to assume office after Congress created Inspectors General — did so, and he partly backtracked under intense political pressure.

Now, the Trump Administration has taken worrying steps toward undermining the integrity of Inspectors General across the federal government.

Congress created the position of Inspector General at federal agencies in order to conduct audits and to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

The statute creating the position provides that Inspectors General:

[S]hall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations. (emphasis added)

Congress has repeatedly emphasized the need for independent Inspectors General:

  • A 2010 amendment to the Inspector General Act required the President to provide Congress with advance notice and explanation before removing an Inspector General from office.
  • Congress further enhanced the role of Inspector General with the bipartisan Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016.

Since assuming office in 2010, EPA’s Inspector General has pursued investigations under both President Obama and President Trump.

Subjecting Inspectors General to political pressure utterly defies the Congressional objective of independent oversight at federal agencies. It sets the stage for corruption and puts taxpayer dollars at risk.

Myron Ebell’s involvement in discussions about the EPA Inspector General’s employment status raises two pressing questions:

  • Why was the EPA Inspector General’s job status ever in doubt among the Trump transition team?
  • Why did Myron Ebell want to conceal his communication with the Inspector General?

The Trump Administration and Myron Ebell owe the public answers to these questions.

Also posted in News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

Americans speak up for clean cars at EPA public hearing

A public hearing today on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s effort to reverse America’s Clean Car Standards drew widespread support for keeping the protections in place.

I got the chance to join more than a hundred people who signed up to testify at the Washington, D.C. hearing – and they overwhelmingly spoke in favor of the Clean Car Standards and praised the benefits they provide for climate security and economic prosperity for our communities and families. (You can read my full testimony here.)

The American public stands to lose vital benefits if the Clean Cars Standards are reversed

The Clean Car Standards are already at work reducing climate pollution, driving innovative new technologies, improving our energy security, and saving American families money at the gas pump. But last month, the Trump Administration announced formal steps to begin reconsidering the existing standards for cars and passenger trucks for model years 2022 to 2025 – which could stop that progress.

Under the standards already in place, people who buy a new car or truck in 2025 would save thousands of dollars on fuel over the lifetime of those vehicles. In total, EPA projects that consumers would save more than $1 trillion because of the standards.

The 86 percent of Americans who finance their vehicle with a five-year loan are expected to immediately realize the cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even with recent lower gas prices.

Meanwhile, the Clean Car standards would reduce America’s oil consumption by two million barrels per day by 2025 – more than we import from any single country other than Canada. According to Ret. Lt. General Richard Zilmer:

Over-reliance on oil ties our nation to far-flung conflicts, sends our troops into harm’s way, and endangers them once they’re in conflict zones. Ensuring that the cars and trucks we drive every day go farther on every gallon of gas makes our nation stronger.

The Clean Car program would also eliminate an estimated six billion metric tons of carbon pollution over the life of the vehicles subject to the standards, which is more than a year’s worth of U.S. carbon emissions.

We’re making progress faster and cheaper than expected

EPA’s recent rigorous evaluation of the existing standards found that technologies are developing more quickly and at even lower costs than EPA originally projected – making the standards for the later model years appropriate and even more feasible than was first thought.

Per vehicle compliance costs are significantly lower than those projected in 2012 ($252 lower for cars and $197 lower for trucks as compared to 2012 projections).

 

 

Both the U.S. and world automotive markets are moving forward

Reopening the final Clean Car Standards will create uncertainty, slow innovation and hurt U.S. economic leadership.

Auto manufacturers have strongly recovered from the 2008 recession while increasing vehicle efficiency and cutting pollution

During the height of the economic recession in 2008, the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse. This prompted the Obama Administration to develop a bailout package for the industry, which provided the boost the industry needed to help rebound.

Last year, drivers in the United States bought more cars than ever before – roughly 70 percent more vehicles than during the recession – as fuel economy rose to its highest levels yet.

In total, the auto industry has added nearly 700,000 direct jobs since the recession – supporting several million indirect jobs throughout the economy. Auto manufacturing jobs account for 40 percent of all net jobs added in U.S. manufacturing since the recession.

In a letter supporting EPA’s proposal to reaffirm the Phase 2 standards, the United Auto Workers (UAW) noted:

UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.

