The Obama administration’s proposal for existing power plants to slash emissions by 30 percent by 2030 is being hailed by supporters as the centerpiece of the president’s climate action plan.
But it’s possible that President Obama’s biggest climate move came in his first term, when he ushered in rules that would double the fuel economy of vehicles by 2025. The fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas-emissions standards for cars and light trucks finalized in 2012 could make a bigger dent in emissions than the power-plant rule, with more industry involvement.
Those vehicle rules, which require a fleetwide fuel-economy average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, are projected by EPA to cut 580 million metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2030.
It’s tough to make a direct comparison with the power-plant rules, but The Washington Post says those rules will cut 550 million metric tons by 2030 (according to EPA’s rules, a state compliance model would mean a reduction of 555 million metric tons, while a regional compliance approach would mean 545).
Experts say the flexibility built into the power-plant rule makes an exact figure difficult to estimate before knowing how states will choose to meet EPA’s 30 percent reduction goal.
According to EPA, electricity generation is the nation’s largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, contributing 32 percent of the nation’s total. Transportation is a close second, accounting for 28 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012.
It’s also worth noting that while the power-plant standards are almost sure to be challenged in court — potentially delaying or blunting their impact — the fuel-economy standards were crafted with the auto industry’s input. Automakers, concerned about the threat of a state-by-state fractured approach driven by California, backed a single nationwide standard and helped negotiate the final result.
While some Republicans have said the fuel standards will weaken public safety and raise the cost of cars, there’s been little real movement to kill them. A 2012 report from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa alleging that the rules were the result of a backroom deal ultimately made little headway.
A midterm review in 2017 could allow the industry to roll back the standards in response to market concerns, but it’s too early to know how that review will go.
In a manufacturers’ performance review covering model year 2012, EPA found that automakers are slightly ahead of projected emission reductions for the first year of the standards.
Dan Becker, executive director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said that loopholes in both rules will ultimately dictate their efficacy, but that the industry response to the fuel-economy standards should provide a model for utilities.
“What we saw in the car rule was the inevitability that there would be changes forced the auto industry to begin planning well before the effective date of the rules,” Becker said. “I imagine many in the utility sector will be smart and say, ‘This is coming, let’s figure out the most effective way to meet it.’ “
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"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."
The United States and South Korea have suspended "another major joint military exercise to give the diplomatic process with North Korea 'every opportunity to continue.'" Exercise Vigilant Ace, which last year "involved 12,000 US troops and some 230 military aircraft from the US and South Korea," was due to take place in December. Trump has canceled other operations in the past, which Gen. Robert Abrams said "had resulted in a 'slight degradation' to the readiness of US and Korean troops," but were a "prudent risk" to improve improve relations with Pyongyang.
"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided to take part in an anti-terror finance meeting with Saudi security officials and their Middle Eastern counterparts in Riyadh later this month, opting to attend despite growing global outrage over the suspected murder of a U.S.-based journalist at the hands of Saudi operatives, according to three people familiar with his travel plans. The security gathering next week is separate from a Riyadh financial summit that Mnuchin announced on Thursday he would not attend."
"Steve Penny, the former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, has been indicted on a felony count of tampering with evidence" in the sexual assault case against disgraced USA gymnastics physician Larry Nassar. Nassar was found guilty in January of sexually abusing dozens of young gymnasts, and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Penny, who was arrested on Wednesday in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, "is accused of ordering the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas," where much of Nassar's abuse occurred.
Defense attorneys involved in the Mueller probe say the public "shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths. ... Perhaps most unsatisfying: Mueller’s findings may never even see the light of day."