Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee had a secret weapon — a speed-reader — who they were prepared to pull out in case Republicans forced the public reading of a nearly 1,000-page climate change bill and lengthy amendments that have been debated all week.
Tales from the Trail
If you just can’t get enough of the goings and doings of President Barack Obama, can’t wait for the blog posts, Twitter tweets, Washington whispers or even the newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. chief executive, now there’s help. You can sign up for e-mails from the president. He sent his first one Wednesday. It’s hardly a window on the inner workings of the White House but it is a new way to communicate.
Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been everywhere in the media over the last several days, talking about swine flu. His calm demeanor and practical advice — cover your cough, wash your hands — showed up on every major television network this morning. It seemed like he was live, simultaneously, on several of them.
Al Gore — who sometimes jokes that he “used to be the next president of the United States” — heads for Capitol Hill to testify about the fight against climate change. The former vice president and star of the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is slated to go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he’ll discuss the latest legislation to curb the greenhouse gases that spur global warming.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
“It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas,” warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. “According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry.”
There’s a problem, though.
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
John Reilly, an economist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
“Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong,” Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
“If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward),” Stewart said.
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress’ leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in — electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps — he said that would “significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills.”