Never underestimate the sneakiness when you’re dealing with The Most Transparent Administration, Evah‘s tortured internal conflict between pretending to heed the voices calling for pragmatic economic growth and appeasing the vociferous green interests nipping at their heels. The Obama administration just threw a major bone to said interests with a reevaluation that’s going to come in particularly handy in producing very official- and serious-sounding studies and reports, but it was carried out in a very quiet maneuver that I’m sure they’re hoping will pass by the public eye generally unnoticed.

The Obama administration uses their “social cost of carbon” estimate as a tool to price out how environmentally costly they think proposed regulations are going to be, and they just significantly ramped up that price — and buried the move in a small rule about microwave ovens. Via Bloomberg:

The increase of the so-called social cost of carbon, to $38 a metric ton in 2015 from $23.80, adjusts the calculation the government uses to weigh costs and benefits of proposed regulations. The figure is meant to approximate losses from global warming such as flood damage and diminished crops. …

With the change, government actions that lead to cuts in emissions — anything from new mileage standards to clean-energy loans — will appear more valuable in its cost-benefit analyses. On the flip side, environmentalists urge that it be used to judge projects that could lead to more carbon pollution, such as TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone pipeline or coal-mining by companies such as Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU) on public lands, which would be viewed as more costly….

Even supporters questioned the way the administration slipped the policy out without first opening it for public comment. The change was buried in an afternoon announcement on May 31 about efficiency standards for microwave ovens, a rule not seen as groundbreaking.

“This is a very strange way to make policy about something this important,” Frank Ackerman, an economist at Tufts University who published a book about the economics of global warming, said in an interview. The Obama administration “hasn’t always leveled with us about what is happening behind closed doors.”

No kidding. This is going to be a very useful mechanism for Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and etcetera in justifying the economic costs of their many rules and regulations — and boy oh boy, does the EPA have big plans for us. It really is much better for them if, all of a sudden, their impact studies concerning their many zealous ideas for reshaping our energy sector start to sound ever so much worse — and heck, why should the public need to know the real reason why? It’s all for their own good, after all.