The Administration of President Barack Obama, acting through the U.S. Department of Energy, has just raised the so-called “social cost” of carbon emissions by 60 percent — and it did so by quietly piggybacking the change on a routine update to energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens.
Before the Obama-backed rate jump, the government had worked with a dollar value, pegged at $23.80 per metric ton of carbon emissions, to assess the relative costs associated with pollution and benefits of regulations to curb it. Under the new guideline, it’s now $38 per metric ton — a 59.67 percent increase.
The premise of even assigning a dollar value to the effects of carbon emissions’ “social cost” is founded on the theory of global warming, that floods and famines that damage property and disrupt markets are caused by man-made climate change. In other words, it’s government policy to regulate carbon emissions based on the idea that people are heating up the environment — and to exact a price from companies and people for contributing to climate change.
The furtive hike in the theoretical number, according to the Washington Post, “is more than an accounting change”:
Without much fanfare, the Obama administration has increased its estimate of the “social cost of carbon” — its tally of how much harm carbon emissions will cause. In essence, the White House is now saying that global warming will be more damaging than previously estimated, mainly because of new data on the effects of the rise in sea level.
…[T]he actual number used makes a big difference when administration officials tally up the costs and benefits of various regulations.
The Energy Department’s microwave rule offered the first glimpse of this. Under the old social cost of carbon, the microwave standards had an estimated $4.2 billion in benefits over the next 30 years. Under the new carbon numbers, the microwave rule has an estimated $4.6 billion in benefits.
This might sound like nitpicking. But many observers expect the Obama administration to propose a variety of new efficiency standards and pollution rules in the years ahead. So a small tweak could make a big difference.
By driving the “social cost” up, the Obama Administration is essentially stacking the deck in favor of more aggressive Federal laws regulating carbon emissions, while making it much harder for projects like the Keystone pipeline to receive Federal approval.