Claim Check Needs To Do Fact Checks

Posted on Sat 10/02/2010 by


By David Kreutzer, Ph.D.

Claim Check, which supposedly fact checks public statements, employs the different-must-be-wrong-theory in dismissing a Heritage analysis because it is an “outlier.”

It seems that many forecasters in Washington are more afraid of being alone than they are of being wrong. That is, they would rather be wrong with everybody else than right by themselves. One such case is the set of assumptions underlying estimates of economic impacts of the Waxman–Markey cap-and-trade legislation.

Most of the analyses of Waxman–Markey based their cost projections on the following assumptions:

  • A virtual doubling of nuclear power output over the next 25 years,
  • Full commercialization of carbon capture and storage by 2025.

The United States has not licensed a single nuclear power plant for the past 30 years. Doubling nuclear power production would require roughly 100 new nuclear power plants by 2035.

The Heritage Foundation analysis assumed there would be a dozen new nuclear power plants in the next two decades. Given the history of the past three decades, even this assumption is heroic. Assuming Waxman–Markey would lead to 100 new plants is not more realistic, no matter how many analysts make that assumption.

That there is the potential for a nuclear renaissance is not enough. The Waxman–Markey bill would have to implement the significant regulatory changes needed to bring a renaissance about. Instead, the bill spent more time addressing hot tubs than it did nuclear power.

Carbon capture and storage is another area where a bad assumption made by many seems to trump the more reasonable assumption made by few. There is not one commercial-scale coal-fired power plant that captures and stores its carbon emissions. There are small-scale pilot plants in the works. However, even if the technology is worked out, there would still be a 30 percent energy penalty and the need to dispose of 15–20 super tankers of liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) each day. The ability to dispose of the CO2 is key. Here’s what the Congressional Budget Office said about carbon-capture technology:

Generators would be unlikely to adopt technologies for the capture of CO2 and its sequestration in the ground unless an extensive regulatory structure was put in place to address issues involving property rights, rights-of-way for pipelines, and liability for emissions that escape from the ground.

Waxman–Markey did not provide solutions for these serious problems facing carbon capture. Here again, the Heritage analysis recognized the obvious in its assumptions. That so many other analyses jointly make unrealistic assumptions doesn’t make those assumptions realistic.

Perhaps the silliest part of the critique in Claim Check is to look at the cost impact of cap and trade just for the first year of implementation. In 2012, Waxman–Markey would hardly be up and running. All analysts agree that the major impacts come further down the road—the bill cuts CO2 year after year for nearly 40 years. To claim that a minor impact in the first year is indicative of the legislation’s impact is grossly misleading.

Heritage stands by its analysis that Connecticut ratepayers would see large increases in their electric bills under a cap-and-trade regime like Waxman–Markey.

David Kreutzer, Ph.D. writes articles for The Heritage Foundation and is the Senior Policy Analyst in Energy Economics and Climate Change, Center for Data Analysis.

Read more informative articles at Heritage – The Foundry