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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced a new review of federal auto fuel-economy and emissions rules Wednesday afternoon during a visit to suburban Detroit, where he vowed to restore the automaking industry to its former glory.
“Buy American, hire American,” he said at Willow Run Airport near the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti in Southeast Michigan, a non-profit testing and product development facility for vehicles of the future.
“We’re going to use the full economic powers of our country to protect our workers and protect our jobs,” the president told hundreds of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers who were bused in for speech.
Trump previewed his announcement about the standards during a round-table meeting with U.S. and foreign auto executives at the facility before his speech.
Automakers have been seeking a review of new standards for vehicles that the Environmental Protection Agency approved just before Trump’s inauguration. They want lower fuel-economy requirements and less-stringent controls on carbon dioxide emissions.
Trump said the EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are reopening a review of the standards that are set to go into effect in 2025.
“The assault on the American auto industry is over,” Trump said during his 19-minute speech. “Believe me, it’s over.”
Automakers have said that they might not be able to meet current long-term fuel economy goals because of cheaper gas prices. When fuel is cheap car buyers tend to buy gas guzzlers, making it hard for automakers to sell as many of the gas-efficient vehicles required to meet the regulations.
A group of 18 automakers, including General Motors and Ford, sent a letter to the Trump administration late last month asking for a review of the requirements.
The plan, originally announced by the Obama administration in 2012, would require automakers to achieve Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. (In reality, cars would average about 42 mpg. So-called CAFE mileage is calculated differently from expected real-world fuel economy.)
Automakers have argued that those regulations would push up the costs of new vehicles, since expensive technology and lightweight materials are required to boost efficiency.
But environmental and consumer groups say that increasing fuel efficiency has not increased car prices, and that reducing fuel- economy standards could cost consumers thousands if gas prices spike
“Fuel economy standards ensure cars and trucks go farther on less gas and save Americans money, while helping working-class and lower-income families the most,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a statement sent to reporters ahead of Trump’s announcement.
But the heads of the EPA and the Department of Transportation lauded the plans for a review of the standards.
“Today’s decision by the EPA is a win for the American economy,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a Wednesday statement.
“These standards are costly for automakers and the American people,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.”
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Waters of the US
President Donald Trump has issued an executive order striking at the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, telling EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to revise or rescind the measure. The regulation aimed to protect waterways and wetlands, but saw opposition from the agriculture industry, which called the rule overly broad and lacking clarity. American Farm Bureau Federation praised Trump’s action, saying it would be a relief for farmers across the country.
Hundreds of organizations representing ag, nutrition and other interests have signed a letter to Congressional budget and appropriations committees urging against funding cuts to the 2018 Farm Bill. They contend the agriculture committee must receive adequate funds to help the struggling farm economy and aid households fighting to meet basic nutritional needs. The groups note the 2014 Farm Bill saw difficult cuts aimed at deficit reduction, saying the 2018 bill could not bear more reductions.
Food system transparency
Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot advises food companies that consumers hold them responsible for demonstrating transparency. Writing for Genetic Literacy Project, Arnot cites the center’s recent survey that identified transparency of “impact of food on health” and “food safety” as most important to consumers. He emphasizes that food producers must effectively communicate the ethics of their work, and not only what can be done, but whether it should be done.
President Trump has appointed Ray Starling, former chief of staff to Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, to the National Economic Council as special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance. Farm organizations including the National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Cattleman’s Beef Association have praised the appointment, calling Starling an accomplished agricultural and economic policy specialist.
I’m Maya Menon with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.
WASHINGTON – A leading environmental group said it is gearing up to counter-attack an expected onslaught of legislative efforts by President-elect Donald Trump and the new Republican-controlled Congress to dismantle several environmental laws and regulations.
National Resource Defense Council President Rhea Suh characterized the impending attacks as “the worst executive and legislative assault in our history against our environment and our health.” She made the remarks during a news conference Wednesday at the New York-based nonprofit’s Washington, D.C. office.
Trump has said he wants to refocus environmental efforts on clean air and clean water.
Suh said the president-elect could undermine years of progress that has been made on environmental issues.
