Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Donald Trump's energy plan based on 'debunked' study funded by coal industry, environmentalists claim

'In taking a sledgehammer to US climate action, the administration will push the country backward, making it harder and more expensive to reduce emissions'

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 28 March 2017 12:04 BST
A truck hauls a vast pile of coal at a mine near Gillette, Wyoming
A truck hauls a vast pile of coal at a mine near Gillette, Wyoming (Reuters)

Donald Trump’s plan to ditch Barack Obama’s flagship policy on climate change is based on a flawed study paid for by the coal industry, a leading environmental think tank has claimed.

The President is expected to issue an ‘Energy Independence’ executive order which could significantly undermine measures introduced by the Obama administration to reduce carbon emissions. The announcement is also expected to include a review of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The current administration hopes the changes will enable the US to become self-sufficient in energy, create jobs in the coal industry and mean cheaper energy costs for consumers.

However the latter claim is controversial.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) said that, in briefings about the executive order, Trump administration officials had cited only one “debunked” study as evidence that the Clean Power Plan would lead to increased bills.

The research, detailed in a report called Energy and Consumer Impacts of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, by consultancy Nera, concluded the policy would lead to “large reductions” in carbon dioxide of 36 to 37 per cent by 2031.

But it also added: “Energy sector expenditure increases range from $220 to $292bn (spending from 2022 through 2033). For the overall economy, losses to US consumers range from $64bn to $79bn on a present value basis over the same time period.”

However the WRI has previously examined the Nera report’s figures as part of a review of studies into the effects of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

“Of the four studies, only one study [Nera] showed electricity bills increasing unequivocally as a result of the CPP, and it was funded by an advocacy group representing American coal producers,” Noah Kaufman of the WRI wrote in January.

“The EPA study found that bills would initially increase, then fall. The other two studies, both funded by groups that support action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, found electricity bills would unequivocally fall on account of the CPP.”

He criticised the Nera study for using “assumptions at or above the top of the range expert forecasts or empirical estimates of the costs of clean energy”, but conceded there was a need for truly independent studies.

Andrew Steer, the WRI’s president, made clear its opposition to the President’s plans.

“The Trump administration is failing a test of leadership to protect American’s health, the environment and economy,” he said.

“It’s been shown time and again that sustained economic growth and national security are intertwined with good environmental stewardship.

“In taking a sledgehammer to US climate action, the administration will push the country backward, making it harder and more expensive to reduce emissions.

“Climate science is clear and unwavering: mounting greenhouse gas emissions are warming our planet, putting people and business in harm’s way. The Clean Power Plan is a flexible and common-sense approach to reduce emissions from the power sector.

“It’s already helping to shift markets toward clean energy, which is good for the economy and American competitiveness.

“Make no mistake, this Executive Order will undermine people’s health and the US economy. It hands moral authority and global leadership over to others, leaving America behind.”

However Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Centre for Energy and Environment and a key Trump adviser, welcomed the prospect of the executive order.

“It takes the necessary first steps in undoing President Obama’s energy-rationing agenda,” he told Bloomberg.

“Of course, there is more work to be done down the road, most importantly withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty and reopening the endangerment finding.”

Shortly after Mr Trump took office, Mr Ebell, who led the Republican transition team in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, visited 10 Downing Street. It was unclear who he met while there.

In 2005 he described the then UK Chief Scientist, David King, as “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”. Mr King is now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's special representative for climate change.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in