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If you ever wondered what it would look like for someone to go Jim Jones on the human race, look no further than the United States of America in the Year of Our Lord 2019. People who study this kind of thing believe we have to cut our heat-trapping emissions in half by 2030 to stand a chance of staving off the worst effects of the climate crisis, and avoid the feedback loops that will send the issue beyond our control. Believe it or not, however, the administration of Donald Trump, American president, is not proving particularly helpful in this regard.
While the Fox News Grandpa has periodic spasms of insanity on Twitter and the White House lawn, the termites of the state his regime has ushered into power are hard at work dismantling regulations aimed at curbing our climate emissions. The latest example arrived Thursday courtesy of the New York Times.
The Trump administration laid out on Thursday a far-reaching plan to cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in its proposed rule, aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It will also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A. even has the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant.
When we talk about heat-trapping gasses, we mostly think of carbon dioxide. It's the most common in the atmosphere. But methane is a serious problem, not least because it traps up to 84 percent more heat than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it's up there. Over time, methane becomes less potent—though over a 100-year period, it still traps 28 times more than carbon. That is to say, it is very fucking bad, which makes this next element even more gobsmacking.
The rollback is particularly notable because major energy companies have, in fact, spoken out against it — joining the ranks of automakers, electric utilities and other industrial giants that have opposed other administration initiatives to dismantle climate-change and environmental rules. Several of the world’s largest auto companies are pushing back against President Trump’s plans to let vehicles pollute more, and utilities have opposed the relaxation of restrictions on toxic mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.
The industries who would benefit financially from reduced compliance costs are against it! And yet the administration is moving ahead with the rule. Is it for kicks? Because Obama did it? Who could possibly say? Well, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist (!), can:
The plan “delivers on President Trump’s executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry,” said the E.P.A. administrator, Andrew Wheeler. “The Trump administration recognizes that methane is valuable and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use.”
Mr. Wheeler noted that since 1990, natural gas production in the United States has almost doubled while methane emissions across the industry has fallen 15 percent.
Unnecessary! Duplicative! And they'll hold themselves to the highest standards! A classic thing for industry to do, and which, in this case, they are specifically asking you not to make them do. By the way, the EPA itself found this will save oil and gas companies between $17 and $19 million a year. The oil industry's annual revenue is between $100 and $150 billion. Maybe it's not worth the risk of rolling it back? They seem to be doing OK. But what do I know.
Apparently, the small gas companies find the rule expensive to comply with, while the big ones want it kept so methane leaks don't undermine their marketing message, which is centered on the notion natural gas is The Clean Alternative™. Of course, none of these financial concerns will seem that important when the water begins to gather around our ankles.
This is not the first example of this phenomenon, of course. You might have noticed that line in the Times piece about vehicle emissions standards, which the Trump administration is trying to gut, once again over the complaints of industry (in that case, auto manufacturers). Vehicle emissions account for one-fifth of U.S. carbon pollution, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, so that is also extremely unhelpful. Add to that the administration's decision to kill the Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing emissions from power plants, and replace it with a weaker plan, and you've got a truly multi-pronged effort to make the planet inhospitable to human life. We are running out of things to fuck up at this point.
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