Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review This

As some of you may have seen on our sister site Act Green yesterday, CBS's Declan "I Don't Know My Own Job Title" McCullagh trumpeted the Competitive Enterprise Institute for their "analysis" of months-old documents from the Obama Adminstration. Of course, their fuzzy math resulted in numbers that would make Chicken Little blush, and had little to no basis in reality. LCV's own Navin Nayak put it most succinctly (via POLITICO):
The League of Conservation Voters' Navin Nayak points out to me that the documents are a bit less than meets the eye: They refer to a version of the legislation profoundly different than the one that passed. Specifically, the original White House plan had 100% of emissions permits being distributed by auction; the plan that passed has just 15%. "Can you say 'irrelevant analysis'? It would be like pricing the health care bills currently in front of Congress based on a single-payer system," he writes.

He also notes that the revenue comes directly from polluters, not taxpayers, and continues (and I'm quoting him at length because my original post was sloppy):

"Why not use the CBO analysis of the house bill? Republicans seem more than happy to use CBO when it helps their case (i.e. Against some of the health care bills). But CBO said that ACES would only cost a postage stamp a day per household...in 2020."
Within that piece, the Treasury Department responds, labeling the study "flat out wrong."

In a shocking turn of events, the National Review, lacking a legitimate counterargument that the CBS piece was irrelevant, went on the attack against LCV. Specifically:
Well, CEI never said that the documents refer to the cost of cap and trade as it passed the House (for the record, the 15% is a bait-and-switch payoff to industry, with the percentage moving to 100% over a number of years), but the figure accurately reflects the likely cost of the president's proposal, which is, amazingly enough, also the actual position of none other than the League of Conservation Voters:

By embracing a mandatory cap-and-trade program, the Obama energy plan would provide incentives to cut production of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming. In addition, because this program is a 100% auction, this system will generate significant revenues for reinvestment in job-creating, clean energy industries.

So what's going on here? Is the LCV now fully behind the 15% plan? Or is it annoyed that it has been established that its favored 100% plan is actually just as expensive as everyone now realizes it is?
Well let's take a stab at that, shall we?

As you seem to freely admit, a 100% auction will happen during the course of the House-passed bill following an interim transition. And, for the sake of argument, let's say that the 100% auction generates the upper bound of revenue at $200 billion that the Obama documents stipulate.

The math of CEI concludes that $200 billion in the program's revenue equals $1,761 in taxes per year per American household. Note that the number $1,761 does not appear in the obtained documents. So how did CEI come up with that number? By averaging the potential revenue by the number of households in the United States.

Does that seem unsophisticated? Perhaps, even (gasp) inaccurate?

That's because it is.

Let's jump straight to the major flaw in CEI's math. A carbon cap program is designed to, well, how do we put this, cap carbon from large carbon emitters. How does it do that? By charging said emitters for their carbon output. Do you know who doesn't emit giant amounts of carbon? That's right, the average (or any) American household.

The revenue raised in a cap and trade program comes exclusively from coal plants, oil refineries and the like, to shift the cost (both in cleanup and in health effects) of carbon from the taxpayer you purport to protect, to the industries responsible.

Instead, CEI that would assume that all the revenue generated would come from every taxpayer, not carbon emitting industries.

In addition, CEI assumes all revenue from a carbon cap program would, in the words of a particularly insightful colleague, be piled on the White House lawn and burned. The funny thing about money is that once you have it, you can spend it, on say, things like consumer protection. Or investments in renewable technology and energy efficiency, which save electricity and thus household costs. Both of which are focal points of the House-passed bill, and, because you all choose to focus on it, is also a linchpin of the Obama plan:
Fifteen billion dollars of the money generated would be directed to clean-energy projects, the Post said, citing sources familiar with the document.

Another 60 billion would go to tax credits for lower- and middle-income working families, and the rest to help families, small businesses and communities deal with higher energy costs, the paper reported.
So, yes, LCV still advocates a 100% auction. And yes, the House plan we supported would auction nearly all the allowances. And no, our positions aren't conflicting at all. We, unlike others, have the benefit of working from sound math and science. Math that stipulates that the costs to the consumer are marginal (like here and here and here), and that doesn't even begin to tally in counterbalancing cost savings from the efficiency standard. And science that stipulates that global warming is real - I hear they don't just give these things out, either.

Which segues nicely, finally, to a rebuttal your last, so eloquently made point:
(BTW, I'm guessing the LCV's response: EXXXXOOOONNNNNNN!!!!)
Well, as you can see, Exxon doesn't come into play too much here. But they are absolutely relevant when they fund faulty studies, have the coffers to outspend everyone, and bankroll institutions entirely devoted to denying global warming. Oh, and then lie about it. Because it's much easier to say one thing (with pretty greenwashing commercials) and do another (advocate against any plan that will price carbon, lest you lose some of your historic record profits) than to have values.  Values that could include saving our planet from the catastrophic affects of global warming, much of it due to their irresponsible behavior and refusal to be held accountable for it.

So far be it for the Exxon Collection Institute to defend them, right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blowing away the hot air

The Institute for Energy Research just used a recent report to refute the positive effects of wind energy in Denmark, as it relates to the U.S. Evidently all the wind they don't think exists blew some of the pages off the writer's desk. Then again, the truth seems secondary to this group, so it isn't far fetched to assume they just ignored them.

Either way, reality escaped them, as evidenced here:
“In the case of Denmark,” added Pyle, “you have a nation of 5.4 million, occupying some of the most wind-intense real estate in the world, whose citizens are forced to pay the highest electricity rates in Europe — and it still doesn’t even come close to the 20 percent threshold envisioned by President Obama for the United States.”
Cut from that clip is some pretty out-there "smoke and mirrors" rhetoric. Because seriously, it's is just that. Two different groups have already responded with why it's completely false and why IER probably knew it and repeated it anyway.

