California Regulators Request Meeting as Vehicle Emissions Proposal Moves Forward

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Editor’s Note: The Climate Post will not circulate next week (June 14). It will return on Thursday, June 21.

Members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) want to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss the federal government’s specific plans to ease the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE standards.

“CARB has participated in a number of high-level meetings with the White House and federal agencies, but we have not been given any specific proposals to respond to, and so remain concerned that the agencies are departing from the evidence and the law, as well as failing to honor our historic partnership,” wrote Steve Cliff, CARB’s deputy executive officer in a letter printed by ClimateWire. “This matter is of vital importance to public health and the environment, and it is essential that we have an opportunity to meet with OIRA [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs].”

California has vowed to stick to its own, stricter standards authorized under the Clean Air Act despite plans by the Trump administration to weaken fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards. On May 1, seventeen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s revisiting of Obama-era vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards last month.

Although it is reported that the new EPA proposal will outline a series of alternatives to the existing standards, the preferred option seems to be a freeze of fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration submitted their proposal to the Office of Management and Budget recently. It will undergo review before it is published for public comment.

Closing the Global Energy Financing Gap

The path taken to bring reliable electricity to the more than 2 billion people in the world lacking it has major ramifications for development, global power dynamics and climate change. Government-sponsored development finance institutions are key for delivering energy financing to emerging markets—contributing roughly a third of all investment directly—and playing a critical role in  reducing investment risks and mobilizing private capital into the clean energy space.

The U.S. government’s little-known development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), remains underutilized and lacks core financial tools and capabilities. Legislation to establish a new fully-equipped institution to promote investment in developing countries continues to move closer to passage in Congress. A new policy brief by my colleagues at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Energy Access Project at Duke University outlines the energy financing gaps in emerging markets and analyzes how the new tools and authorities proposed under Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act) legislation may equip the new U.S. development finance institution to respond to those financing needs.

The stakes are high, as China has made overseas infrastructure investment a centerpiece of its foreign policy. OPIC’s entire investment portfolio across all sectors is currently less than the $25 billion that Chinese policy banks invested in foreign energy projects in 2017 alone. With domestic coal demand on the decline in China, these same government banks are investing an average of $5 billion per year in new overseas coal facilities.

The policy brief finds that a modernized U.S. development finance institution would increase U.S. global influence, open clean energy investment opportunities for U.S. companies in high-growth emerging markets, and provide a more transparent and market-oriented alternative to Chinese government infrastructure financing.

Trump Administration Eyes Coal Bailout

President Donald Trump ordered U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry “to prepare immediate steps” to stop the closing of coal and nuclear plants, according to a White House statement.

“Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

A leaked plan, published by E&E News, calls for the creation of a “strategic electric generation reserve” to promote national defense and maximize domestic energy supplies. It also requests the direct purchases of electricity or capacity from a list of specific coal and nuclear plants over a period of 24 months.

The leaked memo invokes DOE’s emergency powers under section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, as well as an obscure provision in the Defense Production Act of 1950, enabling the Department to require the performance of private contracts “in preference to other contracts” in order to “promote the national defense.”

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.