Barry Rabe contributes to New York Times reporting and analysis on greenhouse gas emissions policy

October 3, 2019

“If you look at the whole tweet thread, this is remarkably specific,” said Barry Rabe, professor of public policy at the Ford School, in The New York Times article “Trump Defends Plan to Kill California’s Auto-Emissions Authority”. “It almost moves into policy-wonk territory. If he’s doing this himself, he’s on his policy game.”

During the last week of September, President Trump posted a series of tweets stating his intentions to abolish California’s Federal Waiver on automobile emissions, which would strip California of its authority to set stricter state standards on vehicle emissions, the largest single source of US greenhouse gas pollution. Days later, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, officially announced the revocation. This move aligns with Trump’s larger plan to rollback an Obama-era tailpipe pollution fuel economy mandate for vehicles to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Trump is seeking to amend this plan to a reduced target of 37 miles per gallon.

Although Trump’s tweets use the language of emissions policy, Rabe and other policy experts note that the president’s statements strayed from the facts on several important points: notably, his arguments that the abolishment of California’s waiver would create new jobs and increase highway safety.

Officials in California plan to immediately challenge the EPA’s decision in federal court to block implementation, citing that the state’s waiver is codified in the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970.

Rabe, an expert in environmental policy, also recently joined The New York Times’ “How Do You Fix…All of It?” inaugural DealBook DC Strategy Forum to answer the question, “Can Pricing Carbon Stall Climate Change?” In this task force, Rabe and panel experts joined together to propose two recommendations:

  1. The Federal government should plan to limit greenhouse gases to net zero emissions by no later than 2050, of which carbon pricing is one tool, and

  2. Some portion of revenue from carbon pricing should be directed toward underserved and low-income communities, providing “a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels.”

Rabe’s area of expertise, particularly related to carbon emissions standards and pricing, have become increasingly important in national discourse in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election as a greater share of the electorate see climate change as a salient issue, top Democratic presidential contenders debate their climate change plans, and Trump doubles-down on his efforts to roll back Obama-era climate initiatives.

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy at the Ford School. He is also the Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy and holds courtesy appointments in the Program in the Environment, the Department of Political Science, and the School for Environment and Sustainability. Barry was recently a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and continues to serve as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His research examines climate and energy politics and his newest book, Can We Price Carbon? (MIT Press) was released in spring 2018.