Whether it’s energy policy, global warming, or nuclear waste, if our regulators get the wrong answer, they make one up.
Effective policy cannot be built on lies and myths. But when it comes to energy policy that seems to be all we have to go on. A report recently released by the EPA, for instance, claims that by 2020 regulations enacted under the Clean Air Act will provide an annual benefit of $2 trillion for a cost of $66 billion, a 30-to-1 return on investment. And that is the EPA’s low estimate. In a best-case scenario, the benefits could reach as high as $5.5 trillion, a 90-to-1 return, or $48,000 for every American household. Where do I go for my check?
Unfortunately, the EPA is lying. Not about everything: The $66 billion cost is real, though probably low-balled. EPA regulations will most definitely remove that $66 billion from the economy, making it unavailable for job-creating investment. But what of the $2 trillion in benefits? According to analysis by economists W. David Montgomery and Anne E. Smith, these gains are an illusion. The $2 trillion figure was based on nothing more than a survey asking Americans how much they would pay to live an extra few weeks or months, or to have a little extra visibility on a clear day.
The EPA estimate, therefore, has nothing to do with job creation, economic growth, or real economic output. It has everything to do with hiding the fact that EPA regulations will place a crushing burden on the economy. The EPA knows this. In fact, in the same report that purports to prove that we all gain from more regulations, there is a real macroeconomic study, one done by EPA economists rather than policy officials. They find that past EPA rules slowed the economy by $79 billion in 2010, and will slow it by $110 billion in 2020.
Poof! In the EPA’s own report a $2 trillion annual benefit turns into a $110 billion annual loss. That is a lot of jobs.
The lies and myth-making do not end there. Last month the infamous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) once again let its global-warming agenda get ahead of the facts. The IPCC claimed that “Close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies.”
We had to wait a few weeks for the supporting evidence. It turns out that to get to that 80 percent number the folks at the IPCC threw out 163 scenarios where their models did not give them the answer they wanted. Only on the 164th try did they finally get an answer they liked. Moreover, the report the IPCC used as the basis for its claim turns out to have been written by Greenpeace activists in conjunction with a lobbying group for renewable energy. No real scientists or engineers were involved. But the story gets even better. For the IPCC model to work, they researchers had to assume the world will be using less energy in 2050 than it is today. By that date there may be 2 billion more people on the planet, all clamoring for their fair share of energy resources. But somehow the IPCC thinks we will be using less energy!
Anyone for a little sea-level rise? Disturbed that the sea was not rising in accordance with its model’s predictions, scientists at the University of Colorado’s Sea Level Research Group decided last month to add 0.3 millimeter every year to their actual measurements. The reason for this addition is that they believe the continents are rising by about that much annually, as they recover from the last ice age. This addition will add another inch to the seven-inch rise actually observed in the past century, or about a 14 percent increase over reality.
Sometimes the lying gets even more blatant. Take the case of Gregory Jaczko, head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Despite his not having any apparent qualifications — not to mention has having been an anti-nuclear political operative — President Obama appointed him to the top job. Once there he immediately stopped all work on the proposed permanent nuclear-waste dump under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. To do so he ordered a halt to an NRC study that would have demonstrated the safety and soundness of the Yucca Mountain site. Worse, according to the NRC inspector general, he “strategically withheld” information from other members of the commission and w as “not forthcoming” about his intention to arbitrarily end all work at Yucca Mountain. That is bureaucratic-speak for “He lied.” As nuclear waste piles up all over the country, the one place where we have spent billions of dollars to dispose of it in relative safety is closed because an ideologue lied and got away with it.
Two weeks ago, Anthony Weiner’s lies exposed him to ridicule and forced him from office. Nothing Weiner lied about had the potential to wreck the national economy. But every day other government officials are permitted to lie with impunity on matters that will cause widespread economic devastation if those lies become the basis of further wrongheaded policies.
— Jim Lacey is professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College. He is the author of the recently released The First Clash and Keep from All Thoughtful Men. The opinions in this article are entirely his own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or any of its members.