Later On

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White House suppression of global warming document

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Center for American Progress, in an email:

A ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that details both the threat of global warming and our ability to address the problem has been suppressed by the White House since December. This document, produced in response to a “monumental” Supreme Court mandate, includes a “multimillion-dollar study conducted over two years” that finds “the net benefit to society could be in excess of $2 trillion” if strong carbon dioxide emissions standards for the automotive industry are issued. The proposal to increase today’s fuel economy standards by 50 percent from 25 miles per gallon to 38.3 mpg by 2020 is stronger than those included in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which called for a 40 percent increase. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson used the signing of the act as the public excuse to reject the findings of his staff and block California’s proposal to regulate greenhouse tailpipe emissions. In fact, congressional investigations have revealed that officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) refused to open the email containing the EPA plan and that Johnson has been stonewalling to prevent disclosure of President Bush’s role.

$2 TRILLION BENEFIT

As first revealed by the Detroit News, an advanced model used by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) foundthat iincreasing fuel economy standards by 4 percent a year would have a net benefit to society of $1.4 to two trillion dollars by 2040. The benefit is strongly tied to the price of gasoline. Using the latest estimates from the Energy Information Administration, the EPA study assumed that gasoline prices would get no higher than $3.50 a gallon. Those figures are already outdated, as gasoline prices have reached an average of $4.09 a gallon, and oil prices are nearing $146 a barrel. With higher gasoline prices, the benefits of high carbon dioxide standards would be even greater. Consumers are responding already to the spiking price by moving away from gas guzzlers. Detroit automakers have suffered hard sales declines: “Ford Motor was down 28 percent in June, General Motors was off 18 percent, and Chrysler dropped 36 percent.” Toyota likewise fell 21 percent. Only Honda Motor, with its fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles, saw any sales gains.

NEW STANDARDS

The ruling  prepared by the EPA in December, after being rejected by the White House was pared down and recrafted as an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” — a draft version with a request for further rounds of public comment, thus delaying any implementation until the next administration. Even after major cuts from the December version, this document makes a mockery of Bush’s claim in April that applying the Clean Air Act to global warming pollution “would have crippling effects on our entire economy” and be a “glorious mess.” In fact, the ruling finds “technology is readily available to achieve significant reductions,” “the benefits of these new standards far outweigh the costs,” and the new standards “would result in substantial reductions” in greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, under the terms of the 2007 Energy Act, NHTSA proposed gas-mileage standards that the Center for Biological Diversity criticized for being kept low “through a number of bizarre assumptions, including asserting that gas will cost $2.36 per gallon in 2020 and $2.51 in 2030.” In contrast, the automotive industry — after arguing they “acted in good faith” to develop the law — is challenging these standards  saying the NHTSA implementation “goes beyond what it is technologically feasible and economically practicable” and will create “net social costs.”

INTENSE BATTLE

Johnson testified before Congress on May 20 that he would issue this rulemaking draft by the end of spring. (A version acquired by The Progress Report is dated May 30.) The Detroit News reported that the EPA proposal would be published June 23, but an “intense private battle” between OMB officials and the EPA has blocked publication. According to published reports, the political appointee in charge of the plan, Jason K. Burnett, stepped down because of this “collision course between the agency and the OMB.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, the OMB “has asked the EPA to delete sections of the document that say such emissions endanger public welfare, say how those gases could be regulated, and show an analysis of the cost of regulating greenhouse gases in the U.S. and other countries.” The OMB instead “wants the document to show that the Clean Air Act is flawed and that greenhouse-gas regulations should be developed under new legislation,” reflecting the public stance taken by Bush. The EPA’s findings raise serious questions about whether Bush’s statements to the American public were made in good faith and why he asserted executive privilege on June 20 to block the congressional investigation.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2008 at 10:21 am

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