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While there are quite serious issues to consider in how the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act was weakened leading to its passage Friday and serious issues about whether this is the bill that is required, the vast majority of the opposition to the bill relied on deceit and deception.  In part, Representative Lloyd Doggett's decision to flip his vote from no to yes came based on listening to floor statements by card-carrying members of the Global Warming denial wing of the Flat Earth Society.

The misrepresentation of ACES comes not only in terms of demonstrated anti-science syndrome suffering, but also from misrepresenting the bill's impacts and priorities.

Republican Representative Adam Putnam hails from Florida, a state on the front lines of quite serious threats from catastrophic climate change.  Like all good truthiness, Putnam's effort to deceive his voters mixes turths with its deceptions.

Let's take a moment to consider Putnam's misleading statement justifying opposition to American Clean Energy and Security.

"We need a comprehensive energy  and environmental policy to protect and sustain our nation’s natural resources  while providing for a strong American economy," said Putnam.

Yes, Adam, you are right.  

"We [absolutely do] need a comprehensive energy and environmental policy".  

The opportunities are before us for truly recognizing that is Energy + Economy + Environment, not Energy/Economy vs the Environment.

"But the harder I  look at this bill, the harder it is to support it.  It fails in so many  fundamental ways.  It punishes the first to innovate and it rewards the last.

Well, there are many failures and inadequacies to ACES while there are some tremendous benefits and good elements (such as driving more energy efficiency in the society).  And, those failures and inadequacies certainly made it difficult to beat the drums in support of the bill, especially as it was weakened virtually day in and day out.

The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, as currently standing voted out of the House, fails to meet scientific guidance as to the speed and extent of reductions in emissions (less than half of what seems to be a minimum to meet (now outdated and almost certainly too conservative) scientific guidance.  It fails to make polluters pay (after all, Demoncratic-Nominee for President Barack Obama, President-Elect Barack Obama, and President Barack Obama all called for 100% auctioning of permits while this plan starts off giving away 85%, with a good share of those to serial polluters). It fails to set aggressive enough Renewable Electricity Standards to drive serious deployment of clean energy systems. It fails ...

And, as Putnam asserts, ACES does 'punish the first to innovate and rewards the last".  Serial polluters receive extensive benefits under ACES (from free permits to subsidies for research to keep in business). Very simply, polluters are going to receive massive subsidies. On the other hand, those who have stepped out and invested in clean energy and energy efficiency in the past don't seem to receive rewards from their actions in the past in the support of the public good.

Thus, one paragraph in and Adam Putnam is mainly speaking truth. That is, this is truth even if that truth does not derive from what Putnam intends by the words.

"It misses so many  opportunities to reward good stewards of the earth and to encourage innovation.

Well, yes, Adam, some more agreement.

For example, a weak renewable electricity standard (RES) of 20% (5% from energy efficiency), with governors able to waive much of the requirements, is slightly better than a joke.  30% by 2020 is an easily achievable target and would have done more "to reward good stewards of the earth and to encourage innovation."  And, that figure could have been even higher. (Don't forget that the man who was once voted in as President, Al Gore, laid out a target to have 100% clean electricity within a decade.)

It fails to foster development of nuclear power, which emits zero carbon. It  fails to encourage the development of clean coal technology – something which is  being pioneered in Central Florida. No serious energy policy can ignore the  development of these fuel sources, which are necessary to make us more energy  secure and less dependent on hostile nations.


When we get to truthiness, it hits hard.

  1. The bill has provisions which "foster development of nuclear power", which build on previous energy bill material supporting nuclear power. While nuclear power is not central, it certainly has support.

  2. Fails to encourage the development of clean coal technology". Here we get to an utter and outright falsehood, that no amount of sleight-of-hand can make into truth.  ACES has, at a minimum, $10s of billions headed toward clean-coal technology development and rewards for early adopters/deployers of clean-coalsystems. And, dependent on how this deployment works, the subsidies range into the $100s of billions of dollars. It is not crazy to wonder whether this a coal subsidy act.

  3. "No serious energy policy can ignore the development of these fuel sources, which are necessary to make us more energy secure ..." Well, this is deceptive, at best.  While Putnam might disagree with them, there are quite serious energy policy proposals that eliminate coal from the power system. It is simply a falsehood that additional coal development is required to support US economic growth. And, it is one of ACES' great failures that it seems to fall for the truthiness that we can't live without coal moving forward.

  4. "less dependent on hostile nations ..." Will Representative Putnam explain to his voters how nuclear power and coal development would make the United States "less dependent on hostile nations"?  After all, they are for electricity and oil is put into Putnam's McSUV. Right now, the two energy domains basically don't interact and changing our electricity mix has essentially no impact on our oil dependencies.

Thus, four direct errors and falsehoods with one intellectually-challenged deception. Pretty impressive for two sentences.

"In addition, this legislation  will impose a cost burden on consumers," Putnam said. "And it will raise costs  at a time when we can least afford them. This will increase utility rates by as  much a 57 percent, according to local estimates.

Mr Putnam, the CBO says otherwise. Without counting energy efficiency, the cost would be $175 per year for the average household. Start to factor in things like energy efficiency and improving health, and we move from 'cost burden' to benefit.  Consider the costs of unmitigated climate change, and we're talking massive benefits from serious action on climate change.

Think about vocabulary for a moment. Isn't it interesting (even amusing) that to wonder why Mr Putnam focuses on "consumer" rather than "citizen"? Interesting ... Shopping matters more than voting?

Higher energy costs as we  painfully witnessed last summer mean less discretionary spending and more jobs  moved overseas."

Well, what were those "higher energy costs" coming from?  

  • Dependency on foreign oil, which ACES will help cut.  
  • Inefficient energy use, which ACES will help reduce.  
  • And, the issue truly is not the cost per gallon or the cost per kilowatt hour, but the costs of total energy services. Due to, mainly, its energy efficiency provisions, ACES will lead to a reduction in total energy costs for the average household.

    And perhaps even more importantly, what is "cost"? The cost Putnam refers to doesn't account for asthma from coal particulates, our children's cancers from gasoline and diesel fumes, our children's brain damage from mercury in the oceans from burning coal for electricity, our children's riskier future due to climate change ... No, "cost" to Putnam doesn't include pesky little "externalities" like that.

    All in all, Putnam's statement is a good example of truthiness. A truthful beginning, even if the reason for the truth isn't what he later represents, and then bold statements of deception and outright falsehoods that, typically, will be believed by the casual listerner who doesn't have the detailed knowledge that makes blatantly obvious the ignorance and deceit the comments represent.

    Originally posted to A Siegel on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 07:54 PM PDT.

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