MIT Professor tells GOP to stop ˜misrepresenting his work and inflating the cost to families of cap-and-trade by a factor of 10.

Time for the media to call conservatives out for repeatedly exaggerating and distorting the work of MIT — and the cost of climate action in general, which is “one tenth of a penny on the dollar.” In fact, MIT found the costs on lower and middle income households can be “completely offset by returning allowance revenue to these households.

This guest post by Lee Fang was first published by Think Progress.

Think Progress previously reported the outright lie being told by Republicans that the green economy legislation before Congress would “cost every American family up to $3,100 per year in higher energy prices.” GOP leaders apparently arrived at this number by intentionally misinterpreting a 2007 study conducted by MIT.

PolitiFact interviewed John Reilly, an MIT professor and one of the authors of the study, who explained he had spoken with a representative from the House Republicans on March 20, and that he had clearly told them, “why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it.”

Nonetheless, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to use the $3,100 figure to attack cap-and-trade, while the National Republican Campaign Committee blasted dozens of press releases like the following on March 31:

As Congress takes the President’s federal budget under consideration, North Carolina families deserve to know if Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) would support such a devastating energy tax proposal. […] MIT researchers released an “Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals,” which shows that the increase would be an increase of more than $3,000 a year for each household.

Today, Professor Reilly sent a forceful letter to Boehner and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to denounce this blatant distortion being told by Congressional Republicans. Reilly noted that $3,100 was actually “10 times the correct estimate which is approximately $340″³ and that the costs on lower and middle income households can be “completely offset by returning allowance revenue to these households”:

It has come to my attention that an analysis we conducted examining proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Report No., 146, Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals, has been misrepresented in recent press releases distributed by the National Republican Congressional Committee. The press release claims our report estimates an average cost per family of a carbon cap and trade program that would meet targets now being discussed in Congress to be over $3,000, but that is nearly 10 times the correct estimate which is approximately $340. […] Our Report 160 shows that the costs on lower and middle income households can be completely offset by returning allowance revenue to these households.

Read the full letter here.

Professor Reilly then reaffirmed the urgency of enacting green economy legislation, declaring:

It will take efforts in the US and abroad to reduce emissions substantially to avoid the most serious risks of climate change. […] it is simplistic and misleading to only look at the impact on energy prices of these proposals as a measure of their impact on the average household.

13 Responses to MIT Professor tells GOP to stop ˜misrepresenting his work and inflating the cost to families of cap-and-trade by a factor of 10.

  1. I believe that Boehner has given us his name as a verb form.

    To boehner – to persistently offer false statements despite knowing them to be false.

    “He boehnered up completely” or “Just boehner that I was at your house all last night”

  2. DB says:

    It is generally recognized the the idea behind a carbon tax or cap and trade is to increase the cost of carbon based fuels and thereby discourage their use.

    Yesterday there was an amendment proposed and voted on in the Senate. The amendment read:

    “To amend the deficit-neutral reserve fund for climate change legislation to require that such legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices.”

    The vote was 89 to 8. Only eight senators were willing to vote for higher prices.

  3. Rick C says:

    I’m at a point now where I don’t care how placing an effective price on CO2 is done just so long as it is done.

    Right now yet another “breakthrough” in “cheaply” reforming coal into gasoline (Funny most CTL projects I’m aware of convert it into diesel) still doesn’t account for the .1 to ½ gallon of water per Kw-Hr it takes to make this stuff. This carbon pricing is essential if we’re to stop these incredibly expensive very low energy returns on energy invested projects.

    You have to be in extremely desperate straights to do CTL like say Nazi Germany in World War II which had no oil or an isolated country like South Africa during the Apartheid era.

    Even then the 250 year supply estimates are becoming wildly quaint estimates in the light of the latest USGS survey which downgraded the amount of reserves in the Wyoming Powder River Basin down by 95% to 10.1 short tons of coal. So the declines could set in by as few as 10 to 20 years. Remaining mines are also being surveyed and reserves estimates for those mines are likely to be revised sharply downward.

