Lawmakers concerned new carbon metric developed in secret

It gets debated by scientists and economists, he said, which has resulted in the best possible estimation.

“This number is not by any stretch of the imagination generated by a black box,” he told the two legislators, the only ones who attended the hearing.

Lankford did not agree.

“This black box that you say doesn’t exist seems to exist to us,” he said, though Speier shied away from associating herself with the characterization.


The social cost of carbon is used to calculate the potential costs to health, the environment and other factors of carbon emissions.

Last month the administration increased the value by two-thirds in an otherwise uncontroversial rule on the energy efficiency of microwaves.

The members of Congress thought that that could set a pattern to raise the value every few years with little fanfare.

“We’ve got to create some certainty for the business community that’s going to be subject to rules that come down the pike from various federal agencies that will be utilizing the [social cost of carbon] in analysis,” Speier said.

Though the value has been used between 18 and 23 times since a uniform estimate was developed in 2010, it is applied to a number of major regulations to justify whether benefits outweigh the costs.

“The social cost of carbon will affect the cost of electricity at every home and business, the cost of our cars and trucks, the cost to heat our homes, the cost of food and every product that is manufactured and transported in America,” Lankford said.

“This is no simple rule change with little effect. This has especially serious consequences for everyone on a fixed income and anyone with limited resources.”

Shelanski said that though the public did not get a chance to submit comments on the new value for carbon cost, they will be able to weigh in on the resulting rules that use the calculation.

“That leads to more ongoing input,” he said.

But lawmakers were unsatisfied with that response.

Lankford said that the public should weigh in at the beginning of the process instead of midway through.

“It’s the difference between, if I’ve got a problem with hornets in my backyard, trying to kill each hornet one at a time or actually going to the hornets’ nest,” he said.

The hearing on Thursday was the first since Shelanski started work at the little-known but very powerful White House regulatory office, after a swift confirmation in the Senate.

On Wednesday he is scheduled to testify before the House Small Business Committee.