Gingrich lies to Congress about climate legislation

Posted on April 25, 2009


newtS&R has been following Newt Gingrich’s lies about energy and climate since last year when he pushed the “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” lie in response to last summer’s oil price woes. On Friday, Gingrich appeared as a minority witness, on a panel all by himself, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee – Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment hearings on the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES). S&R has reviewed Gingrich’s prepared remarks for today’s hearing and has determined that Gingrich is still up to his old tricks of lying to Congress and the American people.

What follows is a series of key quotes from Gingrich’s prepared remarks that illustrate his deceptions.

Gingrich’s claimOur current energy import strategy is entirely a function of our own government’s anti- domestic energy policies. The United States government blocks the development of new energy sources and inhibits the use of existing energy and then explains that we will have a shortage of energy. It is an artificial, government imposed shortage not a naturally occurring phenomenon.

This is a gross distortion of reality. Our import strategy is mostly a function of the capitalistic nature of our oil industry, not of domestic energy policy. When oil prices were high, the oil industry lobbied hard (and largely successfully) for drilling subsidies and the opening of the outer continental shelf (OCS). But now that oil prices have fallen well off their peak, oil companies are stopping their domestic drilling in order to focus on more profitable foreign sources.

Put simply, oil companies and low oil prices are the reason that there’s not much domestic energy production.

Gingrich’s claim Make no mistake about it: This bill amounts to a $1-2 trillion energy tax levied on a struggling economy, which is destructive and wrong.

Carbon capitalism is not a tax. Gingrich is repeating a GOP talking-point that declares capitalism is taxation in the hopes of scaring people into believing that black is white and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

In addition, Gingrich didn’t even read the entire Waxman-Markey bill and admits to that fact before even starting to read his written testimony (The statement is at about 2 minutes in the CSpan video of Gingrich’s testimony. He stopped at around page 230 of a 600+ page legislative draft – when the portion about carbon capitalism starts on page 322.

Gingrich’s claim [E]xpect utility bill increases up to $3,128 per year per household.

This is a lie for a number of reasons. The most important is that the MIT study from which this wrong number was calculated was conducted in 2007, and paper author Dr. John Reilly has not updated the conclusions for the details of of the Waxman-Markey ACES draft legislation that Gingrich was testifying about. Furthermore, Dr. Reilly had the following to say at Climate Progress: “it is inappropriate to draw conclusions on the costs of Waxman-Markey.” After all, ACES has a number of cost-containment provisions specifically designed to prevent revenue gained from carbon capitalism such as offsets, public investment in energy efficiency, and an unreasonably low estimate of fuel prices for 2030 between $2.10 and $2.40, while the EIA estimated in it’s 2007 Annual Energy Outlook that gasoline prices would be $3.20 in 2030.

It also doesn’t help that the wrong GOP number would only be correct if you turned all that money into a giant bonfire.

Using an out-of-date study to tarnish current legislation is a misrepresentation of the MIT study at best, and an attempt to mislead Congress and the American people at worst.

Gingrich’s claim According to the Heritage Foundation, the cost of cap-and-trade, with even only a small percentage of allocations being auctioned, would be $1.9 trillion.

While Gingrich is accurately reporting what the Heritage Foundation’s study found, Heritage has a history of misrepresenting economic data and faulty logic as applied to climate, and as such their analysis cannot be trusted. The EPA has analyzed the carbon capitalism portions of the ACES draft and found that the total cost to the national economy is only $22 billion in 2015 and between $54 and $64 billion in 2030. The increase in household energy cost (excluding gasoline) over a reference projection for “business as usual” is 9%, or approximately $200 per year. In addition, the EPA analysis contains a literature review at the end that points out that the Heritage study doesn’t even define the baseline from which it projects the supposed $1.9 trillion, making the results of the analysis and the underlying assumptions impossible to verify.

