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Measuring The Impact Of Rolling Back Environmental Regulations


The executive order that President Trump signed yesterday is just the beginning of what is likely to be a hard-fought, years-long process dismantling former President Obama's climate change policies. But let's say Trump succeeds, what would the impact be on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions levels? To talk about that, we're joined by analyst John Larsen. He's with the Rhodium Group. It's a global consulting company that provides strategic advice to government and the private sector.

Good morning.

JOHN LARSEN: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So you've actually done an analysis of what Donald Trump is proposing here. What did you find?

LARSEN: Sure. Well, I mean, it's important to reiterate what you said there that the executive order doesn't rollback anything right off the bat. This is going to be a...

GREENE: Yeah, a lot of talk of studying things and sort of looking at options, we should say.

LARSEN: That's right. So what we did was we use an energy system model of the U.S. economy and basically looked at what would happen if you did take the key regulations that are called out in the executive order and completely rolled them back to nothing. And, I mean, the story is emissions are higher with these potential regulatory rollbacks. Under the current policy under the Obama administration, we were on track for about a 21 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

That's not quite where the U.S.-Paris climate change agreement commitments are of 26 to 28 percent. But...


LARSEN: ...Very much on the way there. And more action would be required but on your way. But with - if these regulations, the Clean Power Plan and methane rules, specifically for oil and gas, are completely rolled back, the Trump executive order could put us on a path for 14 percent below 2005 levels instead of 21.

GREENE: And what would that mean? Would that mean that the U.S. was not even coming close to its commitment under the Paris climate agreement? Or what would be the implications here?

LARSEN: Yeah, I mean, with just this kind of lack of federal action, the answer is yes. I think there's still several years before we have to meet that deadline at 2025. And other actors would need to fill the void left by the federal government. I mean, the U.S. states have enormous authority to tackle emissions on their own, so do cities. You've seen additional action at the corporate and private sector space around...

GREENE: I guess the Trump administration and Congress could come in. I mean, we heard this morning from a former Republican congressman who said there, you know, there are things that the market could do, sort of carbon taxes and things. So, I mean, that could counterbalance whatever effect you're talking about.

Maybe the Trump administration could find a way to protect coal jobs, as the president says, get rid of some of the regulations that Donald Trump doesn't like but find different ways to keep reducing carbon emissions. Is that possible?

LARSEN: There are a number of different ways that the U.S. could reduce carbon emissions with new policies and far beyond any of the things that have already been tried. Carbon taxes are certainly one of those things. I think it's entirely within the realm of possibility that we could see something like that happen. But given the campaign rhetoric and even the rhetoric yesterday around the signing of the executive order, it's going to be - I'll wait to see exactly what kind of action Trump would pursue in that space.

GREENE: OK, analyst John Larsen is a director at the Rhodium Group, and he joined us over Skype this morning. Thanks so much for taking the time. We appreciate it.

LARSEN: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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