Tailpipe Politics: The Lessons (So Far) of 2013

Here's what you can learn about Obama's climate agenda from the EPA's new effort for cleaner air.

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Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama walks past a Chevy Volt electric car as he tours the Argonne National Lab near Chicago, March 15, 2013.

The EPA unveiled its new anti-smog rules on Friday, prompting the usual Republican complaints about President Obama’s war on free enterprise, along with the usual dire warnings of higher prices at the pump. The rules will raise gas prices, but less than a cent a gallon. Meanwhile, by 2030, they’ll avoid an estimated 2,400 annual premature deaths, prevent 23,000 respiratory illnesses in children, and reduce tailpipe emissions by the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road.

I’m not too interested in the umpteenth fight between the president and the anti-environmental GOP. But it’s worth noting that one of Obama’s lasting legacies will be much cleaner cars on American roads. He doubled fuel efficiency standards for U.S. cars and trucks, the most important action ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. His 2009 stimulus bill jump-started our electric-vehicle industry—it actually created a domestic EV battery industry from scratch—as well as our advanced biofuels industry, while funding unprecedented research into the batteries, biofuels, and other clean-car technologies of tomorrow. And now this.

(MORE: The U.S. Will Be an Oil Giant Again. But It Won’t Be Energy Independent)

There are three lessons here:

1: Deeds > Words. I still think the most important thing to know about Obama, who was often dismissed as a words guy when he started running for president, is that he’s turned out to be a deeds guy.  This is especially true when it comes to energy and climate, even though some Ivory Soap enviros will never be satisfied with 99.44% purity. For example, Obama didn’t say much about global warming in his first term, but he did double U.S. generation of renewable power, partly by investing $90 billion in wind, solar and other clean energy sources in the stimulus, partly by approving the first three dozen renewable-electricity projects on federal land. It’s not a coincidence that our oil imports and carbon emissions are at their lowest levels in two decades, or that Tesla Motors—which just turned its first profit—has announced it will repay its federal loan five years early. Similarly, Obama didn’t make a big fuss about the tailpipe standards, but they’re going to have a big impact on air quality.

It’s interesting that Obama did include a lot of green words in his second inaugural address, which seemed to make some enviros even happier than his supposedly inadequate green deeds. Like him or not, Obama tends to do what he says he’s going to do.These anti-smog regulations were the first green example in his second term; a crackdown on carbon-belching power plants could be next.

(MORE: Obama Talked Climate Change in His Inaugural Address. Now Can He Do Something About It?)

2. California Leads the Way. For all the GOP caterwauling about Obama’s hostility to business, the auto industry actually supported his new tailpipe regulations. That’s largely because automakers already have to comply with California’s tailpipe regulations, which inspired the federal rules; they’d rather have standard rules for the entire country. Fuel efficiency standards were a similar story: California led, and the nation followed. It’s happening with energy-efficiency standards for many appliances as well. If only someone had written a cover story four years ago warning that California, despite a host of premature obituaries, was still America’s future.

Oh, right. For what it’s worth, California recently launched a cap-and-trade regime.

3. Big Oil Is the Enemy. The auto industry might support the new rules, but the oil industry is fighting them. The oil industry fought Obama’s fuel efficiency standards, too, because they don’t want Americans to guzzle less gasoline. Big Oil even fought Obama’s temporary moratorium on Gulf drilling after the BP spill. It fights anything that could even slightly dent its profits, which, incidentally, amounted to $118 billion last year, if you only count the five biggest petro-giants.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when oil companies push to sell oil. But the burning of that oil is heating up the planet at an increasingly terrifying rate. Our addiction to that oil, while decreasing during the Obama era, is still an expensive and dangerous habit. Our economy’s vulnerability to oil shocks is still a national scandal. It is not an exaggeration to say that what’s good for Big Oil is bad for us. Big Oil likes high gas prices. Where do you think the money goes?

(MORE: Why the Debt Crisis Has Trumped the Climate Crisis—at Least in D.C.)

Which leads me back, once again, to the Keystone pipeline. Big Oil wants it very badly. The smarty-pants all say it doesn’t really matter, because the filthy tar sands are going to come out of the ground whether Obama approves the pipeline or not. Which makes you wonder: Then why does Big Oil want it so badly? It’s true that rejecting the pipeline isn’t as important to the climate fight as imposing tough new carbon regulations on coal plants, but there’s no reason Obama can’t do both. He’s in a war with Big Oil, whether he likes it or not, and Keystone is a battle he can win.

149 comments
MD584
MD584

There's a company in NYC. They have made a Pizza Truck which runs on Natural Gas. Could be of interest?

