WaPo Journalist’s Partisanship Leads to *Motivated Reporting* on EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by William Yeatman on February 2, 2015

in Blog

With the recent addition of Chris Mooney as an energy/environment beat reporter, the Washington Post continued its unfortunate habit of hiring partisan bloggers to perform supposedly straight journalism. Mooney’s previous stops include DeSmogBlog, American Prospect, and Mother Jones; more to the point, he wears his progressivism on his sleeve. Now, he’s reporting on energy and environment issues for the primary newspaper read by U.S. policymakers. In the formatted brackets below, I’ve fisked the opening of a piece he wrote last week, starting with the title:

Title: “The Climate Debate Is Brutal and Dysfunctional, But There’s Still a Way Out”
by Chris Mooney, 29 January 2015

[The article title seemingly bemoans the “brutal and dysfunctional” state of the climate debate. But does Mooney have a leg to stand on? This is, after all, the ultra-partisan author of The Republican War on Science and The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality. In the latter, Mooney makes the “scientific” case why Republicans are scientifically illiterate. Thanks to this body of divisive work, no one has done more to render the climate debate “brutal and dysfunctional” than Mooney.]

As we watch the new GOP-controlled Congress clash over the Keystone XL pipeline, it’s rather depressing to realize that this is just the beginning of the pitched, drag-out battles to come over climate change in the next two years.

[Where’s the “clash over the Keystone Pipeline”? The GOP-controlled Senate just engineered a filibuster-proof, bipartisan majority to pass a bill that would force approval of the “dirty” Keystone pipeline. Nine Democrats voted for the bill–about 20% of the party’s Senate caucus. In passing the bill, the new majority afforded the minority a procedural openness long unseen in the upper congressional chamber during the reign of Harry Reid and his party. This is hardly a “clash”! Mooney’s opening sentence foreshadows a problem with his post: contrary to what he’d have the reader believe, all the evidence suggests that opposition to climate change mitigation policy is healthily bipartisan in the U.S. Congress (see below)]

Even bigger than Keystone XL is the coming fight over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from older coal-fired power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan.

[This sentence is incomplete, and therefore misleading. EPA’s illegitimate Clean Power Plan doesn’t merely regulate “older coal-fired power plants”; instead, it regulates the entire electricity sector. Indeed, the regulation would overhaul the provision of electricity in America. What had been the exclusive prerogative of the States since the New Deal—i.e., oversight of retail electricity markets—would come under the thumb of federal environmental regulators at EPA.]

Republicans hate it; to them it epitomizes everything they despise about command-and-control government regulatory actions.

[Again, the incompleteness of this statement makes it misleading. The GOP, among others, does indeed “hate it.” But the command-and-control nature of EPA’s climate regulations is only one of very many reasons why this is so. It’s also true that the rule would increase utility bills (perhaps even make them *skyrocket*) and further would threaten electric reliability. Despite these compliance ramifications, the rule lacks an electoral mandate. Also, the rule is illegal. And it was written by special interests which spent millions to help President Obama get elected, an unseemly quid pro quo that disconcerts many opponents of the Clean Power Plan. Finally, EPA’s Clean Power Plan, for all its costs, wouldn’t actually impact the climate.]

Democrats don’t love it, per se, but they think it’s sadly necessary (since they can’t get Republicans to pass a law to limit greenhouse gas emissions).

[Indeed, “Democrats don’t love it,” but it’s a stretch to say they are all in lockstep in thinking the Clean Power Plan is “sadly necessary.” As I mention above, the congressional history of climate action demonstrates that opposition to “doing something” about climate change is healthily bipartisan. We’ll know where everyone stands when the Congress deliberates and ultimately votes on Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval that would check the Clean Power Plan and also the Carbon Pollution Standards. I strongly suspect that both measures will enjoy bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress]

Yet, while watching the blow-by-blow, there’s been far too little stepping back and realizing how we got here.

[We got here because bipartisan majorities in the 111th, 112th, and 113th Congress opposed climate change mitigation policies. For his part, President Obama bravely ran away from climate during his reelection. It was only after besting Romney—safely insulated from electoral consequences—that the President’s EPA moved to implement its draconian Clean Power Plan. That’s how we got here.]

That’s the wrong approach in light of the following two facts: First, even proponents of strong climate action wouldn’t call EPA’s approach their first choice;

[No arguments here! EPA regulation is certainly not the “first choice” shared by “proponents of strong climate action.” No doubt, total deindustrialization is the “first choice” held by such proponents. Control of the electric industry will have to do as a “second choice.”]

and second, we also know enough about the psychology of politics to recognize that EPA’s approach — not that the agency can help it, of course — is guaranteed to produce a highly polarized partisan response.

[Hrmmm…This is mumbo jumbo. EPA’s approach has engendered bipartisan reproach for the many tangible reasons I list above. It’s the policy, per se, rather than any head shrinker jargon, that explains opposition to the regulation. Nonetheless, the above sentence demonstrates a great deal about the hopelessly progressive author and his ilk. Namely, it shows how they have to craft narratives—“psychology of politics,” yadayadayada—to justify their refusal to accept the reality at hand: That the Clean Power Plan is a ridiculously flawed rule whose popularity is inversely proportional to the public’s understanding of it. In Mooney’s own lingo, he suffers from “motivated reasoning.”]

In other words: We’re walking along a path that pretty much ensures partisanship and divisiveness.

[Wrong: The path of opposition to EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a model of bipartisan harmony, relative to virtually every other issue before the Congress.]

But there are signs that many Republicans these days may be looking for a way to gracefully surrender on climate change, and there’s still a solution available that isn’t EPA’s: a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with the revenue returned to U.S. citizens in the form of tax breaks or a dividend.

[Sure .. .”many Republicans” are “looking for a way to gracefully surrender” on climate policy…Sorta like Rep. Bob Inglis? By “gracefully surrender,” does Mooney mean losing elections by supporting an idea as bad as a carbon tax.]

That’s right, Americans would make money off climate change, rather than being harmed by potentially higher energy prices.

[Good Lord. This is just silly. Under a “revenue neutral” carbon tax, your energy bills would go up, but you’d receive a rebate of some sort, either “a tax break or a dividend.” Mooney suggests Americans would “make money” off this transaction, as if it’s some sort of golden investment opportunity, and the money coming out of your pocket is somehow magically less than the money coming in. Pursuant to this logic, we can tax and regulate our way to prosperity.]


The piece goes on in this partial tone for hundreds more words. I’ll spare your eyes further reading; the above serves the purposes of this post.

Concerned February 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

I would like to say that people, such as yourselves, who feel the need to impose their power mad nonsensical agenda of global warming upon others through lies, intimidation, and deceit, for their own personal gain, and who believe with unmitigated audacity that they have the ability and knowledge to change or control nature on this or any other planet should be stripped of any and all affinities to the human race and be condemned and imprisoned in solitary confinement for the rest of their natural lives.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: