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Trump order could impact U.S. energy prices, technology development

Nation will likely fall short of Paris Agreement emissions goal

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
March 29, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 14

Credit: AP
President Trump, surrounded by coal miners and members of his Administration, signed the executive order at EPA headquarters.

President Donald J. Trump’s March 28 order to reexamine or kill a host of federal actions to combat climate change might help lower U.S. energy prices but will hurt development of new energy technologies. And it is likely to mean the U.S. will miss its emissions targets under an international climate change accord.

Trump says his directive is an assault on what he calls burdensome energy regulations and policies, most of which are fossil fuel related. He says the order will also create jobs, particularly for U.S. coal miners.

Among policies targeted are the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants and regulations to control methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.

The order may contribute to a more diverse and affordable energy supply, says the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry association. ACC adds that a variety of factors—market forces and state and regional policies, for example—are are likely to drive continued reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

But Trump’s policy path will cost the U.S. global energy technology leadership, warns Keith E. Peterman, a chemistry professor at York College of Pennsylvania, a participant in United Nations climate negotiations, and the son of a coal worker. “The rest of the world is moving to a low-carbon future, and we are not going to turn that ship around,” Peterman says.

“Coal jobs are dying because of mining mechanization and a flood of inexpensive, abundant natural gas,” he says. “They are not coming back.”

The order, if fully implemented, would make U.S. compliance impossible with the global Paris Agreement to limit climate change.

An analysis by the consulting firm Rhodium Group finds that Trump’s order is likely to have little impact on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the next two years. However, U.S. emissions would end up about 14% below 2005 levels by 2025, the analysis finds. That’s well shy of 26–28% the U.S. agreed to in the Paris deal.

Responding to the executive order, the American Chemical Society says U.S. climate policy is based on “extensive science and an iterative process involving thousands of scientists that span the globe.”

The Administration has a tough road ahead in carrying out the President’s order. A top White House aide acknowledges the difficulty rescinding some of the rules targeted in Trump’s directive, particularly the Clean Power Plan. That EPA regulation was negotiated with states and stakeholders over three years, and the aide predicts a similar time would be needed to eliminate it.



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Rod (March 30, 2017 3:24 PM)
So if Trump's order will have little impact and coal generation and jobs are "dying" due to market forces alone (low natural gas and renewable energy prices), why will there be such negative impacts such as hurting the development of new technologies and lose our place as a technology leader? Why even waste time and money opposing the Trump order? Maybe its because no one can accurately predict the future. Maybe its because energy markets in particular have been known to change drastically. For instance one future scenario is that increased LNG exports cause higher natural gas prices and without the regulations eliminating coal generation as a viable option, the market would then once again turn to coal generation. The point is without the regulations limiting what type of generation can be built, the market will determine what is the lowest cost resource and what will be built. So regardless of the rhetoric there are those who do not want the market to make that determination. I understand the argument that the market may not value the environmental impact/cost. But it's time to stop the posturing that these regulations will have no impact on the future of coal generation.
william & Carol Haaf (March 30, 2017 6:44 PM)
The ACC is sadly mistaken. i do not understand why a science based trade group ignores the risks. They are ignoring the fact that we need to be taking significant actions now to prevent a catastrophe in 50 yrs. ACC knows there is a solid scientific consensus that man made CO2 is warming the planet with huge risks (glacier melting now irreversible; oceans life & coral at risk from acidiity; feedback systems are warming the permafrost with huge potential for green house emissions, crop yields will drop due to too excessive night time heat and prolonged drought, etc..). the president & congress need to be instituting systems and policies that will prevent a very hot planet and lots of dead people and dead oceans.
For a review of the huge efforts needed see:
A Roadmap for rapid decarbonization
J. Rockström1, Owen Gaffney1,2, Joeri Rogelj3,4, Malte Meinshausen5,6, Nebojsa Nakicenovic4, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber1,5
Science 24 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6331, pp. 1269-1271
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3443
1. "Global CO2 emissions from energy and industry have to fall in half each decade. That is, in the 2020s, the world cuts emissions in half. Then we do it again in the 2030s. Then we do it again in the 2040s. They dub this a “carbon law.”an analogy to Moore’s law for transistors;
2) Net emissions from land use i.e., from agriculture and deforestation — have to fall steadily to zero by 2050. This would need to happen even as the world population grows and we’re feeding ever more people.
3) Technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere have to start scaling up massively

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