Gingrich’s claim In a recent paper for the Tax Foundation, Andrew Chamberlain concludes that the costs of this energy tax would be “disproportionately borne by low-income households, those under age 25 and over 75 years, those in Southern states, and single parents with dependent children.”

The effects of energy price increases on struggling households would be a serious concern if it weren’t for one very important fact: everyone who studies carbon capitalism is aware of this problem and so writing legislation and/or regulations to correct for the disparity will actually be quite simple. In other words, this is a non-issue and an attempt at fear mongering.

Gingrich’s claim A recent estimate from the Tax Foundation shows that cap-and-trade could cost America 965,000 jobs, and reduce economic output by $136 billion per year.

This isn’t a false claim by Gingrich so much as it’s a false claim by the Tax Foundation repeated by Gingrich. However, economist Kristen Sheeran, Ph.D., of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, has addressed this directly: “[The Tax Foundation] report assumes that in a cap-and-trade system, there are no carbon revenues recycled back to households to offset the impacts of higher energy prices…. [A] cap-and-trade system where all permits are auctioned will generate a revenue stream that can be recycled back to households in these ways. This is well established in the literature, and the Tax Foundation report makes no reference to this literature at all.” (quote via 1Sky).

Gingrich’s claim The United States government failed to regulate Wall Street correctly, and the result has been trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to clean up the mess that politicians and bureaucrats created.

The U.S. government did fail to regulate Wall Street properly, but to claim that “politicians and bureaucrats” created the problem is a lie. In fact, a number of economists suggest that one of the men most directly responsible for regulatory failures of Wall Street was former GOP Senator Phil Gramm, author of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 that overturned many of the financial regulations that had maintained financial stability since 1933.

Gingrich’s claim Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were charged with managing mortgages, and in 2008 we saw a collapse of the United States housing market.

This is a lie that the GOP has stated repeatedly – and that S&R has exposed repeatedly. See the links for a more detailed deconstruction of the lie itself, but put simply, deregulation of the financial system was the cause of the housing market bubble and subsequent meltdown, not the number of mortgages insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and economic data supports this conclusion.

Gingrich’s claim The first good thing in it is a provision that restricts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon, which the EPA is currently positioning itself to do. This would be a power grab of staggering proportions….

This is a lie. The Supreme Court of the United States decided on April 2, 2007 in Massachussets et al v. Environmental Protection Agency et al that the “EPA has statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases” due to the the fact that the definition “includes ‘any air pollution agent … , including any physical, chemical, … substance … emitted into … the ambient air … ,’ §7602(g) (emphasis added)—embraces all airborne compounds of whatever stripe. Moreover, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are undoubtedly ‘physical [and] chemical … substance[s].'”

In addition, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the EPA could choose not to regulate: “Under the [Clean Air] Act’s clear terms, EPA can avoid promulgating regulations only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.”

In other words, the EPA not only has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), the Clean Air Act requires that the EPA regulate GHGs if they’re a public health hazard via the effects of climate disruption. When Congress requires that the EPA act on a pollutant, then it’s false to claim that following the law is a “power grab of staggering proportions.”

Gingrich’s claim Before anyone gives the Department of Energy sweeping new powers they should consider the absolute failure of the Department of Energy to keep its 2003 commitment to build an innovative “green coal” pilot project [FutureGen] by 2008.

The FutureGen program was canceled in 2008 by the Department of Energy (DoE). However, it’s interesting to point out that the failure Gingrich is complaining about happened under President George W. Bush. Painting the Obama Administration’s DoE with the same brush as the Bush era DoE is inaccurate at best.

Newt Gingrich was also caught in a bind by Representative Inslee when the latter pointed out that only two years ago, Gingrich had been a strong proponent of cap-and-trade:

Media Matters also has some interesting quotes further supporting Inslee’s point.

In his testimony before Congress, Newt Gingrich did what he always does – distorted facts, manipulated data, proved himself a hypocrite, and outright lied. If this was the best that the minority of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment could do, then the draft version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is well on its way to becoming part of the U.S. Code.

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