Today, the auto industry directly employs millions of Americans and employment at auto dealerships is at its highest level ever. Automakers have recognized this strong financial performance in recent annual reports:

Our solid business results included record profits and an increased worldwide market share. Overall, we achieved our sixth consecutive year of both profit and positive operating-related cash flow, which enabled us to distribute $2.5 billion to our shareholders and grow our regular dividend by 20 percent. – Ford 2015 Annual report, Letter from Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr.

2016 was the best year in its history of more than 130 years. — Daimler 2016 Annual Report, Chairman’s Letter

[Fiat Chrysler] closed 2016 with another record financial performance … all of our segments were profitable and showed improvement over the prior year. – FCA 2016 Annual Report, Letter from the Chairman and the CEO

As so many testified today, Americans want to move forward on clean cars.

At EDF, we're committed to holding Administrator Pruitt accountable if he recklessly rolls back these common sense standards. We hope you'll join us and take action for Clean Cars.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments are closed

Electric vehicles enter the here and now

A Ford at an electric car charging station in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Fortunate4now

The high level of confidence that automotive industry leaders have in the future of electric vehicles (EV’s) has been on full display recently.

In just the past few weeks:

This spurt of corporate announcements has been paired with a bevy of statements of international leadership:

These developments are more than just excitement about an emerging solution. They are indicators that the market for EVs is developing faster than anticipated even just last year.

Consider the findings of a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It found that:

[L]ithium-ion cell costs have already fallen by 73 percent since 2010.

The report updated its future cost projections to reflect further steep cost reductions in the years ahead, with a price per kilowatt-hour in 2025 of $109 and in 2030 of $73.

Cost reductions on this order would result in EVs achieving cost parity with some classes of conventional vehicles by 2025 – and across most vehicle segments by 2029, according to the report. EV sales are expected to really take off once they achieve cost parity with conventional vehicles, as the vehicles are significantly less expensive to fuel and maintain.

The acceleration in the EV market is great news for climate protection too. A recent assessment found that zero-emission vehicles, such as EVs, need to comprise 40 percent of new vehicles sold by 2030 in order for the automotive sector to be on a path to achieve critical mid-century emissions targets. With the momentum in the EV market, we have a critical window to further boost this market by ensuring greater access of electric vehicles and a cleaner electric grid to power them.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has not demonstrated the same appetite for national leadership on EVs as other countries. Even worse, we are going in the wrong direction – with serious implications for our health, climate and economy.

Instead of leading, the Trump Administration is undermining critical clean air and climate protections including the landmark clean car standards for 2022 to 2025. The actions of individual automakers, however, tell a very different story from the “can’t do it” mantra put forth by the Administration.

In their commitments, investments and new product introductions, automotive manufacturers and their suppliers are clearly telling us that low emissions vehicles can play a much bigger role in the near future.

The fact is that automakers can meet the existing 2022 to 2025 federal greenhouse gas standards through deployment of current conventional technology alone. Now, in addition to the robust pathway automakers have through existing technologies, EV adoption rates in the U.S. will be 10 percent in 2025 if the Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts hold true. This is further proof that the existing standards are highly achievable. Rather than weaken the standard, the Administration should be pursuing options to further scale EVs over the next decade.

Investing in clear car solutions is sound economic policy. These investments enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. automotive sector.

This is why the UAW in a letter supporting the existing 2022 to 2025 clean car standards, noted:

UAW members know firsthand that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards have spurred investments in new products that employ tens of thousands of our members.

Like other key aspects of the potential of the emerging EV marketplace, the role it can play as an employer has been in the news recently too.

An AM General assembly plant in northern Indiana was acquired by electric vehicle manufacture SF Motors. The company announced that it will make a $30 million investment in the facility and keep on all the 430 employees.

Fittingly, most of the 430 jobs that were saved to manufacture an emerging, clean technology are represented by UAW Local 5 – the oldest continuously operating UAW Local in the country.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed

President Trump’s mystery math

By this time, your eyes may have glazed over from reading the myriad of fact checks and rebuttals of President Trump’s speech announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. There were so many dizzying falsehoods in his comments that it is nearly impossible to find any truth in the rhetorical fog.

