The U.S. Chamber of Chicken Littles

Over the last several months, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been holding "State Climate Dialogues" out in the states, ostensibly to "stimulate a national discussion on key climate change issues." These are much more monologue than dialogue though, and the punch line is pretty consistently a prediction of economic disaster if the US Congress creates a serious climate policy.

If the Chamber's Chicken Littles stay on message, anyone attending this week's event in Detroit, Michigan is likely to hear the same old message. But many experts disagree with this view of gloom and doom.

For instance, Dr. Martin Kushler, director of the Utilities Program at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, says:

"The claim that taking steps to address climate change would be bad for the economy is simply not true.  We know from proven experience that we can save electricity through energy efficiency programs at one-third the cost of a new power plant.  With a strong energy efficiency policy we can save money and reduce carbon emissions at the same time."

Dr. Andrew Hoffman, associate professor of management & organizations, associate professor of natural resources and associate director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan, said:

"Think of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as a market shift, one driven by regulations at the city, state, national and international levels. But one also driven by consumer, investor, insurance and energy markets.  Any company executive who ignores these shifts does so at their peril."

You can listen to a presentation by Drs. Kushler and Hoffman, as well as Nancy Jacobs of United Solar Ovonics and me, here.

This week's event in Detroit is just the latest stop in the Chamber of Commerce's Chicken Little Roadshow to gin up worries about efforts to solve our energy and climate problems. Speakers at these events rely on questionable assumptions and even more questionable results to make their case.

Case in point: David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation will be discussing the potential costs of future legislative action. Earlier this year, Dr. Kreutzer co-authored the study "The economic costs of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Legislation" which is a curious title because, contrary to its apparent meaning, the study didn't actually model the Lieberman-Warner bill.

Sure, I know this might cause some skepticism. After all, claiming to have analyzed a particular bill when one actually hasn't, would be pretty poor scholarship.  But that's what Kreutzer and his team trotted out. Their product includes some obvious clues, if you know where to look. Turns out that Kreutzer's team apparently:

  1. Only modeled limits on carbon dioxide, and ignored other gases the L-W bill would have regulated.
  2. Ignored the provisions for offsets in the bill, an important cost-containment mechanism.
  3. Ignored the energy-efficiency provisions in the bill, another important cost-containment mechanism.
  4. Ignored credit banking and borrowing, (yep, another important cost-containment mechanism.)
  5. Ignored more than a trillion dollars in transition assistance for workers, industry and consumers (I don't need to say it, do I?)

So, maybe Kreutzer's team modeled something, but it wasn't the Lieberman-Warner bill. Remember those kids in school who wrote book reports based on Cliff's Notes? I wonder where they are now...

For that matter, I wonder whether Dr. Kruetzer will be basing his presentation on a proposal someone has actually made, or whether he will continue to rely on proposals he and his colleagues made up for the purpose of shooting down.

(By the way, Kreutzer also drew some heat for his apparently total failure to comprehend the Green Recovery Report about which I've previously written.)

At any rate, the U.S. and Detroit Chambers of Commerce are trotting Kreutzer out to their audience this week. We don't know who his audience will be, but I think their hosts are betting that they like chicken.