January 27, 2019
Trump Rollbacks For Fossil Fuel Industries Carry Steep Cost
EPIC Director Michael Greenstone comments on the Trump administration's approach to valuing costs and benefits for regulations on fossil fuel production.
By Matthew Brownvia Associated Press
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental and safety rules for the energy sector, government projections show billions of dollars in savings reaped by companies will come at a steep cost: more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels.
The Associated Press analyzed 11 major rules targeted for repeal or relaxation under Trump, using the administration’s own estimates to tally how its actions would boost businesses and harm society.
The AP identified up to $11.6 billion in potential future savings for companies that extract, burn and transport fossil fuels. Industry windfalls of billions of dollars more could come from a freeze in vehicle efficiency standards that will yield an estimated 79 billion-gallon (300 million-liter) increase in fuel consumption.
On the opposite side of the government’s ledger, buried in thousands of pages of analyses, are the “social costs” of rolling back the regulations.
In explaining its actions, the Trump administration said in some cases that the previous administration understated the price tag on new industry restrictions. In others, it said President Barack Obama’s administration had been overly expansive in how it defined benefits to society.
Michael Greenstone, a University of Chicago professor who served as chief economist for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the Trump administration was downplaying the health and environmental impacts of its actions.
“When you start fudging the numbers, it’s not that the costs just evaporate into thin air. We will pay,” Greenstone said. “They are reducing the costs for industries where pollution is a byproduct.”