Thursday April 2nd… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ET’s will be listed at the very end of my article, below the news section for each day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ET’s (not extraterrestrials)😉
Main Topic: President Obama Urges Change After Big Climate Rollbacks From Trump
Dear Diary: President Trump is sneakily using the COVID19 crisis to rollback car emission standards put in place by President Obama. The logic here is that car manufacturers can save precious money to ride through the instant recession or depression made by this coronavirus epidemic, saving jobs. As would be expected, environmentalists are up in arms over the decision, and the Climate Guy is right along with them. Today I’m presenting two reports for the daily main topic recently published this week on what has been touted as Trump’s most egregious anti-climate decision yet. First, here is what we see from the Hill:
Obama urges voters to ‘demand better’ after Trump rolls back fuel standards
Former President Obama on Tuesday urged voters to “demand better” of the government after the Trump administration rolled back a key Obama-era fuel standard intended to combat climate change.
“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial,” Obama tweeted. “All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”
The Trump administration on Tuesday slashed Obama-era standards that require automakers to produce fleets that average nearly 55 mpg by 2025. Instead, the Trump rule would bring that number down to about 40 mpg by 2026, bringing mileage below what automakers have said is possible for them to achieve.
The Trump administration has primarily argued that cutting Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will allow automakers to produce cheaper cars, allowing consumers to buy newer vehicles with upgraded safety features and lower gas consumption.
But experts are skeptical about the actual benefits of the newer vehicle safety features in comparison to the threat of climate change. The Obama-era standard was one of the administration’s most prominent efforts to mitigate pollution.
The 44th president’s tweet weighing in on the decision marked one of his more direct rebukes to his successor. Obama has largely stayed out of the political fray since leaving office aside from endorsing and campaigning for Democratic candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
The tweet appeared to double as a jab at Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 165,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 3,000 Americans.
Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus in January and February, saying it was “under control,” suggesting it would dissipate with warmer weather in April and predicting the number of cases domestically would quickly drop to “close to zero.”
Trump has blamed Obama and his other predecessors for his government’s slow rollout of testing kits, and sought to shift attention to how the Obama administration handled the H1N1 outbreak.
Next, here is some of Inside Climate News’ take on the emissions rollback:
Trump’s Fuel Efficiency Reduction Would Be Largest Anti-Climate Rollback Ever
The more stringent standard for passenger vehicles passed under the Obama administration would have saved 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
Mar 31, 2020
Deep in the 2,000-page final rule rescinding greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles, the Trump administration makes a striking admission: Less efficient cars will mean a future of about 10,000 fewer auto industry jobs per year.
That single statistic—especially jarring just days after the COVID-19 crisis caused the biggest spike in jobless claims in U.S. history—captures why the auto industry isn’t exactly celebrating the Trump administration’s most consequential retreat yet from climate action.
Instead, the industry’s leading trade group responded cautiously that it would review the decision, adding that transformation to address climate change is inevitable.
“Looking to the future, we need policies that support a customer-friendly shift toward… electrified and other highly efficient technologies,” John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said in a statement.
For the Trump administration, though, the trade-offs of aiding such a transition weren’t worth it, even if it meant more jobs. The analysis by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that with more stringent standards forcing added production of fuel-saving electric and hybrid technology vehicles, there would have been a need for more workers—or higher “net labor utilization.”. But the proposed loosening of standards, resulting in a 1 percent reduction in annual employment, could save the automakers $15 billion, the agencies said.
That money “can be invested by manufacturers into other areas, or passed on to consumers,” the agencies concluded. They justified the move on the basis that it would result in cheaper and safer vehicles, although the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board identified significant weaknesses in that analysis, and the conclusion runs counter to the findings of a National Academies of Science study in 2015.
In the end, the EPA and the transportation safety administration settled on a fuel economy increase of 1.5 percent per year from 2021 to 2026, ratcheting down the 5 percent annual increase that had been required under the standards adopted under President Barack Obama.
Trump Retained Incentives for Reducing Vehicle HFCs
While rolling back overall emission standards, the rule does retain incentives for auto manufacturers to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemical refrigerants and highly potent greenhouse gases that are used in vehicle air conditioning systems.
HFC-134a, the chemical historically used in most automobile air conditioning systems, is 3,710 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Replacing the super-pollutant with other, more climate friendly alternatives in automobiles and other industries is widely seen as a highly effective, low cost way to address climate change.
Trump’s New Rule ‘Driving Us Over a Climate Cliff’
When the Obama administration finalized its standards, it calculated they would prevent more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases—more than one year’s worth of total U.S. carbon emissions—over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in model years 2012 through 2025. That made it the single largest step that any nation had taken to address global warming.
The automakers agreed to the new standards as part of the $80 billion federal bailout that saved the industry from the brink of collapse. But by the time that Trump was elected, the automakers were seeking more flexibility to continue selling their most profitable vehicles—pick-up trucks and gas guzzling SUVs. They reached out to Trump days after his election in 2016, signaling they were looking for relief.
But carmakers did not want to upend the policy as drastically as the Trump administration sought to do. Significantly, some automakers urged the Trump administration repeatedly to reach an agreement with California that would maintain a single nationwide standard on greenhouse gas emissions (as the Obama administration had put into place) and would avoid protracted litigation, since California had authority under law to set its own standard.
Instead, the Trump administration has moved to rescind California’s authority and set a looser standard nationwide. “Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”
Reporting by The New York Times and others indicates that the Trump administration was responding to a concerted campaign by the oil industry to rollback fuel economy.
“Of all the bad things President Trump has done to the environment, this is the worst,” said Dan Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety’s Safe Climate Campaign. “Amid a spiraling health crisis and economic turmoil, Trump is recklessly driving us over a climate cliff.”
About the Author
Marianne Lavelle is a reporter for InsideClimate News. She has covered environment, science, law, and business in Washington, D.C. for more than two decades. She has won the Polk Award, the Investigative Editors and Reporters Award, and numerous other honors. Lavelle spent four years as online energy news editor and writer at National Geographic. She also has worked at U.S. News and World Report magazine and The National Law Journal. While there, she led the award-winning 1992 investigation, “Unequal Protection,” on the disparity in environmental law enforcement against polluters in minority and white communities.
She can be reached at email@example.com. PGP key:
Due to copywrite rules I did not publish this entire fine article, which can be read in its entirety here:
Sigh. We must all be vigilant to look out for business and industry putting pressure on politicians to rollback environmental standards, using COVI19 as an excuse. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for more interactions between the climate and coronavirus crisies. Drop me a note if you think I have missed any new aspects of both threats to our good quality of life.
Now, here are some of todays articles on the horrendous coronavirus pandemic:
Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”