Carbon Cost Transparency: Hunter Moved by Those Microwave Ovens

Photograph by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

A couple looks through a pair of binoculars towards the sunset from the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, California.

California Republican Duncan Hunter has proposed a measure that would force the White House to seek comment on its use of its estimate of the economic costs of climate change in proposed regulations.

The legislation, introduced in the House today, is aimed at preventing the kind of adjustment made by the Obama administration, which raised its so-called social cost of carbon to $38 a metric ton in 2015 from $23.80 as part of little- noticed standards for a kitchen appliance. The administration never solicited formal public comment on the changed calculation, which now applies to rules across the federal government, a fact that drew criticism from environmentalists and Republicans.

“Tucking the latest carbon calculation in a little noticed rule on microwave ovens is suspect to say the least, but how that calculation will be used in a cost-benefit analysis going forward absolutely matters,” Hunter said in a statement today. “This is a process that needs to be more open and transparent, and this bill will do exactly that.”

The social cost of carbon, which was first set by the administration in 2010, is meant to approximate losses from global warming such as flood damage and diminished crops, and is used as the administration weighs the costs and benefits of various regulations. With the change, government actions that lead to cuts in emissions — anything from new mileage standards to clean-energy loans — will appear more valuable in its cost-benefit analyses.

Hunter’s bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to submit to Congress its methods for calculating the costs and benefits of different regulations, and make any such cost-benefit analysis open for public comment. The measure also specifically asks for disclosure of its methods for accounting for the social cost of carbon.


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