Michael J. BeeliBrittany CarlsonEnglish 001B24 January 2018Trump’s Climate Policy Pushes U.S. Economy BackwardsMany are familiar with the argument that renewable energy sources, or climate regulation in general, is far too costly and detrimental to the national economy; however, most probably don’t know that solar power is set to become less expensive than coal on a dollar-per megawatt hour basis as soon as 2020. As a result, he use of renewable energy, which has the inherent benefit of avoiding the negative climate effects associated with the widespread use of fossil fuels, is also now becoming the more economically viable option for the future. Donald Trump’s recent decisions to repeal Barrack Obama’s key climate regulations and increase government support of fossil fuels however, are aiming to reverse this trend with blatant disregard for the negative economic effects it will have. Trump’s record of climate action consists highly of dangerous, economically-counterproductive policies that favor the fossil fuel industry over the general welfare of the United States’ economy, which will likely only increase both our energy and climate-related spending.In March of 2017, President Trump announced that he was scaling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan and scrapping Obama-era EPA standards for new coal plants. In September of 2017, U.S. Energy Secretary proposed that the federal government began paying a subsidy to the coal industry and in December of the same year, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency dropped a regulation requiring mining companies to prove they are financially capable of paying for any pollution they cause. The above examples are far from an exhaustive list of Trump’s policies that will worsen climate change and its costs on our economy, and don’t even include Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords in June of 2017. A few months after Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, the United States became the sole nation in the world to reject the worldwide action plan on climate change. The Paris climate accords included a pledge that would require the US to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 26% by 2030. Trump withdrawing from the climate accords does not mean that the US will fail to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at all; however, in just March of last year, The Rhodium Group, a global policy think tank, estimated that emissions would likely fall by just 17% by 2030. The projected 9% disparity in greenhouse gas emissions means that, according to environmental policy from March, Trump’s plan will permit over 500 million metric tons more of carbon to be released from the United States. Under the current Environmental Protection Agency’s social cost of carbon standard (SCC) of $36 in financial damages to the United States per ton, the estimated total social cost of carbon as a result of that disparity will be $18 billion.The Rhodium group’s analysis however, doesn’t even nearly tell the whole story. Firstly, new research from Stanford University indicates that the real social cost of carbon may be as high as $220 per ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, an increase of 611%, implying a total social cost of over $109 billion, which is over 1% of the entire annual US GDP. Furthermore, the analysis was conducted in March, while a number of new policies propping up fossil fuels and hindering the development of clean energy methods have appeared since then. The exact numbers of the damages these environmental setbacks will cause isn’t clear, but it is wholly evident that Trump’s climate policy poses a number of significant costs to Americans across the country, especially in years to come. While the decision to abandon the Paris Climate Accords may have generated the most news coverage, it was more of a symbolic action than many other of Trump’s policies. The first and most significant step of Trump’s war on clean energy was to set the stage for the repeal of the 2015 Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s central climate policy. The Clean Power Plan sought to mitigate the effects of climate change by aiming to reduce the United States’ annual carbon emissions to 32% lower than 2005 levels by 2032. Key to the plan’s relative success under Obama was the fact it set individual emissions reduction goals for 47 different states and that it authorized the EPA to enact cap-and-trade federal carbon plans on states that refuse to comply with EPA-approved standards. Cap and trade plans are when the government sets a price on the right to pollute carbon and allows companies to pay for a certain allowance of these rights. While Trump hasn’t formally completed his repeal of the Clean Power Plan, he essentially instructed EPA head and climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to replace the Clean Power Plan with an alternative, but Pruitt still has provided no indication so far of what a replacement plan would look like. Trump’s appointment of Pruitt, who sued the EPA 13 times over climate change regulations as Oklahoma’s attorney general, is just short of hiring a fox to guard the hen house; his record on climate clearly indicates that whatever replacement he submits to replace the Clean Power Plan will favor corporate deregulation and will do little, if any, to slow down the worst effects of climate change.Another significant step of Trump’s order called for Pruitt to revise some EPA standards for new coal plants. The 2013 standards required any new coal and natural gas plants to limit carbon dioxide emissions to less than 1100 pounds of carbon dioxide per-megawatt-hour, more than 600 pounds CO2 per-megawatt-hour above the national average for coal plants in the United States. Trump’s team will reportedly look into altering these rules so that “a lot of coal miners will be going back to work,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky on March 24 of 2017. Despite Trump’s promises however, the direction of the U.S. economy appears to be heading away from coal production as a result of market forces. According to the Energy Information Agency, Coal Production fell 18% from the 2015 to 2016, while natural gas production has been steadily increasing since before 1990. Trump’s order evidently reflects either a delusional or deliberately misleading promise to America’s disenfranchised coal workers, and simultaneously compromises our contribution to global efforts to reduce the worst effects of