NeapolitanExpress.com

facebook.com/NeaExpress

JustinCase
JustinCase

I do not understand how controlling pollution is "a war on free enterprise."

This does not even make sense.

MatthewMcNulty
MatthewMcNulty

Carbon Emissions Worldwide have increased under the Obama administration.  It is a trend that will undoubtedly continue to grow in BRIC nations and the developing world.  The author states that the world is heating up but makes no mention of the small sample size those on the left use, to try and convince the rest of the country of this so called phenomenon.  Hundreds of millions of years of data must be taken into account.   See Dr. Lovelock's admission that there is no science behind global warming wolf crying.  Obama was raised to hate big oil, big business and admitted in his book, that when he worked for the private sector, he felt "like a spy behind enemy lines".  He felt like he was amongst enemies and in an unfamiliar place.  His contempt with big oil ignores the economic realities of the times as he forces big government down our throats, using our tax dollars to fund non-viable industries not supported by the forces of the people.


CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

So, the DEAR LEADER wants to continue with the greatest conjob every in human history, make everyone, especially poor people pay higher energy and fuel costs. Pathetic.

AllanAshby
AllanAshby

It's not surprising that "big oil" didn't like the "temporary moratorium on Gulf drilling after the BP spill." While BP had been charged with of hundreds of safety infractions in the preceding three years, Exxon had only had one safety and drilling infraction in the same period of time. But the same blanket penalty - costing thousands of jobs - was applied to Exxon and every other oil producer, too. Brilliant - absolutely brilliant.

Then you had Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's comment that "our job, basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum." No mention of the fact that the accident - and it was an accident - was costing BP billions in lost production and legal restitution. No mention of the fact that BP and other producers were the only ones with assets to deploy to end the blowout - just the idiotic assertion that somehow the oil company wanted to spill a bunch of crude oil, but the good guys in DC were going to stop them. 

And yet, in spite of all this, the oil companies were at odds with the Obama administration. There's just no pleasing some people, I guess.

DanRousseau
DanRousseau

Okay so he bailed out GM, and through regulation is forcing them to produce the cars that HE wants.  Anyone check Chevy Volt's sales.  But hey if we ram enough of them down America's throats and eliminate all competition we will get what we want, a state run automobile industry, well until they take that away and make us ride the electric train, trolley, subway or bus.  But then where will all of that electricity come from, we certainly wont have any more coal fired plants, nuclear plants or anything of the sort, oh yeah we will have the state run electrical cooperative of wind farms.  Well until those folks in the environment lobby who do not like them cutting up the birds and ruining the migration patterns. What then?  We take more taxes out of Americans pockets to oh yeah pay for Solar farms, that create radiation and heat problems and who knows what individual health and environmental problems that no one has yet thought of. I can't WAIT to pay WAY MORE THAN MY FAIR SHARE for that fun ride.  Where do I sign?  Nicely written artical Michale Grunwald, way to tow the company oh excuse me State Line!

allenwoll
allenwoll

.

Follow the money : 'Nuff said ! ! 

.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

"The rules will raise gas prices, but less than a cent a gallon. Meanwhile, by 2030, they’ll avoid an estimated 2,400 annual premature deaths, prevent 23,000 respiratory illnesses in children, and reduce tailpipe emissions by the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road."

So...what's the problem?  How is this any different from any other advancement in automobile rules or regulations we've seen since...well, ever?

DBritt
DBritt

How is an all of the above strategy that includes the dirtiest, most polluting forms of fossil fuel remotely 99.44% pure?! You have completely failed to understand the scale and scope of the problem. Science journalism (our worse, political journalism that attempts to be scientific) is an unending frustration. Would you care to get a quote from one single source on any of this?

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

"But the burning of that oil is heating up the planet at an increasingly terrifying rate."  Say what?  Sorry, but I'm afraid you guys at TIME have not been paying close enough attention to what's been going on the last few years in climate science. Here's some free advice: 

A good place to start playing catch-up would be to find and study the original MSNBC interview of Dr. James Lovelock last April. Dr. Lovelock, of course, is the author of the Gaia hypothesis, and co-father of the modern version of the CO2-driven global warming hypothesis. Which incidentally is in the scientific trashcan for serious researchers. It's hard to find the original Lovelock interview. Those pesky religious Gorbots have been desperately putting out diversionary censored versions and struggling mightily to keep the original cleansed it off the internet --- with more than a little help from Google I'm sad to say. Not sure it is there but you might try the  way-back machine if it isn't in TIME files.  

