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Fact-Checking Kay

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Updated

It seems Sen. Hutchison is giving Rick Perry a run for his money when it comes to dubious claims about climate change legislation.

At a stop in Big Spring on Monday, Kay railed against cap and trade, warning that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would wreck the Texas economy, raise prices, and cause massive job losses. Sounds familiar.

The volume of distortions, screwy statistics and faulty logic in her remarks (as thoroughly reported by the Big Spring Herald) is dizzying. Let’s start with one of her sweeping claims.

Even the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) administrator says it will do nothing to stop the global emissions, and wouldn’t even help the environment because no other country is doing this.

I’ve asked the Hutchison campaign to clarify her remarks here. I don’t know if she is referring to something EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said.

In any case, the whole point of Waxman-Markey is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate climate change. No one has ever claimed that a congressional cap-and-trade effort would “stop the global emissions.”

That’s a red herring, plain and simple.

The core of Waxman-Markey is a cap on domestic greenhouse gasses: a 17 percent reduction by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Truth be told, this is probably far from enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Still, it’s better than nothing and almost certainly will have some positive effect on the environment.

Hutchison also claims that “no other country is doing this.” Doing what? I don’t know but I’ve asked the KBH campaign to clarify what she meant. Presumably, Hutchison is implying that other nations aren’t tackling climate change.

Wrong.

Many countries have been begging the U.S. to take action for at least two decades, most recently at the UN meeting last week. Does anyone recall the Kyoto Protocol?

Even right-wingers in Europe are pushing for immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Some are already well on their way.

Sweden, for example, imposed a carbon tax in 1991, which has, along with other programs, resulted in a 10 percent cut in C02 emissions (from 1990 levels) despite a 50 percent economic growth rate.

The main thrust of Hutchison’s comments, though, dealt with the economic impacts of cap-and-trade. Let’s zoom in on some of her specific assertions.

“It will be especially hard on Texas,” she said. “The estimates the [Texas] Comptroller has put out are Texas could lose as few as 170,000 jobs and as many as 470,000 jobs because this bill would do so much to raise the price of everything.”

The comptroller study to which she’s referring has become the go-to source for Texas conservatives looking to sprinkle their climate fear-mongering with statistics. But consider the source. The report’s primary author is Dr. Michelle Foss, the Chief Energy Economist for UT’s Center for Energy Economics.

Sounds pretty academic, right? Not really. Foss has a PhD in political science, not economics. She co-owns a coal seam gas company and has worked for Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips, and many other oil/gas companies and utilitiies. She’s also presented at climate change denial conferences. In short, Foss is not a dispassionate analyst.

Not surprisingly, the assumptions used in Foss’s analysis of Waxman-Markey’s economic effects come, in part, from another sketchy analysis by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, an offshoot of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a recipient of funding from Exxon-Mobil.

Hilariously, the peer-review for Foss’s study comes from the climate-denying, Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation, the Exxon-funded American Center for Capital Formation and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Recall that the primary “think tank/academic” presenters at the recent “Cap and Trade Summit” were… drum roll… Michelle Foss, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Center for Capital Formation. These folks must see a lot of each other on the climate-bashing circuit.

The most glaring flaw in Foss’s jobs analysis is that she didn’t include any of the jobs created by Waxman-Markey. As stated on page 5 of the report:

These model results do not incorporate any assumptions of specific benefits for Texas associated with ACESA. For instance, CEE and CPA did not attempt to capture job creation and economic output associated with growth in industries, such as those associated with renewable energy technologies.

Ironically, a wind company just installed one of the largest wind farms in the nation near Big Spring, a beneficiary no doubt of federal and state rewewable energy policies.

Another Hutchison claim:

It’s estimated your home electricity bill will go up 90 percent because of this legislation. So every family is going to have higher costs, as well, for all of the energy they use.

Once again, I’ve asked the Hutchison campaign to provide a citation for this statistic. It certainly doesn’t square with studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the EPA.

The most recent EPA analysis (yes, I’ve read it) found that the average household would see their costs rise $80 to $111, or about 48 cents per day. Consumer spending on utility bills will be 7 percent lower by 2020 due to energy efficiency measures in the bill, according to EPA.

Other economists have estimated the economic benefits of the bill to likely exceed the costs by as much as nine-to-one.

But, whatever. When it comes to climate change, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Kay and Rick. Both prefer to do nothing.

 

Update: I received a response from Courtney Sanders, a spokesperson in Hutchison’s Senate office. I had asked Sanders to provide clarifications for her factual assertions (see above) and to answer whether she agrees with Perry that climate change isn’t caused by human activity.

The entirety of the response is as follows:

Forrest – check out these two sites. They should clarify.

Thanks!

CS

http://www.heritage.org/research/energyandenvironment/wm2450.cfm   

http://tinyurl.com/ydglpg4

I’m still trying to get Hutchison’s office to respond to my question regarding her stance on the facticity of climate change.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.