From the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):
How does IER twist these numbers to claim that Denmark only produces 5% of its electricity from wind? By not counting any electricity that ever flows across the country’s borders, even if an equal amount of electricity is then transferred back to Denmark. By the same logic, if a person deposited five $20 bills at a bank one day and came back the next day and withdrew five different $20 bills, IER would claim that the money the person received was not actually his or hers.
And those high rates? Well...it helps to have been paying the highest rates in Europe long before wind energy came along:
We learn on page 2 of the IER-commissioned report that “Taxes and charges on electricity for Danish household consumers make their electricity by far the most expensive in the European Union.” Also, a closer look at historical electricity prices in Denmark clearly shows that, adjusting for inflation, the price of electricity increased drastically in the early 1980's and has fairly consistently remained at that level ever since. Because wind energy did not become a significant part of Denmark's generation mix until the late 1990's, it would be difficult to blame wind energy for Denmark's high electricity prices.
So, again, we have another group blatantly lying about clean energy. Wonder why? Couldn't be an association with Koch Industries...
it is well worth knowing that both IER and CEPOS are tied to polluter funding. IER is run by former Koch Industries and Petroluem Refiners lobbyist Thomas Pyle. And IER has recieved $150,000 from the Charles and David Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation since 2006.

CEPOS, the originator of the study, was also awarded a $100,000 grant from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which in turn received funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
That is the same Koch Industries founded by one of the biggest oil tycoons ever and that made almost $100 billion in 2008 refining oil. Koch, the largest private company in the United States, has already spent more the $5.5 million lobbying against clean energy this year.

Whew...guess that argument got blown up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Inhofe Fears Zombie Clean Energy & Climate Bill

Senator James Inhofe (OK) may want to invest in a nightlight during this fall's Senate debate to stave off his greatest nightmare: bipartisan support for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.

The infamous climate change denier originally told Tulsa World that the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act was “dead in the water” when it came to Senate passage.

Well it seems that he now believes that the chances of passing climate legislation in the Senate may well rise up from the dead just in time for Halloween, stating that “anyone who believes cap-and-trade is dead and buried—it is very much alive.”

What could possibly strike fear into the heart of the typically self-assured Senator? Perhaps the fact that support for climate action falls well beyond the environmental community: public polling proves it and a wide range of groups, from veteran groups to businesses to labor, are calling for the passage of clean energy legislation.

Though we’re willing to bet he’ll blame it on the zombie mob.

Santorum's Refuge from Consistency

Apparently, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum doesn't mean things when he says them.

This morning, on a conference call in which he was supposed to be taking aim at former GOP colleague Sen. Arlen Specter, Santorum decided to speak up about a parliamentary procedure that may be used to pass healthcare reform legislation in the off chance it fails to win Republican support. Unsurprisingly, Santorum thinks it would be an awful, terrible abuse of power for Democrats to go that route.

Which is why he might have regretted inviting Politico's Ben Smith to the call. Smith noted that Santorum repeatedly supported reconciliation in 2003 for the Bush tax cuts and again in 2006 when he was pushing hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling.

On the call, Santorum defended his flip-flop, arguing that the ANWR issue wasn't a big deal, so the expectation of reasonable logic and consistency should be applied to anything he did during that debate:
Santorum called ANWR drilling "fairly minor" in its impact on the land and on the economy.

"You're talking about drilling holes, as opposed to rejiggering and reconstructing the entire health care system of this country," the former Pennsylvania senator said. "This is a major policy initiative."
Except that in explaining his first flip, he simply flopped again. ANWR is "fairly minor," you say? Then you must have been wrong when you told the AP in 2006 that it would play a "significant role" in reshaping U.S. energy policy.

Keep diggin' (or drillin'), Senator Santorum...

Oh, and did we mention Rick Santorum is thinking of running for president?

Monday, September 14, 2009

ACCCE Members Behaving Badly: Peabody Energy


What's in a name?

When you're the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), quite a bit: the name of your organization is designed to convey that coal - despite a slew of research that suggests otherwise - can somehow be mined, burned and disposed of in a way that's clean.

Well, we're guessing the press folks at ACCCE and member company Peabody Energy are having one heck of a day after this piece dropped in the New York Times:
Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water [see photo, above right] in her home near Charleston, W.Va.

In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.

Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.
The culprit? Coal. According to reports that the companies themselves have been submitting, polluters have violated the Clean Water Act more than half a million times in the past five years alone.

One of the biggest offenders has been Peabody Energy, a member of the ACCCE and the world's largest coal conglomerate. More from the Times article:
In the eight miles surrounding Mrs. Hall-Massey’s home, coal companies have injected more than 1.9 billion gallons of coal slurry and sludge into the ground since 2004, according to a review of thousands of state records. Millions more gallons have been dumped into lagoons. 

These underground injections have contained chemicals at concentrations that pose serious health risks, and thousands of injections have violated state regulations and the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to reports sent to the state by companies themselves.

For instance, three coal companies — Loadout, Remington Coal and Pine Ridge, a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world — reported to state officials that 93 percent of the waste they injected near this community had illegal concentrations of chemicals including arsenic, lead, chromium, beryllium or nickel.
So let's get this straight: at the very same time as you are claiming "clean" coal is the future of American energy, you're emitting so many pollutants into America's drinking water that it burns human skin on contact? Not to mention the continuing Congressional investigation into your forgery of letters from veterans, senior citizens and minority groups opposing clean energy and climate legislation?

Let's just say that the term 'discredited' would be an understatement.

If you have a few free minutes, the whole Times piece is worth a read.