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Federal regulators open for comment on social cost of carbon estimates

by Paul Monies Published: November 27, 2013

An attempt to quantify the regulatory costs of increased carbon dioxide emissions is open for public comment after an outcry in the summer by some Republicans that the Obama administration was trying to push through new estimates for the social cost of carbon.

The Office of Management and Budget opened a 60-day comment period Tuesday for the methodology of the new estimates, which were originally tacked onto updated microwave efficiency standards in June.

The new estimates range from $12 to $128 per ton of additional carbon dioxide emissions. The prior version, from 2010, had a range between $7 and $81 per ton of carbon dioxide.

The social cost of carbon is supposed to estimate changes in agricultural production, human health, property damage of increased flood risk from melting ice and other risks from climate change. The estimates previously were used to measure the costs and benefits of regulations such as fuel-efficiency standards from the U.S. Department of Transportation and boiler-efficiency standards from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Obama administration said it updated the 2010 estimates to reflect changes in three different economic models used to figure the social cost of carbon. The models were peer-reviewed and already in use by companies and other countries. The Office of Management and Budget concedes that the social cost of carbon is an imperfect estimate because it's based on long-term assumptions that may change with better data.

“We will continue to refine the SCC (social cost of carbon) estimates to ensure that agencies are appropriately measuring the social cost of carbon emissions as they evaluate the costs and benefits of rules,” said Tuesday's notice in the Federal Register.

In an August forum on federal environmental regulations in Oklahoma City, U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, blasted the updated federal estimates for the social cost of carbon.

“The social cost of carbon may seem like a nebulous little piece, but it's incredibly significant to us,” Lankford said at the forum. “It is the amount that the administration says if a new ‘something' is done, you have to figure out how much carbon that will put into the environment and then determine what the total cost to the nation will be for that additional carbon.”

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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