Monday, October 11, 2010

Lignite Council afraid of becoming the Buggy Whip Council

Several days back there was a letter in the Herald from Lee Murdock questioning the scare tactics being employed by industry groups to try to convince people that a comprehensive energy policy that includes limiting greenhouse gas emissions is a mortal threat. Most notable was the claim that the Lignite Energy Council (LEC) informed legislative candidates who signed a "comprehensive clean energy petition" that the council's financial support for them would be withdrawn.

I did not find any more about this story so I mentally just filed it away as another piece of anecdotal evidence of the gangster-like behavior exhibited so much by the fossil fuel industry when the issue of clean and sustainable energy comes up. But today we got a letter in the Herald from Sandi Tabor, one of the LEC lobbying bigwigs, trying to drum back up the same scare tactics Murdock questioned. In it we get more of the classic "your money and climate or else" attempted stick-up.

The crowbar Tabor tries to yield in her letter is "[a] study of the comprehensive climate change bill passed in 2009 by one house of Congress (the Waxman-Markey bill, H.R. 2454)". With a little digging it is not hard to find details about this one study the LEC wants to use to justify continued unfettered pollution. The "study" (and I use that term loosely) was from long-time opponents of a stable climate the American Council on Capital Formation (ACCF) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

That ACCF link has a couple links that highlight some of the issues with the claims of this cited "study". Basically the "study" was ACCF & NAM picking some assumptions they liked and having those fed into an economic computer model. There are red flags to be raised over that alone, but I want to skip to how the report gives a distorted and incomplete picture even when ACCF & NAM put their thumb on the scales.

Tabor tries to sell that energy prices will increase such that it would "decrease the disposable household income for North Dakota citizens, somewhere between $762 to $1,252 a year." What is left unmentioned is that this decrease is not realized until 2030, and it is not a net decrease but rather just a relative decrease. By 2030 the GDP and personal income will both increase, and even their most extreme case says US GDP and average personal income would increase by "only" about 95% of what they would without a cap-and-trade system (pdf link).

Remember, that loss of about 5% of the increase is only with the effort to pump up the costs and ignoring benefits from limiting greenhouse gas emissions. With more impartial examination than by business lobbying groups like ACCF & NAM, the costs are much less and actually include many financial benefits. And of course you can never expect these groups like the LEC to note the costs of avoiding a shift to clean, sustainable energy. The LEC is another believer in the fantasy world that water supplies, agriculture, etc will not suffer from climate change.

Tabor engages in some classic concern trolling, but clearly the LEC cares only about what is good for the LEC. They take climate change only seriously enough to stick their hand out to ask for more money for carbon sequestration research. The only "catastrophic consequences for North Dakota" the LEC shows any indication of wanting to avoid are loss of stature of the coal industry. To them, someone going from working getting coal out of the ground to building wind turbines or working on sustainable biofuels is simply a lost job. Of course coal jobs lost to automation are just efficiency and making the product cheaper for consumers, but that is neither here nor there.

The LEC wants you to believe we cannot get by unless they are fat and happy, even if that means polluting the present and mortgaging the future. They fear the realization that there can be a different and better way that does not leave them fat and happy. So into the path of progress they throw whatever junk they can, which is usually threats of how costly that progress supposedly would be. The LEC way would have us cling to the past and things like manual telephone exchanges and buggy whips because we could not afford to lose what they provide.

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