Thursday, March 30, 2017

IEEE Spectrum Commentary:  Photo Ops with Coal Miners Offer No Substitute for Fact-based Climate Policy

Photograph of President Trump shaking hand of hard-hat-wearing coal miner (Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
How will all of this industry action on climate balance out against a hostile U.S. administration?  Let’s take that up by correcting one more fallacy at work yesterday—one not from the Trump camp but built into yesterday’s coverage in the New York Times.

The Times ably reported on the near impossibility that the executive order would revive coal in the United States.  It overreached, however, in this damning prediction for U.S. climate action:  “Mr. Trump’s order signals that the United States will not meet its pledges under the Paris deal to cut its emissions about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.” 

Experts contacted by IEEE Spectrum yesterday question the Times’ prognostication.  “I wouldn’t be that definitive,” says David Waskow, director of WRI’s international climate program.  Waskow says Trump’s attack will make it “much harder and more costly” for the U.S. to deliver its share of climate progress.  But he said the price of renewable energy continues to drop, and states and businesses may compensate for federal inaction. 

“It’s like you’ve got a runner on a track and now there’s somebody on the side of the track throwing obstacles in the way.  It makes it harder but the runner is continuing in the right direction,” says Waskow.

[Costa Samaras, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon] agrees.  “Most of the action climate-wise is going to be at the states and at companies. That was the case yesterday, and that’s going to be the case tomorrow,” says Samaras.  He expects to see “a little” slowing of U.S. grid decarbonization, but says there is a “good chance” that the U.S. will meet its Paris pledge, barring an unforeseen steep rise in the cost of natural gas.

A return to the pricey natural gas of decades past appears unlikely.  Why?  Thanks to President Trump and GOP efforts to ease federal restrictions on gas production. 

Coal miners should read the fine print on the President’s executive order.  While Trump’s coal-boosting boasts grabbed yesterday’s headlines, his order calls for “particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

America’s dirtiest energy source is third in line, right behind natural gas.

Read more at Commentary:  Photo Ops with Coal Miners Offer No Substitute for Fact-based Climate Policy

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