Spend some quality time with Lovelock. He candidly admits that he was very, very wrong to be so ridiculously alarmist for the past 30 years. If it comes, it will be a much slower process and we have time to do things right, avoiding the emotional folly we're into now (many of us, anyway). A famous scientist who freely admits he was wrong about a big hunk of his life's work. A real scientist should give us all hope.  

In essence Lovelock says: Climate science is mired in flawed theories and ideas, and crude computer models that obviously don't work. The IPCC needs a complete overhaul and a major transformation. Better yet -- kill it and start over. The IPCC is polluted with political policy hacks, arrogant wanna-bee technocrats who treat serious scientists and researchers like dirt. I say there is no really choice but to kill the snake. Lovelock asks Gore and Hansen to join him in publicly renouncing and apologizing for their Henny-Penny alarmism. Obviously the 91 year old Lovelock is still quite capable of dreaming big. I like that! 

Another thing you may not have noticed is that carbon trading schemes and carbon taxes are biting the dust everywhere around the world. People are finally figuring out that raising the cost of energy is putting a heavy brain-dead boot of latte environmentalism on the neck of the poorest among us. Its not a Democrat-Republican thing. Its a super-rich-get-richer thing. Its a smelly left-over from the Rockefeller/Prince Charles crowd and their power-hungry dictatorial brain-trust, the Club of Rome. Its an astoundingly non-democratic United Nations that refuses to let proposals for going to elected UN representation see the light of day. 

Don't misread where I'm coming from. I voted twice for Obama because I was pretty sure he really did know how to change this. I  stubbornly cling to the belief that he actually did master the concepts in Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. I'm sure of it, but I'm worried that he might have succumbed to the temptation of a filthy rich retirement and maybe even joining the bad guys. His second term is starting to show real hope.  However, I'll not be relieved and reassured until John Holdren and his Eugenicist friends finally get their pink slips.   

You might also try taking a closer look at our EU friends that work around the CERN lab. IMHO, they are already way ahead of us, thanks in large measure to narcissistic Luddites like Gore, Hansen & Mann.  The USA and the UK are going to be playing second fiddle until we decide we can no longer tolerate their perversions of climate science.

Some of you at TIME may have to swallow your pride on my last suggestion. Spending a few hours browsing around wuwt.com, theglobalwarmingfoundation.com, and judithcurry.com. You'll be amazed to find real scientists --- top-flight volunteer scientists --- actually doing real science. There's hope!

P.S. --- Take a little friendly advice. Avoid the silly anti-science propaganda coming out of skepticalscience.com.    



ArthurStordahl
ArthurStordahl

@JustinCase Reason 1) if you have EPA to say what is "bad", you can select and choose whom you want to shut down or heavily tax out of buis. Monsanto, GE, Walmart, pharma are exempt from problems, as they, among other, greatly influence law.

bobell
bobell

@DonQuixotic Haven't you been paying attention? Those rules would cut carbon-fuel consumption, thereby cutting Bil Oil's profits. They're obviously The Rules From Hell, and all Right-Thinking Murricans are duty-bound to oppose them.   Not to mention opposing us Left-Thinking Murricans.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@GeraldWilhite You seem like a smart and well-read person. How is it you don't realize that you're data-dredging?

The planet is warming, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing and the modeling of the relationship between phenomenon match almost perfectly. It no longer matters what this or that industry-funded scientist may say if you have the intelligence and psychological grounding to simply look at the temperature/carbon data. Add to that the earthly manifestations: heat waves, droughts, melting glaciers and sea ice, coastal flooding, weather weirding, and you really must be some sort of functional idiot or insane climate denier, to be arguing over whether made-made climate change is happening.

The only important scientific question that remains is whether we can still do anything about the problem that can save human civilization as we have known it.

"One more year of numbers isn't in itself significant," GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said. "What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it's warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere..."

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory, was about 315 parts per million. Today, that measurement exceeds 390 parts per million."

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-temps.html

Tero
Tero

@GeraldWilhite 

Save yourself the time reading this post. This guy is a paranoid climate change denier spouting nonsense about Google being involved in a conspiracy with those "rich and powerful scientists"... and GORE! *Shakes hand at sky

CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

@KathyNichols @CharlesScamardo : and would suffer the most with the increased cost of gas, oil, electricity? the Poor. Sure wont hurt the rich. And with China and India pumping out more pollution then anyone. Go figure that out GENIUS.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@bobell 

I'm curious, was George Bush just being a liberal ditto-head when he signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law to help regulate and maintain our national levels of energy conservation and curtail pollution?  I'd like to know when it became standard policy to combat any initiative that sought to help the environment.

DBritt
DBritt

@shepherdwong @DBritt I can't tell you how frustrating this type of opinion is to me (Grunwald's that is).  In classic David Brooks fashion, his concern for seeming like a reasonable middle-ground mediator trumps all other brain function.

