EXCLUSIVE: US Emissions Fell Because Of A Weak Economy, Not Obama’s Policies

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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President Barack Obama’s environmental policies have done less to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions than the administration claims, according to a new report.

Anemic U.S. economic growth under Obama has done more to cut emissions than federal policies during that time, right-leaning American Action Forum (AAF) policy experts Philip Rossetti and Dan Goldbeck wrote in a new report on Obama’s environmental legacy.

“The claimed emissions cuts from the administration may be an overestimation,” Rossetti and Goldbeck wrote. “Those claims rely on a higher level of economic growth than other economic projections, and lead to an assumption of greatly improving carbon intensity in the economy.”

Obama leaves office in two days and is putting into place last-minute regulations to cement his legacy. But Obama’s environmental legacy may be overblown.

“The biggest driver of emissions is the economy, which was amid a severe recession right when President Obama took office,” Rossetti and Goldbeck wrote, adding “his claimed reductions are attributable mostly to a weak economy.”

“When using moderate economic projections, expected emissions cuts weaken significantly, and when coupled with $457 billion of regulatory burdens creates an abatement price of over $65 per ton (well above regulator’s claimed benefit of $36 per ton),” they wrote.

In the end, Obama may not have much of an environmental legacy.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to roll back environmental regulations he sees as hurting U.S. energy production. He’s likely to use a combination of executive actions and working with Congress to undo many Obama-era rules.

AAF estimates Obama imposed $457 billion worth of global warming regulations during his tenure. That’s a long list of rules for Trump and Congress to go after.

The Trump administration has set its eyes on repealing a key Environmental Protection agency (EPA) regulation targeting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan is currently being decided by the courts, but they could declare the case moot if the Trump administration decides to undo the rule.

Trump’s pick to head EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, joined a coalition of states, businesses and unions suing the agency to have the Clean Power Plan overturned. Pruitt’s confirmation hearing was Wednesday, and he’s expected to be confirmed by the Senate.

“The upshot is that a purely regulatory approach to climate issues has been tried, has not been very effective, and is a testament to the need for smarter policy that effectively balances costs and benefits,” Rossetti and Goldbeck wrote.

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