The Wonk Room has learned that the Senate Republicans intend to claim clean energy reform will make food prices skyrocket. The Senate Agriculture Committee Minority staff are working on an economic study that will purport to demonstrate the increased cost to food items from the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
The Senate Republican report will use Department of Agriculture models to calculate “increased costs to farmers” and the “potential cost increases for items like a loaf of bread.”
This is yet another iteration of the false concept that reducing pollution hurts the economy. Unfortunately for the Republicans but fortunately for America, this campaign is doomed to be junk economics. The Republicans will likely base their food-and-farm fearmongering on the junk analyses of the ExxonMobil-funded Heritage Foundation. Arguing that “for farmers, cap and trade is a permanent drought season,” Heritage claimed farm income would drop “over $50 billion in 2035.”
When one looks at the actual numbers of Heritage’s model, it turns out that farm construction costs and transportation equipment costs actually decline for the first decade of implementation. After 2020, their economic model projects those costs increasing by about 10 percent over the baseline by 2030.
But the Heritage analysis doesn’t actually model the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and assumes the value of the carbon market created by the bill simply disappears from the national economy. These and other basic flaws lead to outsized results that aren’t replicated by any nonpartisan analyses of the actual bill.
A more sober analysis of cap and trade by the Brookings Institution found no impact on agricultural sector costs, even though, like Heritage, their analysis also ignored complementary provisions of the actual legislation. As the Pew Center for Climate Change explains, agriculture has “much to gain from a comprehensive climate policy.”
The benefits for agriculture are consistent with non-partisan analyses of the actual legislation:
The Environmental Protection Agency found that the clean energy and global warming standards in the bill will lower electricity bills.
The Congressional Budget Office found minimal effects on both electricity and fuel prices, well below the increases of recent years caused by Bush-Cheney policies.
Both these analyses make conservative assumptions about the benefits of energy efficiency, the reduced demand for foreign oil and dirty coal, and wholly ignore the costs of inaction. By reducing our use of dirty fossil fuels, rewarding sustainable farming practices, and reducing the damages of global warming, clean energy policy will give American consumers a more secure and sustainable food supply as well.