Of all the falsehoods, President Trump’s insistence that compliance with the Paris accord would cost Americans millions of lost jobs and trillions in lowered Gross Domestic Product was particularly brazen, deceptive, and absurd. These statements are part of a disturbing pattern, the latest in a calculated campaign to deceive the public about the economics of reducing climate pollution.

Based on a study funded by industry trade groups

Let’s be clear: the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) study underpinning these misleading claims was paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) – two lobbying organizations backed by fossil fuel industry funding that have a history of commissioning exaggerated cost estimates of climate change solutions. When you pay for bad assumptions, you ensure exaggerated and unrealistic results.

In the past five years alone, NERA has released a number of dubious studies funded by fossil fuel interests about a range of environmental safeguards that protect the public from dangerous pollution like mercury, smog, and particulate matter – all of which cause serious health impacts, especially in the elderly, children, and the most vulnerable. NERA’s work has been debunked over and over. Experts from MIT and NYU said NERA’s cost estimates from a 2014 study on EPA’s ozone standards were “fraudulent” and calculated in “an insane way.” NERA’s 2015 estimates of the impacts of the Clean Power Plan, which are frequently quoted by President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others, have also been rebutted due to unrealistic and pessimistic assumptions.

The study does not account for the enormous costs of climate pollution

In his speech about the Paris agreement, President Trump crossed a line that made even NERA so uncomfortable that it released a statement emphasizing that its results were mischaracterized and that the study “was not a cost-benefit analysis of the Paris agreement, nor does it purport to be one.”

The most important point embedded in this statement is that the study does not account for the enormous benefits of reducing the carbon pollution causing climate change. Climate change causes devastating impacts including extreme weather events like flooding and deadly storms, the spread of disease, sea level rise, increased food insecurity, and other disasters. These impacts can cost businesses, families, governments and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars through rising health care costs, destruction of property, increased food prices, and more. The costs of this pollution are massive, and communities all around the U.S. are already feeling the impacts – yet the President and his Administration continue to disregard this reality as well as basic scientific and economic facts.

Cherry-picking an impractical and imaginary pathway to emission reductions

The statistics the President used were picked from a specific scenario in the study that outlined an impractical and imaginary pathway to meet our 2025 targets designed to be needlessly expensive, as experts at the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council have noted. The study’s “core” scenario assumes sector by sector emission reduction targets (which do not exist as part of the Paris accord) that result in the most aggressive level of mitigation being required from the sectors where it is most expensive. This includes an almost 40 percent reduction in industrial sector emissions – a disproportionate level not envisioned in any current policy proposal – which results in heavily exaggerated costs.

An expert at the independent think tank Resources for the Future, Marc Hafstead, pointed out:

The NERA study grossly overstates the changes in output and jobs in heavy industry.

Yale economist Kenneth Gillingham said of these numbers:

It’s not something you can cite in a presidential speech with a straight face … It’s being used as a talking point taken out of context.

The NERA analysis also includes a scenario that illustrates what experts have known for decades – that a smarter and more cost-effective route to achieving deep emission reductions is a flexible, economy-wide program that prices carbon and allows the market to take advantage of the most cost-effective reductions across sectors. Even NERA’s analysis shows that this type of program would result in significantly lower costs than their “core” scenario. Not surprisingly, that analysis is buried in the depths of the report, and has been entirely ignored by the Chamber of Commerce and ACCF as well as President Trump.

Study ignores potential innovation and declining costs of low carbon energy

Finally, the NERA study assumes that businesses would not innovate to keep costs down in the face of new regulations – employing pessimistic assumptions that ignore the transformational changes already moving us towards the expansion of lower carbon energy. Those assumptions rely on overly-conservative projections for renewable energy costs, which have been rapidly declining. They also underestimate the potential for reductions from low-cost efficiency improvements, and assume only minimal technological improvements in the coming years.

In reality, clean energy is outpacing previous forecasts and clean energy jobs are booming. There are more jobs in solar energy than in oil and natural gas extraction in the U.S. right now, and more jobs in wind than in coal mining.

