Rabe weighs in on rapidly evolving climate issues

March 22, 2024

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out final regulations that will accelerate the transition to more climate-friendly vehicles over the next decade. The EPA also continues to finalize plans for the electricity sector and methane emissions from oil and gas production. This includes the implementation of new regulations, as well as the world’s first methane fee and emissions measurement system.

Barry Rabe, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy, has been widely quoted in the media about rapidly evolving climate issues, methane mitigation, and the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. These discussions build on his award-winning 2020 book Trump, the Administrative Presidency, and Federalism on the political and legal challenges involved in attempting to advance American policy solely through executive action.

Over the past several months, Rabe also advised federal officials implementing the methane fee and recently spoke on these issues at conferences at the Niskanen Center, the Brookings Institution, the Environmental Law Institute, and the State Climate Policy Exchange.

Here are highlights from recent media:

Inside the Republican Attacks on Electric Vehicles, The New York Times, March 21, 2024

Speaking on political rhetoric around electric vehicles, Rabe said, “When you get into personal vehicles, you’re touching a huge portion of the United States. The majority of Americans have little or no familiarity with E.V.s. When you get into the question of what you drive, how you drive, how reliable it is, and what it signifies about your identity — that’s where the culture wars come in.”

Innovative solutions will be necessary to reduce methane emissions, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, experts say, ABC News, March 19, 2024

Discussing the environmental and economic damage of methane emissions, Rabe explained,  "If you vent or flare it into the atmosphere, you are losing the economic value," he said. "...If you capture that gas, you can actually use it and sell it as energy rather than just simply waste it."

Comparing the U.S. to other countries, he said, “Norway, the largest producer of oil and gas for most of the European Union, has put tight restrictions on venting and flaring of methane, combining regulations with taxes and methane loss. Other nations, like Canada and Saudi Arabia, are moving in that direction as well.”

“Additionally, under the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. will develop an entirely updated measurement system for the reporting and gathering of methane data, and will use that to impose a financial penalty on low-performing oil and gas production where methane releases are high,” Rabe said.

Biden Administration Is Said to Slow Early Stage of Shift to Electric Cars, The New York Times, February 17, 2024

Referring to Mr. Trump’s focus on electric vehicle anxiety in auto-making states, Rabe noted, “Trump has been very effective previously at using wedge issues, whenever he comes to the state, this comes up. And this is not abstract in Michigan, it’s a real question. ‘What plant am I going to be working in?’”

Biden Pauses Approvals for LNG Exports Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2024.

Speaking about younger voters concerned about climate change, Rabe noted that while it’s likely they wouldn’t vote for Trump, Biden couldn’t afford to see them stay at home come Election Day. “Especially in a close election, every variable is potentially relevant, including turnout,” he said.

Addressing short-lived climate pollutants after COP28 | Brookings. January 23, 2024.

Rabe’s commentary analyzed the American and global developments for all sources of methane and other short-lived climate pollutants in the aftermath of the COP28 summit.

“Short-lived climate pollutants collectively achieved unprecedented saliency at COP28, while actual policy development and performance continues to vary enormously by contaminant type and source. Accelerating advances in cooling and oil and gas sectors appears likely to continue to be offset by far more modest steps in the coal, waste, and agriculture sectors, with more robust policy engagement remaining a missed opportunity for achieving near-term climate protection.”

To Price or Not to Price? Wilson Center, January 2024.

Expanding carbon pricing efforts in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada have raised the question of whether nations with significant carbon prices and strong carbon emission reduction efforts would impose carbon tariffs on nations without pricing and weaker records. Rabe and co-author Brendan Boyd (MacEwan University) examined Canada’s commitment to its nationwide carbon pricing mechanism that it adopted in 2018. This paper builds on Rabe's 2023 essay, Carbon Pricing Enters Middle Age, an update of his 2018 book on the politics of carbon pricing.

“Squaring its avowed climate leadership aspirations with its actual emissions will require Canada to maintain some consequential form of domestic carbon pricing alongside significant complementary policies. … Ironically, Canada’s possible shift away from pricing could further underscore North American political challenges in utilizing this core climate policy tool, despite its expanding role in Europe and Asia.”