climate change.In further attempts to revive the rightfully dying coal industry is EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to no longer require mining companies to hold funds necessary to clean up their potential damages from their operations. The rule change will markedly reduce the cost of coal mining, which will lead to more carbon emissions from the U.S., raising our climate-change related costs even more. Another misstep of this rule change is that mining companies will rarely pay the full costs of cleanup of their mining activities, meaning that American taxpayers will have to foot the bill when these companies act irresponsibly. The Trump camp’s coal craze doesn’t end there though. Perhaps the most economically foolish proposal put forth so far has been Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize, or give money to, the coal industry. In sound economic practice, subsidies are typically only used when the government wants to increase supply of a certain good in the economy. Given that coal has substantial costs associated with its use, such as its contribution to climate change, proposals aimed at increasing its use, like Perry’s, are clearly nothing more than handouts to the coal industry. In essence, Perry’s plan asks that taxpayers pay coal companies to continue polluting our air and accelerating global climate change. Examining the plan makes it clear that it would only increase the costs we pay for our energy and therefore stifle the economy.Trump and many of his economic sympathizers will argue that coal is less expensive than other sources of energy, and therefore coal production is necessary to keep energy costs down and sustain the economy. However, according to Vox, an American digital media company, the United States Economy, by natural market forces, has largely shifted to clean power sources, especially natural gas, as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to coal, and therefore Trump’s attempts to revitalize coal will likely be ineffective. Furthermore, Vox research has also indicated that while the average emissions of CO2 per-megawatt-hour of coal plants is 1768 pounds, nearly all natural gas plants’ emissions are less than 1000 pounds, meaning economic incentives to encourage expansion of these plants will lead to significant increases in CO2 emissions. Furthermore, as previously indicated, Bloomberg, a financially-concerned media company, reported that the just the private cost of solar energy at a megawatt-per hour level is expected to drop below that of coal in the early 2020s. Finally, if coal really is cheaper than solar energy, then why does Rick Perry feel a need to subsidize it and bring down the cost of processing coal? As a result, it is evident that Trump’s pledges to stimulate the coal industry are not only environmentally negligent but also economically senseless. Coal may have been cheaper and more economically viable in the past, but the data now clearly shows that it will not be long until coal become more expensive than it’s clean alternatives. Additionally, the cost of creating energy through the use of coal does not represent the entire social cost of coal. The aforementioned concept of the social cost of carbon refers to a concept in economics known as externalities. Externalities refer to costs on society that the producer does not pay individually, but all of society pays in damage as a result of the production of that good. For example, when a power plant burns coal to generate electricity, it must only pay the costs of the coal and for the power plant to process it; however, that piece of coal’s contribution to the greenhouse effect incurs a cost upon all of society in financial damages, whether it reduces rainfall essential for crops, or causes flooding of coastlines. Consequently, even now, when the private cost of coal may be below that of solar energy, under an estimated social cost ranging from $36 to $220 per pound of carbon, it becomes clear that coal truly has not been the economically efficient option for a long time.Another favorite counterargument of coal sympathizers is the supposed existence of “clean coal,” a concept which has been repeatedly debunked by the scientific community. “Clean coal” does not mean coal nuggets that are naturally clean. According to Annenberg Public Policy Center, such coal does not exist. The scientific term refers to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a highly expensive process that aims to capture the pollutants released by coal and store them underground. The process sounds like a great solution, except for the fact that even Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, a widely known coal-baron, admitted that CSS is “neither practical nor economic.” Trump’s active targeting of sensible climate policy comes with grave repercussions across the entire planet as well. According to the Climate Vulnerable forum, a partnership of developing nations threatened by climate change, if emissions levels are not reduced by 26% or greater by 2030, up to 100 million people globally could lose their lives and global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could fall by as high as 3.2% in costs. According to the report, more than 90% percent of the deaths would result from the human and economic impact of climate change. Trump’s executive order’s deliberate negligence of the catastrophic consequences of climate change is deeply troubling, as it indicates his eagerness to disregard critical research of the scientific community and put short-term profits ahead of global growth and stability. Although these costs would not burden the United States directly, the sheer volume of damages that these countries may face will incur significant costs on the world economy, and the United States as a result. Trump’s environmental policies appear to be a shameful array of financial gifts to coal companies off the backs of American taxpayers. Not only will his irresponsibility likely significantly worsen the effects of climate change on our economy, it also aims to pump more of the government’s money into the very industries that are releasing unsustainable levels of carbon into our atmosphere. If Trump, Rick Perry, and Scott Pruitt have their way, American taxpayers will be paying more money to the coal industry so that they have to pay more in economic damages as a result of climate change. Instead of paying more to pay more, Americans should be paying a little more right now to pay significantly less in the future.