September 28, 2009

“Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

Those words, “attributed” to the 18th century English essayist Samuel Johnson, are a perfect summation of the oeuvre of The Breakthrough Institute (TBI).  So it is with their latest attack on the climate and clean energy bill — “Climate Bill Analysis Part 20 [!!!]: Over-Allocation of Pollution Permits Would Result in No Emissions Reduction Requirement during Early Years of Climate Program.”

And no, I can’t bring myself to link to their crap — that is apparently what the status quo media is for (see “Memo to media: Don’t be suckered by bad analyses from TBI and “The Audacity of Nope: George Will embraces the anti-environment message of TBI” and “TBI is lying about Obama, misstating what CBO concluded about Waxman-Markey, and publishing deeply flawed analyses” and “Will America lose the clean-energy race? Only if we listen to the disinformers of TBI“).

Indeed, this time I don’t even need to debunk their “analysis” — which looks strangely like the evil twin of a blog post I wrote two weeks ago that they never even reference (see “EIA stunner: By year’s end, we’ll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill’s 2020 target“).

No, someone in the media has actually done a bang-up job of it already, truly a fine piece of journalism by Greenwire, “Institute’s critique of Waxman-Markey draws fire” (subs. req’d), which I  excerpt at length below:

 

U.S. businesses won’t need to cut carbon dioxide emissions until possibly as late as 2018 under the cap-and-trade program that would be created by the House-passed climate bill, according to a new analysis that examined the recession’s effects on emissions.

The Breakthrough Institute, which favors direct investment in clean energy sources, examined the House bill’s policies in light of the federal Energy Information Administration’s September report forecasting a 6 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2009, which followed a 3 percent decline in 2008. Declines were spurred by the recession and lower natural gas prices that caused power generators to switch away from coal, EIA said.

Those downturns equal almost half of the 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions that the bill seeks by 2020. Reductions in greenhouse gases mandated by the measure are pegged to emissions in 2005, which had levels higher than they are now.

The legislation would require businesses to buy allowances for their carbon emissions, but it would give away the bulk of those allowances in the program’s early years. That, combined with the economic downturn, would create low allowance prices, giving businesses the option to sidestep penalties for several years, the Breakthrough Institute report says….

The institute issued the report to give the Senate important data as it crafts climate legislation, Jenkins said. But there were immediate questions about the study’s credibility and the motivations behind it. An EIA expert said he was skeptical of the findings.

“The numbers sound awfully large for me,” said J. Alan Beamon, EIA’s director of the coal and electric power division, who worked on an April analysis examining the effects of the House bill. “If [emissions] are down a year or two because of a recession, they’re not going to make that big of a difference over the long haul.” Beamon said he had not looked at the Breakthrough Institute’s analysis and said he did not immediately have time to study it.

The report is the 20th from the Breakthrough Institute examining the bill from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Some Democrats and environmentalists distrust the Oakland, Calif.-based institute because of its contrarian positions.

Breakthrough was founded by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, who in 2004 wrote “The Death of Environmentalism,” an essay arguing that traditional environmentalism lacked solutions to address climate change. The institute does not back the cap-and-trade approach to driving down carbon emissions.

“The Breakthrough Institute keeps coming out with these pointless reports attacking Waxman-Markey,” said Joe Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by John Podesta, who was chief of staff to former President Clinton. “Waxman-Markey is kinda old news. The Senate is constructing a bill now.”

“I’m confident that the smart senators and people who write this bill will fix it,” Romm said.

Changes to legislation already are under way. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is writing a climate bill, will raise the House’s 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions to 20 percent by 2020, Senate Democratic aides have said. The California Democrat will argue that it is not a sizable increase, given the EIA projection of a 6 percent drop in emissions this year….

The House bill creates a cap-and-trade program that would start in 2012 and reduce allowable emissions levels each year, hitting a 17 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Because it is set to pre-recession emissions, when the cap starts, “U.S. emissions may still be recovering to pre-recession levels and may remain substantially lower than historic 2005 levels,” the Breakthrough report says….

EIA in its analysis of Waxman-Markey, which was done in April, assumed a 3 percent downturn in emissions in 2009 and a 2 percent downturn in 2008, a total 3 percent short on the decline EIA now projects.

“It’s hard to believe that 3 percent would really change the overall 40 years of th
e program,” EIA’s Beamon said. In addition, he said, businesses plan for the long term.

For his part, Romm said he does not trust the institute’s analysis.

“They just keep publishing analysis after analysis, half of which are wrong, the other half of which aren’t terribly original,” Romm said. “They have many biased studies that do not stand the light of day.”

The institute, he said, is “trying to scare people into opposing the bill.”

“One assumes the people who write the final bill will use the new [emissions] numbers, and then the problem goes away,” Romm said….

Jenkins did the analysis for the institute. He does not have a background in economics.

“It’s not an economic analysis,” Jenkins said. “It’s based on the economic forecasts of the EIA and CBO. Beyond that, it’s relatively simple arithmetic that any old competent policy analyst such as myself is capable of.”

A new analysis?

Romm, an acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the Clinton administration’s Energy Department, questioned whether the Breakthrough report uncovers anything new. Romm in his Sept. 15 “Climate Progress” blog wrote about EIA carbon emissions numbers under the headline, “EIA stunner: By year’s end, we’ll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill’s 2020 target.”

In the blog post, Romm calls for tightening the emissions reduction target and reducing the number of free permits given to businesses in the early years.

“Everything claims to be a new analysis,” Romm said. “It’s a new analysis that they glommed from me.”

Although Romm did post the blog item, Jenkins said, the Breakthrough Institute’s analysis looked beyond the drop in emissions and at the implications of that EIA forecast….

The institute has a “philosophical difference” with the Democratic leadership in that it does not believe that penalizing carbon emission would create a market for clean energy technology, said Eben Burnham-Snyder, spokesman for Markey and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“The Breakthrough Institute seems to believe, much as the Bush administration did, that technology will solve all, even without a market,” Burnham-Snyder said. “Waxman-Markey is predicated on the belief that we must invest in technology, but that more clean energy technologies will be invented and deployed by establishing a mandatory market for carbon.”

The bill has $200 billion dedicated to clean energy development, Burnham-Snyder said, as well as mandatory carbon emissions cuts.

“By and large, we have tried to engage with those who are willing to have a constructive policy argument,” Burnham-Snyder said. “We chose not to engage with those who are not trying to be constructive, with those who are merely trying to stir the pot.”

Precisely.