LarsEnglish
LarsEnglish

@shepherdwong @GeraldWilhite There is no controversy in the scientific community, nor has there been one for a while. All scientific bodies now unconditionally accept global warming and its man-made origin as established fact. That is 100 percent of scientific societies and organizations. Like the American Physical Society. There is only the lunatic fringe still denying it for ideological reasons. But even they will shut up soon, because science doesn't care about human opinions at all. It just is, regardless of what we might want to happen...

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

@shepherdwong @GeraldWilhite  I'm not sure what data-dredging is. I am surprised at how many people are not yet aware that we've have no statistically significant global warming for well over 15 years. Even IPCC Chairman Pachauri admits that.  

CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

@KathyNichols @CharlesScamardo Well Kathy, it is good to see you are GRAMMAR Nazi, that is so comforting. Since I text a lot, it at times is hard to break the habit, but I will do my best from now on with my comments, is that okay with MS Grammar Nazi?

KathyNichols
KathyNichols

@CharlesScamardo @KathyNichols Your first sentence doesn't make sense, and it isn't even a complete sentence.  "Poor" is not capitalized, as it's not the first word in the sentence nor is it a proper noun, although "the" ought to be, as it IS the first word in a sentence.  "With China and India pumping out more pollution than (note than, not 'then') anyone." is not a complete sentence.  I sincerely hope you are not actually in the military.  I'd like to think there's some sort of minimum i.q. requirement that needs to be met before we give anyone automatic weapons.   

bobell
bobell

@DonQuixotic Back in 2005 the concern was the volume of oil imports, and the idea was to reduce our independence on the Middle East and Venezuela and Nigeria.  Global warming was a sideshow.  Now that we and our northern suburb Canada are the main future source of fossil fuels, reducnig demand hurts domestic producers -- well, not really, but that's how they see it. As for climate change, the Koch brothers don't believe in it, so neither to the Republicans.

Follow the money.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@DBritt I hear you. However, Michael is still a political commentator so he's going to write about the politics. And he's not really wrong that Obama has engaged in some unprecedented changes in policy and is making headway, especially since Beltway politics won't even countenance meager policies like cap-and-trade and tar sands exploitation is a real possibility.

Besides, the reality is just too inconvenient a truth for nearly everyone: somewhere between it's already too late to save most living things and humans will survive but in a seriously desperate condition. At this point denial isn't just a river in Egypt, it's a psychological mechanism for perseverance, even sanity.

grape_crush
grape_crush

@GeraldWilhite@shepherdwong > ...we've have no statistically significant global warming for well over 15 years

Another zombie lie from the ignoramuses sitting in the denialist camp.

"Since I've advocated a more explicit use of the word "lie", I'll go ahead and follow my own advice: that Daily Mail headline is a lie. Phil Jones did not say there had been no global warming since 1995; he said the opposite. He said the world had been warming at 0.12°C per decade since 1995. However, over that time frame, he could not quite rule out at the traditional 95% confidence level that the warming since 1995 had not been a random fluke.

Anyone who has even a passing high-school familiarity with statistics should understand the difference between these two statements. At a longer time interval, say 30 or 50 or 100 years, Mr Jones could obviously demonstrate that global warming is a statistically significant trend. In the interview he stated that the warming since 1975 is statistically significant. Everyone, even climate-change sceptics, agrees that the earth has experienced a warming trend since the late 19th century. But if you take any short sample out of that trend (say, 1930-45 or 1960-75), you might not be able to guarantee that the particular warming observed in those years was not a statistical fluke. This is a simple truth about statistics: if you measure just ten children, the relationship between age and height might be a fluke. But obviously the fact remains that older children tend to be taller than younger ones, and if you measure 100 of them, you'll find the relationship quite statistically significant indeed."

And someone's even done us the service of distinguishing the "four or five sets" of people who participate in promulgating this piece of preposterous pro-oil and pro-pollution propaganda.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@GeraldWilhite Actually, I was wrong. You're not data-dredging, so don't strain yourself looking it up. You're just trolling for blather dressed up as scientific theory and the third-hand opinions of non experts (Pachauri is a mechanical engineer) to support your denial. I linked to the actual data demonstrating "statistically significant global warming for well over 15 years." They even provided a nifty motion graphic for idiots and/or lunatics just like you.

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

@DonQuixotic @GeraldWilhite @mantisdragon91 Agreed. Yet for some reason, for example, there is little serious US interest in Svensmark's work which looks pretty solid to folk in much of the EU, Russia, and China. I think maybe the problem is US scientists are mostly under the funding influence of the US government which seems to be stuck on CO2 driven AGW.  Not exactly the skeptical open-mindedness one would expect from real science. 

