In 2015, then-President Barrack Obama created the Clean Power Plan, or CPP. The CPP sought to regulate emissions from fossil fuel-fired (coal) power plants.
Congress passed the Clean Air Act to help regulate clean air and tasked the EPA with carrying out this plan. The Obama administration applied this to power plants through the CPP. The CPP creates a system wherein regulations reduce carbon emissions emitted from these power plants. Under the CPP, the EPA tailored plans to different states so there would be, according to the EPA, a reduction in carbon emissions.
Purpose of the Plan
The purpose of the CPP, according to Obama administration officials, was to reduce carbon emissions that are linked to climate change. They claim that coal burning creates climate change.
Due to its link with climate change, it was a hot political issue. Many detractors claim that climate change is a myth and is based on junk science. Proponents argue that they have real evidence and it is therefore out obligation to protect the plant.
As a hot political item, the CPP became a target of the new Trump administration in 2017.
At the same time, the CPP called for the use of alternative energy sources that were not coal based, namely wind power. It had a push to create wind farms. Detractors disagreed with wind farms because, the claim was, wind farms are inefficient and not a good source of energy.
Repealing the Plan
Not surprisingly, many on the right saw the CPP as a vehicle to promote what they see as a non-existant, politically motivated, climate change agenda. They saw the CPP as a way to shut down power plants, which would put the US at a distinct disadvantage in the competitive world energy market.
Currently, US energy output is at an all-time high. Oil output is growing. New oil fields in the Bakken Shale Play in North Dakota and other oil fields contribute to the domestic output; the domestic natural gas industry is booming; new technologies are emerging. CPP, according to critics, is a plan to set the US energy production sector back.
According to statistics, plan opponents say, the CPP would cripple the energy economy by making regulations that are so draconian. They claim that it would cost the US energy sector 479,000 jobs by 2027. This compelled 27 states, notably energy producing states like West Virginia and North Carolina, to take their case to court.
Initially, opponents of CPP brought the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, voted to stay implementation of the plan and requiring a review. As such, the CPP was never implemented.
With a new republican administration in the White House, the EPA moved quickly to repeal CPP. Citing its harmful economic effects and its draconian nature, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt started the repeal process. It seems that the CPP will not be initiated anytime soon.
The tug-of-war that is climate change was fought under the CPP banner. Time will tell where the next battleground takes place.
Over the past several years, government regulations have sought to limit gas emissions. Since the 1970s, the government has sought ways to reduce emissions from cars and trucks while increasing fuel efficiency. The Energy Crisis of 1973 emphasized this point.
This month, the Trump administration opened EPA emissions standards for comment. This signals that the Trump administration might consider the emissions standards to be too strenuous for the auto industry. The Trump administration, as previous administrations, finds it difficult to strike the balance between proper environmental protection and ensuring the automobile market remains viable.
Clean Air Act
Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act mandates that the Administrator of the EPA conduct yearly reviews of emissions standards, in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences, and report those findings to Congress. These findings are influential in forming energy policy.
The Energy Crisis
In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, in which the United States supported Israel, Arab oil-producing countries initiated an embargo against the US. This resulted in a limited oil/fuel supply despite a growing automobile market. Prices at the pump jumped from an average of 12 cents a gallon to 59 cents a gallon. The government regulated when people could fill their tanks based on their license plates. Lines for gas pumps often stretched for miles, with people waiting hours to fill up on gas.
The situation was a wakeup call to Americans and American automakers. At the time of the Energy Crisis, the average car’s fuel efficiency was six to eight miles per gallon, with the most efficient at 17 miles per gallon and large trucks often only getting two miles per gallon. Contrast these numbers with today’s fuel efficiency numbers, where on average cars get 33-35 miles per gallon with the most efficient claiming to get 76 and the least efficient trucks getting 17-19. Moreover, the use of natural gas in public buses and hybrid cars signals that Americans have moved forward to better fuel efficiency.
American Presidents showed their commitment to not overburdening the auto industry. During the Great Recession, the US government used TARP funds to bail out the auto industry. The government even provided funding for the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. This demonstrates a willingness and resolve for the government to maintain the auto industry.
The EPA administrator provided a midterm report in 2017 regarding emission standards. Based on the Clean Air act of 2012, the EPA conducts yearly reviews to test environmental safety. The report stated that the auto industry was on target to hit goals set for 2022-2025 with respect to fuel efficiency. At the same time, automakers complained that these standards hampered their ability to be profitable. Instead, automakers stated that the open market should determine fuel efficiency, not standards that choke the auto industry. In fact, Honda and Toyota affirmed their commitment to building cars that are fuel efficient.
The Trump administration is currently reviewing the EPA report. It remains to be seen what direction the administration will go. Does this signal that the President is undermining the EPA? Or has the EPA been too hard on the auto industry? Time will tell.