Republicans’ Fuzzy Cap-and-Trade Math

April 1, 2009 2:57 p.m.

Via Brad Plumer of The New Republic comes this article from the St. Petersburg Times throwing some cold water on the Republican party’s allegation that the Democrats are planning to institute a “light-switch tax” that would cost every American household $3,128 annually. The punchline is this: The Times got in touch with John Reilly, one of the authors of the study the GOP cited as the source of that number, and he said, “It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.”

As we noted earlier, “light-switch tax” is a tendentious renaming (or misnaming) of “cap-and-trade legislation”, which would price and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But where did the GOP come up with that price tag?Apparently from this M.I.T. study, which found that a cap-and-trade plan along the lines of the one envisioned by the Obama administration would raise $366 billion a year at the outset. In reality, many of those costs will be passed on to consumers, but those costs will be offset by rebates and conservation and efficiency measures and the transition to other fuel sources and so on. In fact, the exact same study concluded that the actual costs to consumers would begin at $31 a year–or $79 per family. So the Republicans were off by a factor of about 40. But hey, what’s an order of magnitude or two between friends.

Apparently, though, House Republicans talked to Reilly himself, and he told them that their reading was wildly inaccurate and misleading. Always on the side of solid science, Republicans withdrew the contention totally ignored him and kept chugging along with that number.

We have a call out to Dr. Reilly, and if he has any more light to shed on that conversation, or anything else, we’ll bring it to you.

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