President Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday to start the effort to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) standards, which are aimed at cutting carbon pollution from electricity plants, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
Pruitt’s long interview was filled with false and misleading statements about domestic climate action and the Paris climate deal.
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Falsehood: “The executive order will address the past administration’s efforts to kill jobs throughout the country,” Pruitt said.
Reality: Contrary to popular myth, regulations such as clean air standards do not have a net negative impact on job growth. Indeed, studies have found that regulations like the Clean Power Plan actually spur innovation and competitiveness, create jobs, and save lives.
The recent two-term presidents who embraced clean air standards (Obama and Clinton) created vastly more net jobs than the anti-regulation presidents (Reagan and George W. Bush). “Businesses have added jobs at a nearly 2.5 times faster rate under Democrats than under Republicans, on average,” the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee reported in June.
Falsehood: “Will it bring back coal jobs? I think absolutely it will,” Pruitt told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Reality: Pruitt may “think” it will, but it won’t. As Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) experts explained, “Whatever President Trump may say, U.S. coal’s main problem has been cheap natural gas and renewable power, not a politically driven ‘war on coal.”
Obama’s clean air policies aren’t why coal has been steadily losing jobs for decades. It’s the coal industry itself that wiped out most of those jobs through productivity gains from “strip mines and machinery,” as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has explained.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly blasted the EPA’s “War on Coal,” immediately backtracked after Trump’s election, saying that whether changed regulation “immediately brings business back is hard to tell because it’s a private sector activity.”
Falsehood: “Not just jobs will be created by the President’s actions here,” Pruitt said. “It’s lower electricity rates for consumers across the country.”
Reality: As BNEF explained, coal has lost market share because it isn’t competitive against fracked natural gas and rapidly dropping prices for renewables. In fact, the only way the administration could significantly boost domestic coal use would be if they forced utilities to stop buying the cheapest power, which would inevitably raise electricity rates.
Stephanopoulos raised Trump’s opposition to the Paris climate deal, reading a recent quote from Nobel Prize-winning scientist Mario J. Molina. “The message they are sending to the rest of the world is that they don’t believe climate change is serious. It’s shocking to see such a degree of ignorance from the United States,” Stephanopoulos quoted.
Half falsehood (wildly misleading): Pruitt replied, “George, we’re actually at pre-1994 levels right now with respect to our co2 footprint. Why is that? Largely because of innovation and technology in the coal sector and the natural gas sector.”
Reality: Yes, U.S. CO2 emissions are at pre-1994 levels. But that fact does not answer the question about Trump’s die-hard climate science denial and opposition to action. And while innovation in the natural gas sector certainly contributed to the drop in U.S. CO2 emissions, innovation and technology in the coal sector did not — unless shutting down coal plants counts as “innovation.”
The drop in CO2 emission rates also occurred because of renewable innovation and deployment, plus Obama’s fuel economy standards, which Trump has already begun defunding and rolling back, respectively. It’s worth noting that the United States is still significantly adding to the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which is now over 400 parts per million and shows no signs of turning back.
Falsehood: “China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free,” Pruitt said. “They didn’t have to take steps until 2030. We penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.”
Reality: First off, in Paris most of the major countries in the world made commitments for 2030. That was the deal. Second, what made Paris possible was the Obama got China to commit to serious action long before 2030, so that it would peak in emissions by 2030 — and “to make best efforts to peak early.”
China pledged in 2014 to double its use of carbon-free energy sources by 2030 — and to peak in coal use by 2020. Within weeks they pledged to cap coal emissions by 2020. They have been cutting coal use and replacing it with clean energy so rapidly that it appears the country peaked in coal use back in 2013–2014 — and that they are already plateauing in CO2 emissions.
Paris is an incredible deal for the United States because it preserves a livable climate for our children, our grandchildren, and the next 50 generations — while requiring this country to take the most minimal actions possible.
In the days and weeks ahead, Trump and his team will be offering a series of false and misleading statements to try to make the case that the EPA Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate deal would hurt the U.S. economy and kill jobs, when all the evidence makes clear the reverse is true.