newspaper box with "lies" on itPhoto: Nicco MelesSens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John Barrasso (R- Wyo.) have each introduced bills that would eliminate EPA authority over climate pollution. That represents a legitimate policy position, albeit one I disagree with profoundly.

In the process of pushing their bills, however, both Inhofe and Barrasso have claimed that greenhouse gas regulations represent an attempt by EPA to implement cap-and-trade. (“Backdoor cap-and-trade” is their term of choice.)

That is a lie. And I use that term advisedly. It is not a difference in policy preferences. It is not a difference of interpretation or emphasis. It is a lie, i.e., it’s not true and they know it’s not true.

You see, cap-and-trade is a particular kind of thing. As the name might indicate, it involves a cap on the total amount of pollution and a system of tradeable permits beneath that cap. That’s not what EPA is doing. EPA is regulating CO2 via the Clean Air Act’s dual New Source Review and New Source Performance Standards provisions, which are plant-by-plant technology standards and output-based standards respectively. (More on how EPA CO2 regs will work here.)

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

What cap-and-trade does and what EPA’s doing are very different things. It’s not really possible for anyone who knows anything about the issue to confuse them. Inhofe and Barrasso have both sat through dozens of committee meetings and hearings in which these policies have been described clearly and at length. They know full well they’re not the same thing.

Why are they lying? Because they know “cap-and-trade” has been effectively demonized and they want to associate EPA with it. It’s a shameless bit of political hucksterism.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

However! Respected media outlets like The Washington Post and The Hill have reprinted the senators’ lie without questioning or refuting it. They have served as a passive vehicle for the lie — as stenographers, that is.

If you want lies from conservatives, there are plenty of blogs willing to pass them on, not to mention talk radio hosts and an entire cable TV network. So then what is the mainstream political press for, exactly?