Congress Takes Propaganda to Heart

by William Yeatman on November 9, 2007

The walls, pillars, and floors of the Metro subway station at Capitol South, which is next to the House office buildings, are plastered with advertisements from a coalition calling itself 35Plus15.  The ads support legislation mandating that CAFÉ standards on cars and light trucks be raised to 35 miles per gallon and that electric utilities be required to produce 15 per cent of their power from renewable sources.  35Plus15 appears to be a project of the Save Our Environment coalition of environmental pressure groups.


What's remarkable is some of the claims that these ads make.  Most egregious is one poster that says, "Let's put Americans to work saving money".  How mandating more expensive vehicles and electricity is going to save anyone money is beyond me.  If these policies would save people money, then they wouldn't require government mandates.


Targeting this kind of propaganda to congressional staffers is clearly having an effect, despite its counter-factual claims.  At a conference on energy at the Washington Post I attended Thursday, one panel consisted of two Republican Senators–Lisa Murkowski (Ak.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.)–and two Democratic Representatives–Edward Markey (Mass.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S. D.).  Markey has been pursuing a leftist anti-energy agenda for thirty-one years as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and of the  Natural Resources Committee, so perhaps his confusion can be explained as a political strategy to advance his goals.  But the others are just confused. They recognize that there have been problems when government has gotten involved in picking winners and losers, but still want to do it.


Rep. Markey objected to nuclear subsidies because they violate the need for a level-playing field.  But he supports mandates and subsidies for renewable fuels and energy conservation.  And on top of those distortions of the level playing field, he favors cap-and-trade controls on greenhousee gas emissions.


Sen. Murkowski thinks CAFE standards must be raised so that the automakers will be forced to produce the kinds of vehicles she prefers rather than the kind her sixteen-year-old son prefers.  Of course, the automakers do produce such models, but more people prefer safer, bigger, and faster cars than the Senator says she prefers (I don't know what model she drives).


Rep. Sandlin wants lots of ethanol for motor fuels, but she demands that the mandate be designed carefully, so that corn isn't displaced by other feedstocks.  Higher CAFE standards are good, but need to have special loopholes to take account of the needs of rural agro-Americans for bigger pickup trucks.


Sen. Corker likes the ethanol mandate and would support a renewable requirement for utilities if nuclear and hydropower were included.  He is also interested in cap-and-trade for greenhouse gas emissions, even though he admits it's a tax, if it will create new green jobs and technology.  Of course, cap-and trade would raise energy prices and thereby destroy a lot more jobs than it creates. But any familiarity with basic economics is not a pre-requisite for making the nation's energy policies.

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