Suh said the organization will oppose Trump’s surprising nomination of Scott Pruitt for director of the Environmental Protection Agency. She said Pruitt “has made an entire career out of blocking the EPA.”
Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general since 2011, is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He has sued the agency and other government entities several times over environmental regulations. Since his nomination, Pruitt has expressed optimism about “a regulatory rollback” when it comes to environmental issues.
Suh said the NRDC also will fight Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson. She called him “a walking conflict of interest” because of his ties to Russia and his business interests. Tillerson was a longtime director of ExxonMobil’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, based in the tax haven of the Bahamas.
“We will oppose Tillerson’s nomination,” Suh said.
Paraphrasing Suh, Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s energy and transportation program, added: “We are suited up and we are ready to go.”
Kennedy said the nation has made “amazing and unprecedented progress on clean energy.” Windpower has tripled under the Obama administration and costs have “plummeted by more than 60 percent,” she said.
Trump has inaccurately claimed that solar and wind power are “very, very expensive,” Kennedy said.
Undermining these programs will “cost us jobs,” Kennedy said.
“More than 2.5 million Americans are working in the Clean Energy sector,” she said, noting that Trump has erroneously claimed that 400,000 Americans work in solar and wind energy.
“We will be working to get Republican votes,” David Goldston, NDRC’s director of governmental affairs, said of the organization’s efforts to thwart the confirmation of Pruitt and Tillerson. He noted that “there are plenty” of Republican members of Congress who acknowledge climate science.
“We want the Senate and the public to be vigilant about how much damage these people can do. These are not your average nominees.”
They are ”fundamentally at odds with the mission of the agencies they have been asked to head up,” Goldston said.
Suh said that it is clear that the incoming Trump administration has “no interest in continuing to support or implement the Clean Power Plan.” Last August, Obama unveiled the final version of the historic plan aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants. But if Trump wants to undo the plan, Suh said, “He will not be able to do it with a snap of his fingers.”
Suh is no stranger to confirmation hearings, having gone through them herself. In 2013 President Barack Obama nominated her to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the National Park Service – both under the Department of the Interior, where she was working as assistant interior secretary for policy, management and budget. But after the hearings her nomination languished for more than a year in the Senate – where many Republicans vowed to oppose her confirmation – before she accepted the top job at NRDC in September 2014.
UNITED NATIONS – Does Donald Trump believe in climate change? Does he intend to carry out his campaign promises in office? And what will happen if the U.S. withdraws from global climate change agreements?
In the search for answers, let’s break down the question.
Does Donald Trump believe in climate change?
Until recently, the answer seemed simple: yes.
In a 2009 letter published in The New York Times, Trump and his children called for U.S. leadership at global climate talks in Copenhagen. The letter went on to warn of the “catastrophic and irreversible” damage that would occur the U.S. did not lead on climate change.
Ben and Jerry, and the CEOs of Patagonia and Seventh Generation also signed the letter. It’s a crowd that we struggle to imagine Donald Trump associating with now.
By last year’s Republican presidential primaries, Trump was no longer distinguishing himself from Republican candidates who actively denied the existence of climate change.
And by this year’s general election he was advocating for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and argued for scrapping President Obama’s domestic emissions laws and for new investments in fossil fuels.
Suffice it to say, Trump has done a 180 on the issue of climate change, now calling into question the very climate science be used to support.
What would a best-case scenario for the climate look like under President Trump?
Since Donald Trump has already appointed fossil fuel advocates to his administration a best-case scenario might involve letting them sit at the table but not refocusing the government to serve their financial interests.
Leonardo DiCaprio has already met with Donald Trump to try and convince him of the economic benefits of new green energy investment.
DiCaprio and other big players in the green energy landscape are also thinking about shoving china in Trump’s face, convincing him that if he doesn’t help the US wind and solar energy sectors, China will win that competition and export its technologies to the developing world.
This is a financial argument for climate change that as a businessman, activists are hopeful Donald Trump will listen to.
What would a worst-case scenario for the climate look like under President Trump?
Activists say the current trajectory of the Trump Administration already looks like a worst-case scenario – a combination of appointing those into the cabinet who actively doubt climate change, and sidelining those who don’t.
