Reports by industry groups have warned of dire consequences from pending EPA limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants. In recent weeks, conservative media have promoted and in some cases even overstated these predictions of a "regulatory train wreck." But according to a detailed analysis by the Congressional Research Service, many of these claims rely on unrealistic assumptions.
CRS assessed reports by the Edison Electric Institute, which concluded that new EPA regulations "would cause the unplanned retirement of" up to 18.8 percent of coal fired electric capacity by 2015, and by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which "concluded that the implementation of four EPA rules could result in a loss of up to 19% of fossil-fuel-fired steam capacity" by 2018. CRS concluded (emphasis added):
The EEI and other analyses discussed here generally predate EPA's actual proposals and reflect assumptions about stringency and timing (especially for implementation) that differ significantly from what EPA actually may propose or has promulgated. Some of the rules are expected to be expensive; costs of others are likely to be moderate or limited, or they are unknown at this point because a rule has not yet been proposed. Rules when actually proposed or issued may well differ enough that a plant operator's decision about investing in pollution controls or facility retirement will look entirely different from what these analyses project.
The primary impacts of many of the rules will largely be on coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls. Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants, a development likely to be encouraged in the price of competing fuel--natural gas--continues to be low, almost regardless of EPA rules.
What does Fox News' Senior Vice President of Business News and "real journalis[t]" Neil Cavuto have against the Chevrolet Volt? On his Fox News and Fox Business shows, Cavuto has repeatedly mocked GM's plug-in electric vehicle, dubbing it everything from a "Fred Flintstone car" to "roller skates with a plug":
Cavuto is not the only one at Fox News with strong opinions about electric vehicles. Monica Crowley recently compared electric vehicles to "driving a toaster oven," and Ann Coulter called them "crappy cars." Judith Miller complained that "you can't hear the Volt" and called it "ugly."
Mocking the Volt's low sales numbers in July, Greg Gutfeld said "girl scouts sell more boxes of cookies on a slow month." Gutfeld also called Volt owners "dorks" and likened federal incentives for electric vehicles to "forcing Americans to buy broccoli flavored ice cream."
Using a series of misleading talking points, News Corporation's Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Fox have accused the Obama administration of waging a "war on coal" because the EPA has moved to limit toxic air pollution from power plants. In reality, the EPA is issuing these rules because the Bush administration's regulations were rejected by courts, and the revised rules are expected to have significant public health benefits.
In a Washington Times op-ed pinning this summer's high gas prices on Obama's energy policies, Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner wrote, "If the Obama administration were serious about lowering gasoline prices, it would immediately lift the moratorium it placed on deep-water drilling."
Nevertheless, Feulner suggests that the deep-water moratorium led to higher gas prices by constraining domestic oil production. But as we have reported, data from the Energy Information Administration indicates that domestic oil production actually increased in 2010, and EIA projects that production will increase in 2011 and 2012 as well.
In a recent Washington Times op-ed, John Engler, the President of the Business Roundtable, claims that the EPA's proposed standards for ground-level ozone constitute a "manufactured crisis" that will cost businesses and hinder job growth. Engler questions why stricter standards are necessary, since the Bush administration recently strengthened the standards after "years of scientific review":
Following years of scientific review, public input and legal proceedings, the Bush administration set a new limit of 0.075 parts per million (ppm) in 2008, a reduction from the currently enforced level of 0.084 ppm. Now, before that limit ever went into effect, the EPA is proposing even lower levels, ranging from 0.60 to 0.70 ppm.
This suggests that Bush's ozone standard was based on a "scientific review." But as we previously reported, the Bush administration ignored the "scientific review" that Engler references. The panel of scientists and doctors recommended a standard of between 60-70 ppb (the same level proposed by current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson), and subsequently refused to endorse the Bush administration's chosen standard of 75 ppb because it is not "sufficiently protective of public health."
The Bush administration's failure to follow the advice of its scientific advisors "inevitably raises the question of whether the [EPA] Administrator's decision will be judged arbitrary and capricious in judicial review," according to the Congressional Research Service. Indeed, Bush's standard was immediately challenged in court by states and environmental groups. As Politico reported, "the court agreed to put that litigation on hold" after the Obama administration said it would reconsider the Bush standard.
Promoting an interview with scientist and climate skeptic Roy Spencer, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs claimed last week that Spencer's "new findings throw the entire global warming theory into question." Not to be misunderstood, Dobbs slowed down and repeated the claim: "I said new facts throw the entire global warming theory into question."
Dobbs teased the interview again at the end of his August 2 show, stating: "Debunking climate change -- new evidence from NASA. The whole thing. Well tune in, Al Gore, tomorrow."
But on August 3, Dobbs changed his tune. His interview with Spencer did not address whether global warming is happening or whether humans are contributing to it, but what the "effects" will be. In fact, at the end of the interview, Dobbs concluded: "[T]here's no question about climate change. What there is an issue about is the effect of it primarily, and really not much of a discussion about cause either."
That doesn't mean, however, that the claims made by Dobbs (and Spencer) during the show were actually supported by Spencer's study. Nor did Dobbs bother to mention that many climate scientists have criticized Spencer's methodology and disputed the study's conclusions.
Fox News repeatedly criticized a SpongeBob SquarePants book and video about manmade global warming because "they did not tell kids that that is actually a disputed fact." In reality, it is not controversial among the mainstream scientific community that humans are changing the climate.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Robert James criticized military applications of renewable energy technology, attributing the military's interest in diversifying its energy sources to "fads and political correctness."
The Wall Street Journal characteristically failed to note that James, who was identified by as a retired rear admiral, previously served as a vice president of Mobil Oil Corporation and an economist for the Continental Oil Company. As of September 2010, James was "involved in a wide range of U.S. and foreign investments including oil and gas exploration," according to his Carnegie Council biography.
James declares that rather than continuing its "flirtation with green energy," the military should focus on its primary mission: "defending the nation." But the military sees national security and energy security as inextricably linked. The Pentagon's Operational Energy Strategy emphasizes that transitioning towards renewable energy will enhance the military's effectiveness:
Reducing demand, expanding supply, and building an energy-secure force will mean a military that uses less energy, has more secure energy sources, and has the energy resources it needs to protect the American people.
A Fox & Friends Sunday segment on EPA's proposed ozone standard featured George Jarkesy, a frequent Fox Business guest, who claimed that "everyone expects" EPA regulation "to add as much as a dollar per gallon of gas." Jarkesy also declared that cutting the EPA's budget by one-third "would create 1.2 million private sector jobs in America."
Fox identified Jarkesy as an "energy investor and managing member of John Thomas Capital Management Group." But Fox did not disclose that he also serves on the Board of Directors of America West Resources, a domestic coal mining company, and Radiant Oil and Gas, an oil and gas production company.
From the July 31 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday:
Conservative media are promulgating the myths that higher fuel economy standards are unattainable with current technology, will cost consumers and will increase traffic deaths. In fact, automakers have said they will be able to meet the standards, consumers will net thousands in fuel savings, and safe cars in a variety of sizes will continue to be produced.