House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his fiscal year 2014 budget yesterday. Once again, he offers a path to prosperity that is limited to corporate special interests like Big Oil.
Despite nearly two-thirds of Americans echoing President Obama’s push to tackle climate change through regulation, Ryan decided to concentrate his energy strategy on “restoring competition to the energy sector” and “stopping the government from buying up unnecessary land.” Unsurprisingly, Ryan has multiple cases of misinformation and at times, blatant lies.
Let’s break down the eight biggest falsehoods from Ryan’s energy vision:
1. “The construction of the Keystone XL Energy Pipeline would create more than 20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 indirect jobs while battling the high cost of gas.”
Contrary to Rep. Ryan’s claims, the Keystone XL pipeline would actually only support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs after construction is complete, with “negligible socioeconomic impacts,” according to the State Department’s revised draft environmental impact assessment.
2. “Once it was in operation, the pipeline would contribute an additional $5.2 billion in property taxes to communities along the route during the life of the pipeline.”
The TransCanada assessment that claims that the six states crossed by the pipeline would receive an additional $5.2 billion in property taxes fails to account for the likely damage caused by oil spills along the pipeline route. “In the past five years, more than half a million barrels of oil and other hazardous liquids have been spilled from U.S. pipelines, killing 76 people and causing some $2.4 billion in property damage, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.”
3. “The administration continues to penalize economically competitive sources of energy and to reward their uncompetitive alternatives. On the one hand, it pours money into its favored industries.”
According to an analysis by DBL Investors, the oil and gas industry has received a total of $446 billion in government subsidies from 1918 through 2009. Meanwhile, the renewable energy industry received just $5.5 billion from 1994-2009. U.S. taxpayers have invested $80 in oil for every $1 invested in clean, renewable energy. Moreover, the big five oil companies –BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — made a combined profit of $118 billion in 2012 while Reuters reported that the three American companies’ tax payments were “a far cry from the 35 percent top corporate tax rate.”
4. “In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office found total energy subsidies were $24 billion, of which $16 billion were spent on ‘green’ energy programs and $2.5 billion on fossil fuels.”
Ryan actually misquoted the report, which actually refers to subsidies from 2011. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office found that the government only spent $3.6 billion on energy efficiency and renewables in 2011.
5. “Many of the administration’s loan-guarantee projects have failed.”
Independent analysis of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program has shown that that these investments were not only successful, but cost-effective. Despite the hysteria behind Solyndra, the program will cost $2 billion less than initially expected, for a total cost of $2.7 billion. To put that in perspective, the fossil-fuel industry got a whopping $70 billion in government subsidies from 2002 to 2008. The Loan Guarantee Program has allowed extremely important projects to move forward, including the world’s largest wind farm and our country’s biggest concentrating solar power project. Critically, the program created jobs for nearly 60,000 people.
6. “Beyond Solyndra, the latest ill-fated ventures include a $737 million loan guarantee to Solar Reserve for a 110-megawatt solar tower on federal land in Nevada and a $337 million guarantee for Mesquite Solar 1 to develop a 150-megawatt solar plant in Arizona.”
Politico reported that both of these projects are either already generating power or are on schedule with construction.
SolarReserve’s 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes project, near Tonopah, Nev., has inked a 25-year agreement to sell electricity to the power company NV Energy. The project is on track for completion later this year…. Ryan’s other target, the Mesquite Solar 1 project west of Phoenix, flipped the switch to electricity generation earlier this year. Media reports described it at the time as a success story of the DOE loan guarantee program.
7. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Ryan claims “… the administration is buying up land to prevent further development. Our budget opens these lands to development, so families will have affordable energy.”
Actually, there are only limited cases in which the federal government buys land – to purchase inholdings at iconic national parks, help create access points to public lands for hunters and anglers, and protect sites like the Flight 93 Memorial and Civil War battlefields. Despite Ryan’s claims that the president is preventing development on public lands, a report released by the Center for Western Priorities found that blaming the president is nothing more than reflexive conservative messaging. In fact, much of today’s boom in oil and natural gas is from unconventional shale “plays,” and only 10 percent of all current shale gas plays exist on federal land. Additionally, only 7 percent of current shale oil is found on federally-owned lands. Finally, the CBO estimated that the administration has made “about 70 percent of undiscovered oil and gas resources” available for leasing under current laws.
8. Ryan also claims that expanding oil and gas development would provide “500,000 new jobs a year in high-wage, high-skill employment sectors.”
It seems highly unlikely that opening the remaining 30 percent of federal land would create 500,000 jobs when the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the industry supported only 712,000 oil production, operations, and refining jobs in 2012. In addition, the big five oil companies earned more than $1 trillion in profits between 2001 and 2012, but four of those companies still managed to shed a total of 11,700 US jobs between 2006 and 2011.
Not only does the Ryan budget spread misinformation by reiterating the GOP talking points, it also fails to address the most pressing environmental issue facing us today: the multifaceted impacts of climate change. In 2011-2012, the 25 most severe extreme weather events caused over $188 billion dollars in damage across the country. Ryan also attacks the administration for supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, claiming the EPA would be abusing the powers granted under current law. The Wall Street Journal noted that his budget is “almost identical” to the rejected Romney/Ryan platform – a plan for the future that Americans did not choose.
Tiffany Germain is the ThinkProgress War Room Senior Climate/Energy Researcher.