First, we could look at future EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General who sued the very agency he will soon run, questioning whether they had the authority to regulate domestic power emissions.
And then there’s Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO and incoming Secretary of State, a big advocate for fossil fuel investment.
Then there are Trump’s words. By actively calling into question whether anybody knows whether climate change is real, Trump is emboldening those who deny the very existence of climate change.
He’s also threatened to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement on climate change, an agreement that desperately needs momentum to succeed.
How could Donald Trump remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?
First, Donald Trump could remove the U.S. from the Paris agreement by executive order. The problem is that the agreement has a four-year countdown built into it, meaning a withdrawal would basically take the entirety of Donald Trump’s first term to enact.
Easier, though more consequential on paper, would be removing the U.S. from the 1992 UNFCCC Treaty, which was ratified by the Senate in 1992. That only has a one-year countdown until the withdrawal goes into effect.
Finally and most alarming for climate scientists and activists, is if Donald Trump doesn’t change anything formally but simply take steps domestically to make sure the U.S. doesn’t meet its commitments for emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement. That means nixing emissions laws at the EPA or Department of Energy, expanding offshore drilling or coal mining.
Essentially, the most alarming thing Donald Trump could do for the planet is also the easiest.
If the U.S. bails on global climate leadership, who will take over?
The answer is likely China.
Chinese energy and environmental policy always take a back seat to national security concerns, and that can sometimes be bad, as when China takes an aggressive stance in the South China Sea to guarantee the free flow of energy imports from the Middle East. Or when it opens up hundreds of new coal factories to meet rising energy demand.
But it can also be a good thing, as when it shuts down those factories and mines and starts thinking about air pollution as a matter of public health.
And as the de facto leader of the G77 group of industrializing nations – mostly in South and Latin america, and in Africa – China has a special relationship with a number of developing economies that would like renewable energy technology, if only they could afford it.
And economies of scale have allowed China to lower the manufacturing cost of those renewable technologies.
China has also taken to the airwaves to criticize Donald Trump’s views on climate change, perhaps the most muscular diplomatic response from China so far on the issue.
But if they have to defend themselves from a trade war or the prospect of a change in the One China policy in Washington, then perhaps the climate issue may take a back seat.
Washington (Talk Media News) – Environmental advocate Americans United for Change charged Thursday that energy companies and polluters conspired to fund a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by ingratiating several Republican Attorney’s General with nearly $3 million in campaign contributions.
The group held a press conference Thursday and detailed what they called a “Polluter Impunity,” study that shows Republican Attorney’s Generals received millions in campaign cash from the oil and coal industries.
Brad Woodhouse, who is president of Americans United for Change, said the report clearly shows that some Republican Attorney’s General are putting donor interests ahead of constituent interests.
“Republican Attorney’s General are doing the bidding of their polluter-donor friends rather than working on behalf of the people of their state,” said Woodhouse, whose organization often sides with Obama’s administration. “Our study shows that over the years polluter and energy interests have given $2.8 million to the 22 Republican AGs who are suing the Obama Administration to halt the clean power plan.” “And since January 2014, oil and gas related companies have donated more than $1.9 million to the Republican Attorney’s General Association.”
Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters, joined Woodhouse and said he agrees with the former’s assertion that involved Attorney’s General placed donor wishes above constituent interests.
“Today’s report really demonstrates that too often state attorney generals are acting on behalf of polluter profits rather than the public interest,” Holland said.
Holland also touted the Clean Power Plan and briefly explained its goals.
“The Clean Power Plan is the single biggest and most ambitious action the U.S. has ever taken to tackle climate change,” Holland said. “It sets the first ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s existing power plants, it’s flexible, and it’s achievable.”
This is not the first time these types of allegations were made. In December 2014, The New York Times produced a definitive expose alleging the same and also alleged the contents of an EPA bound letter by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt casting doubt as to the extent of damage wreaked by air pollution via gas companies working in the state. However, that letter may have been written by energy lobbyists, according to some media reports.
Pruitt’s office did not return calls for comment.
Thursday marks two-years since the EPA first sponsored the Clean Power Plan.