Cap-and-trade costs

CAP-AND-TRADE COSTS…. For the better part of the year, conservative critics of energy reform have said a cap-and-trade policy would place too high a burden on American consumers. Republican lawmakers, in particular, insisted that the proposal would, on average, cost the typical American home an additional $3,128 a year. The claim was demonstrably ridiculous. After it was debunked, GOP leaders kept repeating it anyway.

The good news is, the right has largely curtailed use of the $3,128 figure. The bad news is, conservatives have a new number, and it’s wrong, too.

CNN’s Lou Dobbs, for example, said yesterday that “crap-and-trade” — that erudite Dobbs has a way with words — would cost “almost $1,800 a year” per U.S. household. Around the same time, Fox News’ Glenn Beck said there’s proof of this higher cost in Treasury Department memos, but there’s been a “cover-up.” Declan McCullagh, a blogger for CBS News, helped get the media clowns worked up on this, arguing that the administration suppressed reports showing that energy reform would cost consumers “$1,761 a year.”

It appears the House Republican Conference is responsible for creating this lie in the first place, pushing the bogus number on Wednesday. If the right is going to keep using the number, we might as well take a moment to acknowledge reality. And in this case, as Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan Krueger explained yesterday, the $1,761 figure is nonsense.

“The reporting on the Treasury analysis is flat out wrong. Treasury’s analysis is consistent with public analyses by the EIA, EPA, and CBO, and the reporting and blogging on this issue ignores the fact that the revenue raised from emission permits would be returned to consumers under both administration and legislative proposals. It is time for an honest debate about how to solve a long-term challenge and deliver comprehensive energy reform – not for misrepresentations of the facts.”

Media Matters also did some helpful fact-checking.

Numerous conservative media figures have seized on outdated Treasury Department memos obtained September 11 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) to falsely suggest that the Obama administration estimates that cap-and-trade legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would cost up to $200 billion per year or $1,761 per household, and that, in Sean Hannity’s words, “they didn’t tell you the truth.” However, the Treasury memos do not address the current House climate change bill but, rather, a proposal that would auction 100 percent of the emissions allowances; the bill under consideration spends revenue created by the program to offset costs to households and businesses.

The numbers found in the Treasury memos scrutinize a specific proposal — that bears no resemblance to the proposed legislation. The League of Conservation Voters’ Navin Nayak argued this is like “pricing the health care bills currently in front of Congress based on a single-payer system.”

So, if the conservative claims are patently false, what are the actual costs associated with the Democrats’ cap-and-trade proposal? According to the Congressional Budget Office, which Republicans occasionally listens to, the average would be about $175 per household — about the price of a postage stamp per day.

Dobbs, Beck, McCullagh, and the House Republican Conference, in other words, were only off by a factor of 10.