Bring back the real Judd Gregg

U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg has long been a leader in supporting responsible action to address the dangerous impacts of climate change. He was among a handful of Republicans to vote for climate cap-and-trade legislation as early as 2003.

However, Senator Gregg recently wrote an op-ed published in several New Hampshire newspapers describing proposed cap-and-trade legislation as “a massive new national sales tax … that averages over $3,000 per household.” This is just plain wrong, and the record must be corrected.

Without question, there will be a price involved in future pollution control legislation, and those costs – and the associated savings and benefits – must be assessed and debated. But accuracy is important if Senator Gregg is to be credible on this issue and if Congress and the public are to reach wise judgments.

Senator Gregg’s $3,000-per-household number comes from a widely distributed March 24 House Republican Conference press release, using calculations based upon an MIT study on cap-and-trade economics. Unfortunately for Senator Gregg, these calculations are “wrong … wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin,” said MIT economist and study author John Reilly to the St. Petersburg Times.

Reilly also sent a formal letter to House Republican Leader John Boehner, asking that the errors in the press release be corrected.

The actual study number works out to $340 per household per year, and that’s before taking into account provisions within leading cap-and-trade proposals that would return a significant portion of allowance revenues to low and middle income households, netting most Americans no increases in energy costs.

And the $340 number would be further reduced if the energy cost savings from the renewable electricity and energy efficiency provisions of anticipated climate legislation are considered.

According to an analysis using Department of Energy models, renewable electricity provisions in the Waxman-Markey climate bill would save consumers over $64 billion by 2025 — $390 million in New Hampshire alone. And, according to a new study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, an energy-efficiency standard of 15 percent by 2020 would save American families and businesses an additional $170 billion in energy costs — $378 million for New Hampshire.

Senator Gregg understands economics and he is well aware of the staggering economic and social cost of doing nothing about human-caused climate change. The Stern Review found that the costs of doing nothing could reach above 5 percent of annual global economic output by later this century — costs on the scale of the two world wars or the 1930s Depression. Add to these economic costs the social upheaval and national security threats created by the predicted extinction of 15 to 40 percent of earth’s species, massive desertification and loss of agricultural land and tens to hundreds of millions of persons displaced by rising ocean levels.

Policy debate must be built on facts. We urge Senator Gregg to re-establish his career-long role as a wise and prudent leader during his last two years in the Senate. We urge Senator Gregg to engage constructively in shaping the policy we need to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.

Ted Leach and Joe Keefe are co-chairs of The Carbon Coalition.

Categories: Opinion