By the middle of last week, respected American environmental lawyers insisted that the policy was doomed. “One has to conclude that five justices have decided that the rule must go,” one of them told me.
And then the makeup of the court suddenly changed. On Saturday, Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s conservative lion and “the most famous judge in the English-speaking world,” died unexpectedly in Texas. Either President Obama or his successor will nominate the next justice.
Now the outlook for the rules seems sunny again. As I wrote this week, a reconfigured Court is more likely to uphold the regulations—unless, that is, a Republican wins the presidential election in November. But a Republican president would halt the EPA rules anyway.
So what are the next steps? In the coming months, we’ll see whether states (including the 29 that sued the Obama administration, prompting the stay) continue to create plans under the Clean Power Plan, even though the EPA will not require them to.
And in the meantime, the United States will keep decarbonizing—if slower than it would otherwise. Two things to read:
The atmosphere is filling with greenhouse gases. For the week beginning on February 7, 2016, the Mauna Loa Observatory measured 403.76 carbon dioxide molecules per million in the atmosphere (ppm).
One year ago this week, it measured CO2 levels at 400.05 ppm. Ten years ago, the Observatory measured levels at 382.43 ppm.
Renewable energy costs are falling quickly, as are oil prices.
Little news on the global renewables front that wasn’t noted above. But fossil fuels, especially oil, continue to fluctuate wildly in price.
Russia and Saudia Arabia, the world’s two largest oil producers, pledged to freeze production going forward at their near-record January levels. Venezuela and Qatar said they would also freeze production. It’s the first collaboration between an OPEC nation and a non-OPEC country in 15 years.
Goldman Sachs worries that oil could fall below $20 per barrel before prices rise, especially if certain oil inventories (that is, physical places on the planet that store crude) literally run out of space to store oil. Lol.
The Obama administration is trying to implement its first major greenhouse-gas-limiting regulations.
But, uh. You read about how that’s going up at the top of this letter. It’s not clear how many states will move forward with their own plans, but the signs aren’t good: Michigan, a party to the EPA suit whose governor also promised to comply with the Clean Power Plan, said it would pause its own efforts. Colorado says it will continue with its plans, but its governor predicts most Western states will wait until the Supreme Court lifts the stay.