Obama Agrees to Open Carbon-Cost Estimate to Outside Comment
The administration of President Barack Obama said it would revise and open for public comment its estimate of the social cost of carbon, used by agencies to calculate the benefits of regulations to address climate change.
The change follows complaints from industry lobbyists that the calculation, revised in May, exaggerated the potential costs of rising seas and droughts from climate change to justify regulations that would impose a high up-front cost for manufacturers and the energy sector.
“We will continue to work to refine these estimates to ensure that agencies are appropriately measuring the social cost of carbon emissions as they evaluate the costs and benefits of rules,” Howard Shelanski, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House, said in a blog post on Friday announcing the changes.
Shelanski said that outside parties were able to weigh-in on the analysis as part of specific regulations; they will now be given the opportunity to comment specifically on the administration’s carbon-cost estimate.
The administration first set a comprehensive price in 2010, and raised it in May of this year after the economic models it used to set the price changed to account for rising seas and other natural changes. That change in May was slipped into a Department of Energy regulation of microwave ovens, a move criticized by Republicans in Congress.
With the latest adjustment, the estimate was lowered by $1 to $37 a ton of carbon dioxide after those models were tweaked again, Shelanski said. The initial calculation in 2010 put it at $23.80 a ton.
With the analysis, government actions that cut emissions, such as new mileage standards or cars or standards for commercial freezers, will appear more valuable in cost-benefit analyses, which Shelanski’s office uses in evaluating regulatory actions.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute and other business groups asked the White House in September to scrap the social cost of carbon analysis, arguing that it was developed in secret and failed to adhere to the openness pledged by Obama.
Republicans in Congress have also attacked the analysis, and today Louisiana U.S. Senator David Vitter sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, pressing her on what role her agency had in developing the social cost of carbon.
“As you are aware, the climate has always and will always be changing,” he wrote.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at email@example.com