WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2016 - If you hoped for signals indicating where Trump administration energy policy is headed, you’ve got plenty. President-elect Donald Trump has made his plans as clear as if they were announced in a flashing neon billboard:
· Fossil fuels will be the administration’s focus, supporting increased production of coal, oil and natural gas while downplaying some forms of renewable energy. On the campaign trail in ethanol-friendly states like Iowa, Trump repeatedly voiced support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
· The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan will be discarded along with other regulations and executive orders aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
· Obama’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement will be scrapped, even though President-elect Trump more recently suggested that he would keep on “open mind” on the international accord.
· Federal lands will be re-opened for energy exploration and development by removing restrictions imposed by the Obama administration.
· Many authorities for regulating energy production will be devolved to the states.
The Trump transition team’s GreatAgain.gov website promises “an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter” based on having “a treasure trove of untapped energy . . . more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth.” The site predicts that by reversing Obama administration policies that restrict fossil fuels production, unleashing far greater production will create “trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.”
The latest signs that the incoming administration is on track to carry out Trump’s campaign promises to unleash coal, oil, and natural gas production include the president-elect’s choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and his interest in Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., as a possible Secretary of the Interior. Pruitt has led the legal effort by 28 states to overturn the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to regulate power plant carbon emissions, resulting in the current Supreme Court stay on implementation. Overall, he’s filed or joined more than a dozen lawsuits challenging EPA actions.
While the choice of Pruitt and the interest in Rodgers are welcomed by the traditional energy industry and anathema to environmental groups, Trump’s choice of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as the next Secretary of State, announced on Tuesday, is an even louder statement that the new administration will promote fossil fuels not only domestically but internationally.
The Heritage Foundation/Texas Public Policy Foundation Energy and Climate Policy Summit in Washington last week provided another clear signal that the Trump administration will favor fossil fuels over renewable energy sources like wind and solar. At the meeting, Heritage Senior Research Fellow David Kreutzer, who serves on the Trump transition team for the EPA, warned that “restricting access to the most affordable energy will not create jobs.”
“With certain subsidies and certain restrictions, you may be able to target some jobs in politically favored industries,” Kreutzer said. “But the lost jobs elsewhere will exceed the gains.” He and other speakers called for replacing renewable energy subsidies with a competitive free-market approach.
Kreutzer estimated that restricting fossil fuel production and use as proposed in the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement would cause “an overall shortfall of 400,000 jobs over the next 20 years,” cost “thousands of dollars per year for a family of four” and cut aggregate U.S. GDP by $2.5 trillion over the next two decades. As an example of the cost of limiting carbon, he said the Obama administration’s CAFE fuel efficiency standards have increased the average cost of a new car by $4,000 to $6,000 over the past five or six years.
The Energy Summit also confirmed that any Trump administration policies supporting fossil fuels will be welcomed by the GOP’s House and Senate majorities. At the summit, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., whose Senate committee has jurisdiction over the EPA, welcomed Pruitt as the incoming EPA head. But he warned against being over-optimistic about reversing the Obama administration’s climate change agenda. “The American people have pulled this thing out,” Inhofe said, but “there’s damage still lingering out there.”
A string of GOP congressmen at the summit joined in the same mix of celebration and warning. House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith warned that despite Trump’s decisive win, Obama “and his extreme environmental allies remain committed to stopping the energy revolution.” The Texan noted that the Obama administration continues “to delay the construction of pipeline projects” and to mandate new last-minute restrictions on energy use that Smith said “are not even achievable in today’s energy market.”
Smith said that despite the imminent end of Obama’s presidency, “the environmental extremists who fight against American energy are here to stay. They are determined to stop Americans from using reliable and affordable power.” He warned that faced with a continuing “keep it in the ground” movement, “it will be an uphill climb to roll back the damage done” by the Obama administration. even though Republicans will control the White House, the House and Senate,
Smith said that as Science Committee chair “I will continue to take every action possible to reverse this administration’s attacks on American energy.” He singled out the Clean Power Plan as the greatest threat: “This power plan will cost billions of dollars, cause financial hardship for American families, and diminish the competitiveness of American industry around the world with no significant benefit.” To remove the threat, Smith said that “While legal challenges have delayed the implementation of this harmful rule, it is vital that the next administration immediately rescind the Clean Power Plan and other rules that threaten the American economy.”
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., charged that EPA “overreach” must be stopped and that EPA has no legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions since Congress did not grant any such authority in the Clean Air Act. Calling for restoring “constitutional government,” he said that “We cannot allow agencies to make law, circumvent Congress, bypass Congress, and basically turn us into a bunch of elected bystanders.”
Celebrating the GOP’s imminent control of the House, Senate and White House, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called for the new administration to take decisive actions during its first 100 days to stop delegating power “to unelected bureaucrats” and instead give states new authority to set energy policy and transfer “all non-controversial land back to the states.”
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, called for a free market approach, to replace government picking winners. “Get the government out of the way,” he said, “and let’s have what I call an energy cage match – may the best man win.”
One more signal of what lies ahead for energy policy is the list of 74 questions the Trump transition team submitted to the Department of Energy, as published by E&E News. The questions posed to DOE make it clear that the Trump team is taking a close look at the Obama administration’s policies related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to climate change.
One question asks DOE to “provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any meetings of the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon” along with the dates of those meetings and any materials distributed at those meetings Another question raising alarms among environmental groups is No. 29: “Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan?” And No. 62 asks if certain DOE budget accounts “were required to be reduced 10 percent over the next four fiscal years (from the FY17 request and starting in FY18), does the Department have any recommendations as to where those reductions should be made?”
President-elect Donald Trump intends to name Rick Perry, who served as Texas governor from 2000 to 2015, as his Secretary of Energy, the transition office announced Wednesday morning. Perry, who previously served in the Texas House of Representatives and as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, ran in the Republican presidential primaries in 2012 and 2016 before ultimately withdrawing. (For more on Perry, read this week's edition of Energy-Pulse.)
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