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

@AllanAshby @DonQuixotic @GeraldWilhite @mantisdragon91  Yes, Allan. Most folks here seem to have have little awareness of what is often referred to as the "Cloud", Henrick Svensmark's fundamentally new climate change hypothesis. It an interesting idea to me, and he appears to be very close to locking it down with some hard direct data at CERN.  U.S. scientists who advocate the CO2 driven AGW hypothesis seem determined to dismiss it out of hand.  Wikipedia has a good article on Svensmarks and his work.   

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Svensmark


grape_crush
grape_crush

 @GeraldWilhite@grape_crush@mantisdragon91> ...that's not a claim. That's an opinion

You are claiming things like "carbon trading schemes and carbon taxes are biting the dust everywhere around the world," things that can possess a measure of truth or untruth independent of one's opinion. Not only that, you ask people to read certain items, "a good place to start playing catch-up would be to find and study," and don't do anyone the courtesy of providing a link to said material. 

The gripe isn't as much about anything you've said - as off-kilter as it sounds - it is about how little you've backed up your own statements. 

> I've got mine, you've got yours. 

Great. Now help us to identify whether or not there's anything to what you're claiming or opining on.

> Ain't America great!

Yup.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@GeraldWilhite @mantisdragon91

Here's a source on US involvement with CERN from their own website.

US physicists have been participating in a wide range of experiments at CERN for over 30 years, from the ISR through SPS fixed-target experiments, all the LEP experiments (L3, ALEPH, OPAL, DELPHI), heavy-ion experiments (NA45, NA49) and ISOLDE. Following the demise of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) in 1993, many US physicists joined ATLAS and CMS, and some have also joined ALICE and LHCb.

The US has made contributions to the LHC accelerator construction, coordinated by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), under an Implementation Protocol that expired in 2007. The US also set up the LHC Accelerator Research Program (LARP) to support LHC commissioning, including both beam monitors and human resources, and R&D on magnets for a possible LHC upgrade. The USA is a special Observer State, with the right to attend restricted Council sessions for discussions of LHC matters.

The US contributions to ATLAS and CMS have been substantial. They were funded jointly by the Department of Engergy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) under an Implementation Protocol agreed in 1996 and finalized in 1997, which runs until 2017. The US user community has expanded, as attention has shifted away from their domestic programme with the completions of the CLEO, BABAR and soon the Tevatron experiments, and new groups have joined ATLAS and particularly CMS.

The US also contributed manpower at CERN to the development of the WLCG, and is contributing two Tier-1 centres to its operations.

Groups from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Northwestern University already participate in the CLIC R&D programme, and the DOE has undertaken to strengthen this activity. There is also a US participation in LINAC4.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@GeraldWilhite @mantisdragon91

I'll bite.  How about this one:

You might also try taking a closer look at our EU friends that work around the CERN lab. IMHO, they are already way ahead of us, thanks in large measure to narcissistic Luddites like Gore, Hansen & Mann.  The USA and the UK are going to be playing second fiddle until we decide we can no longer tolerate their perversions of climate science.

...specifically providing context and evidence on how environmental regulation are causing us to fall behind in the field of Partical Physics.  Particularly since, you know, American scientists have been involved at CERN for years, or the idea that somehow the Europeans are stockpiling their research and keeping it under lock and key from the rest of the world.

*Edited for grammar.  My kingdom for an edit button...

GeraldWilhite
GeraldWilhite

@mantisdragon91 @GeraldWilhite Why are you attacking my particular choice of a source? I thought you were supposed to be  picking out one of my claims so I could try to defend it for you.

grape_crush
grape_crush

 @GeraldWilhite@mantisdragon91 > I'm sure you can Google yourself...

You make the claim, you back it up. It's not up to others to prove or disprove your, um, interesting claims, like this one:

> "Don't misread where I'm coming from. I voted twice for Obama because I was pretty sure he really did know how to change this. I  stubbornly cling to the belief that he actually did master the concepts in Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. I'm sure of it, but I'm worried that he might have succumbed to the temptation of a filthy rich retirement and maybe even joining the bad guys. His second term is starting to show real hope.  However, I'll not be relieved and reassured until John Holdren and his Eugenicist friends finally get their pink slips."

That's some real stream-of-consiciousness loony-sounding stuff right there.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@GeraldWilhite @mantisdragon91 Sorry but I already saw your idea of a credible source, a climate denier think tank funded by the European Coal burning utilities. Of course they would have nothing to gain by denying the link between climate change and burning fossil fuels now would they?