    So in short we’re being sold a bill of goods on coal which is distracting the critical work to redesign how the US produces and uses energy in order to pursue an energy illusion in CTL as much a flight of fancy as the hydrogen one was.

  4. Rick C says:

    >10.1 short tons of coal

  5. Rick C says:

    Sorry that’s supposed to be 10.1 billion short tons of coal and not 10.1 short tons.

  6. Jim Bullis says:

    How can we talk about the cost without first stating what the measure is to be.

    For electric power generating, finding a way to make natural gas at $4 to $12 per mmBTU competitive with coal at $1 per mmBTU without a lot of cost is going to be difficult to do by imposing taxes, whether capping and trading or just taxing.

    My way with cogeneration could come a lot closer to making that natural gas competitive, and it would cost very little up front if done in combination with small car engines. A coal tax would still be needed, but it could be much more modest with that distributed cogeneration system. And no, this is not the “Perfect Power” type of distributed grid, though that is a related part. They do not discuss cogeneration based on small car engine generators.

    And the electric car and such will exacerbate the electric power problem, such that there will be no gain with CO2 for starters and even more of a problem getting rid of coal in the long run.

    Fixing the American hard set expectations for cars in the present typical car form will be challenging, but the sooner we get at that, the better. That may not have any cost if we can do it as part of the normal process of retiring and replacing cars. That could be the best angle we have for selling climate progress. Horrors if we tell people they can have the cars they are used to if they just accept electric plug-in operation.

  7. This story is golden. Thank you!

    I now know how to tell when Boehner is lying. His lips move.

  8. Brendan says:

    I heard a talk today by Dan Arvisu, the head of the NREL. In the question and answer session, he said that he didn’t feel that a lot of the divide over energy policy was that of partisanship, but it was more over the fact that certain districts feel they will lose out by the energy transformation. Thus, it seemed his belief was that one of the things that can be done to change the political climate is making sure these districts aren’t losers (with green job ed programs and such). Obviously, he has to be more of a diplomat than you do, but I was hoping you could either make a comment or do a post about partisanship vs. constituants. If I were a reader of only your blog, it would seem that it’s all cases of republicans just being anti-science for whatever reason, but it seems to me there have to be people who are legitimately concerned with the negative effect certain policies will have on their district, and maybe you can comment on some people who fit in this boat, and what can be done to change their minds.



  9. Jim Bullis makes several good points. Natural gas can’t compete in price with coal, and it also produces CO2. Electric cars will be indirectly powered by coal, and therefore are not mitigating CO2. Only after we clearly state what the problems are can we come up with effective solutions.

    Here is an interesting editorial at Coal Power (March 31, 2009) about the cap-and-trade plan.

  10. Eric says:

    Just thought I’d send along this tip on Bachmann citing the disputed MIT study, since you all are all over this topic:


  11. Jake says:

    As it turns out, Boehner was correct:

    [JR: Not! Stay tuned.]

  12. BR says:


    Thanks for the link. It is nice to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
    The main problem with cap and trade is it is another non-tangible or non-manufactured service that will make Al Gore and many others (GE) rich.
    The economies that we have been living on over the last couple of decades are base on money shifting we need to get back to manufacturing.

    If solar and wind products are manufactured in the states then more power to it. However, everyone should know that it will be a short lived boon that will peak at some point.
    We need consumable manufacturing such as food, cars (yes long term), paper etc.. To keep any economy healthy whether it be personal, company, national, or global you must provide good cash flow not just stirring the cash and watch it evaporate.

  13. TheFamilyMan says:

    Why stop at just the work of MIT? Conservatives – both Republicans and Libertarians – have repeated exaggerated, distorted, lied and denied the work of thousands of scientists from hundreds of universities in dozens of countries. They have made a business out of making the United States the laughing stock of the industrialized world, and always with the lowest, basest of motives: greed.

    These people are a disgrace to every American.