The Obama plan, he said, prevented the construction of new plants and led to the closing of existing plants. The Trump rule, by contrast, “is going to reduce emissions while not immediately putting an end to our industry,” he said.
Scientific and environmental organizations, though, maintain that the Trump rule could actually cause emissions to rise compared with what the Clean Power Plan would have done and that the Trump rule would be only slightly better than doing nothing at all.
That’s in large part because of a phenomenon known as the emissions rebound effect. While plants that make efficiency improvements like those suggested under the Trump plan will become slightly cleaner, those improvements will generally allow them to operate longer, too. The overall effect is to increase the amount of emissions generated over the lifetime of a particular plant.
According to a joint study produced last year by Harvard University, Syracuse University and Resources for the Future, a research organization, 18 states and the District of Columbia would see higher greenhouse emissions from the Trump rule. In 19 states, pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions would rise.
According to an early Trump administration analysis of its own plan, it also would lead to hundreds more premature deaths and hospitalizations because of that increased air pollution.
“No matter how you slice it, this is a dramatic entrenchment,” Ms. Freeman said. “It’s not just that they’re doing very small, modest steps to reduce emissions. It’s that they’re not creating momentum to substitute renewables and substitute natural gas for coal. That’s what the Obama rule was doing, and it had a long-term view to bigger emission cuts over time.”
Mr. Wheeler, in his recent speech at the National Press Club, pushed back against the perception that the Trump administration was disregarding the threat posed by rising emissions.
“We are addressing climate change,” Mr. Wheeler said, adding, “We take climate change seriously and we are implementing the laws that Congress has given us.”
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