The truth is that the clean energy revolution is the economic engine of the future. President Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord cedes leadership and enormous investment opportunities to Europe, China, and the rest of the world. His faulty math will not change these facts.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy| Comments are closed

When EPA Is Under Threat, So Is Business: Two Key Examples

(This post first appeared on EDF+Business. It was written by EDF's Liz Delaney)

American businesses benefit tremendously from the robust voluntary and regulatory programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These programs are now under threat of massive budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks.  In the coming weeks and months, the experts at EDF+Business will examine what a weakened EPA means for business. 

While some politicians may question the reality of climate change, most CEOs do not. So it’s no surprise that while Congress has been stuck, business has been busy addressing the problem. Luckily, they’ve had a helpful partner by their side: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contrary to now head of the EPA Scott Pruitt’s claim that business has been subjected to "regulatory uncertainty"—stated during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—the Agency has administered a number of voluntary and regulatory programs that help corporations respond to the challenge of climate change. For companies, future planning is simply good business. This is why many in  Corporate America—having long accepted that climate change is real— are continuing to transition towards low-carbon energy options and work with the EPA to move forward in a sensible, cost-effective manner.

But with the recent announcement on Pruitt’s plans to cut the EPA’s budget by a reported 24 percent—roughly $6 billion, its lowest since the mid-1980's–it may be up to the business community to defend the instrumental role of the Agency in helping business thrive while protecting the environment.

Here’s a look at just two of the many EPA programs that have helped business transition to a clean energy future.

Forging a smart economic future with the Clean Power Plan

Many in the business community strongly supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)—the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The argument? Dirty sources of energy generation are becoming a growing concern for corporate America. These energy sources are increasingly uneconomic. Fortune 500 companies routinely set renewable energy and emissions reduction goals, but find roadblocks in many energy markets around the country.

Fortunately, the CPP can open new opportunities for businesses interested in operating in a clean energy economy. The rule’s flexible framework puts states in the driver’s seat to set plans that call for the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions for meeting pollution reduction targets while spurring innovation. If you ask me, this satisfies Pruitt’s call to "restore federalism" by giving states more of a say in regulations. The plans provide clarity on the energy options available to businesses in different regions, helping to inform their long-term carbon reduction strategies and eventually increase access to cost-effective low-carbon energy.

This explains why last year major innovators including Mars, IKEA, Apple, Google, and Microsoft filed legal briefs in federal court supporting the EPA’s Plan. And more recently, leading executives from over 760 companies and investors—many of them Fortune 500 firms—called upon the new Administration to move ahead with policies to address climate change, like the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP is positioned to:

  • Generate $155 billion in consumer savings between 2020-2030
  • Create 3x as many jobs per $1 invested in clean energy as compared to $1 invested in fossil fuels
  • Lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $54 billion, including avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030

The Green Power Partnership

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to increase the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. Under the program, businesses are armed with resources and provided technical support to identify the types of green power products that best meet their goals. Since its inception, the Partnership has made notable progress in addressing market barriers to green power procurement.

Through the Partnership, companies can reduce their carbon footprints, increase cost savings, and demonstrate civic leadership, which further drives customer, investor and stakeholder loyalty. Take Colgate-Palmolive for example: as one of the Green Power Partnership’s national top 100, the consumer products giant has generated close to 2 billion kWh of annual green power through wind power alone. This represents 80% of the company’s total electricity use.

Today, hundreds of Partner organizations rely on billions of kWh of green power annually. At the end of 2015, over 1,300 Partners were collectively using more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, equivalent to the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

Pruitt has ratified the belief that we can “grow jobs, grow the economy while being good stewards of the environment”–and he’s right. The renewable energy industry is now outpacing the rest of the U.S. in job creation; which is good news for business and the economy at large. American wind power now supports more than 100,000 jobs—an increase of 32% in just one year—and solar employs more people in U.S. electricity generation than oil, coal and gas combined.

Long-term economics versus short-term politics

We don’t know what will happen in Washington over the next few years. But many businesses are moving forward. Rather than shift course, corporations are increasing investments in clean, reliable power, a move that is consistent with sound business practices.

But business can’t do it alone. The EPA supports responsible companies who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints while safeguarding our planet. It’s time for business to not just leverage their scale and buying power to help accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, but to speak up in favor of maintaining a well-funded agency that continues to make decisions based on sound science and the law.

