A social cost of carbon witch hunt in the Department of Energy
DECEMBER 9, 2016
It's going to get bad before it gets worse: The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output. The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”. Trump and his team have vowed to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s climate policies. The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually “intrusive” and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team was trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama. Thousands of scientists have already signed petitions calling on the president-elect and his team to respect scientific integrity and refrain from singling out individual researchers whose work might conflict with the new administration’s policy goals. This potential clash could prompt a major schism within the federal government, with many career officials waging a battle against incoming political appointees. The document spanned a broad area of Energy Department activities, including its loan program, its technology research program, responses to Congress, estimates of offshore wind and cleanup of uranium at a site once used by the military for weapons research. In many cases, the inquiries meshed with the priorities of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, which held a meeting on energy and environment issues in Washington on Thursday, as well as priorities outlined in a recent fundraising pitch sent by the American Energy Alliance (AEA), a wing of the Institute for Energy Research. Thomas Pyle, who heads AEA, leads Trump’s Energy Department transition team. In a recent fundraising pitch, Pyle wrote supporters, “After eight years of the Obama administration’s divisive energy and environmental policies, the American people have voted for a change — a big change. We expect the Trump administration will adopt pro-energy and pro-market policies — much different than the Obama administration’s top-down government approach.”. One question zeroed in on the issue of the “social cost of carbon,” a way of calculating the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. The transition team asked for a list of department employees or contractors who attended interagency meetings, the dates of the meetings, and emails and other materials associated with them. The social cost of carbon is a metric that calculates the cost to society of emitting a ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The Obama administration has used this tool to try to calculate the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions. At Thursday’s Heritage meeting, senior fellow David Kreutzer — who is a member of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team — attacked the idea of using the social cost of carbon during the regulatory process. Here are questions 13 and 14: Hey, I presented at a DOE/EPA workshop on the social cost of carbon ! Chilling.