In his first address to the EPA, Scott Pruitt said, “you can’t lead unless you listen.” Let’s make sure he hears from the businesses that are focused on a future where both the economy and the environment can thrive.

Also posted in Economics, News, Policy, Setting the Facts Straight| Comments are closed

Investments to Meet Emissions Goals are Driving Innovation and Growth in U.S. Auto Industry

15261010832_b13a8d395c_kThe past couple of weeks have seen a whirlwind of announcements related to the U.S. auto industry.

The century-old industry has been hailed as the fastest U.S. job creator – expanding payroll by “nearly 35 percent” in recent years. Manufacturers have introduced dozens of new, fuel-efficient models. Technology companies and automotive manufacturers are collaborating more than ever to add features, and to get the world ready for self-driving vehicles.

The need for climate action has been a critical driving factor in each of these trends.

The Clean Car Standards have been focusing auto industry investment and innovations since they were finalized in 2010. Over that time, the automobile industry has made a dramatic return to profitability and added jobs – all while exceeding the Clean Car Standards. The industry has also started to bring to market a new generation of fuel-saving solutions.

Confirmation of these trends could be found at the recent Consumer Electronics Show and the Detroit Auto Show, where manufacturers paraded out their latest developments.

  • Ford stated that it expects sales of electric vehicles will overtake sales of gas-fueled vehicles within 15 years. Ford showcased its ability to improve conventional vehicles by unveiling the 2018 model Ford F150 – the best selling vehicle in the U.S. – with options for a more fuel efficient 3.3 liter six cylinder engine and automatic stop-start technology. It also announced new hybrid versions of the F-150 and Mustang by 2020. The company promised a new fully electric SUV vehicle with 300-mile range by 2020.
  • General Motors (GM) celebrated having the fully-electric, 238-mile range Chevy Bolt awarded the North American Car of the Year or Truck of the Year. The Chevy Bolt was previously awarded Motor Trend Car of the Year. The Bolt, which came to market last month, is also at the center of GM’s work on self-driving vehicle technology
  • Nissan announced a new generation of its LEAF electric vehicle, with “autonomous drive functionality" for highways.
  • Honda publicized its plan to introduce a new, U.S.-made hybrid vehicle in 2018 and roll out its Clarity Electric and the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid vehicles.
  • Toyota appointed its president (grandson of the company’s founder) to lead their newly formed electric car division, in an effort to “speed up development of electric cars.” 
  • Volkswagen – unveiled a prototype electric van capable of a 270-mile range and with room for eight-passengers. The company has committed to have at least 25 percent of its global sales be electric vehicles by 2025.
  • Samsung introduced a new lithium-ion battery cell for electric vehicles. The battery promises over 350 miles of range and a 20-minute fast charge. The battery is slated for production in 2021.
  • Tesla declared that its gigafactory for battery production was open for business. The Reno, Nevada facility already employees almost 3,000 workers, and is ultimately expected to employ 6,500 in full-time positions.
  • Mercedes announced in Paris last year that electric cars would account for 25 percent of the company’s deliveries in 2025, backed by plans to invest $1.1 billion in battery technology.

As these developments show, automakers and their suppliers are investing and bringing to market clean vehicle solutions beyond what even the Clean Car Standards require.

These companies are making these investments because there is a robust domestic market for clean cars. Electric vehicle sales in the U.S., for example, were up more than 50 percent in the second half of 2016 (compared to 2015).

Companies are also making these investments to stay competitive in a global race that will define the next chapter of mobility. GM, for example, had a third of its global sales in China in 2016. China is the largest market worldwide for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and if U.S. automakers want to be competitive there they will need to stay on the leading edge of the technology curve. Autotomy and electrification will be the hallmarks of this new, global chapter.

By driving more investment in future offerings, the Clean Car Standards help position U.S. manufacturers to win this race at home and abroad.

This perspective was recently voiced by the United Auto Workers, which noted:

“Our competitors around the globe are working to strengthen environmental standards and it would be counterproductive to enact policies that provide disincentives for investing in advanced technologies and improving efficiency. History has taught us that a diverse fleet is essential for strong export sales and keeping jobs in the United States. Efficiency and emission standards can and must continue to be a win-win for the environment, working families, domestic manufacturing and the overall economy.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, News, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed
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