Natural Resources Defense Council

Post image for Polling Purple, Spinning Green

Polling these days is often a form a spin. Pollsters artfully phrase and sequence questions to elicit the answers the sponsor is paying for. The sponsor then uses the answers to influence the voter attitudes he pretends the poll merely reflects. The sponsor bets that more voters will support his agenda if they believe (however mistakenly) that most of their neighbors do too. It’s the old self-fulfilling prophesy trick.

Especially during the silly season, some organizations spend lots of cash trying to manufacture the appearance that their preferred candidate has already won. Their operative premise is that you can fool most of the people most of the time — or at least hoodwink enough people in swing (purple) states to make a difference at the ballot box.

What prompts this reflection is an article in today’s Greenwire about an opinion survey of swing state voters conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The poll allegedly finds that voters in eight swing states prefer by 57% to 32% a presidential candidate who supports EPA regulation of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. That candidate, of course, is Barack Obama.

As discussed in previous posts on voter surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling, the trick is to frame the question so that most respondents give the sponsor’s preferred answer. Here’s the question as described in Greenwire:

Without specifying Obama’s or Romney’s position, the telephone survey asked voters: “One candidate for president supports EPA standards to reduce toxic mercury pollution from power plants; the other candidate says these limits would be bad for business and EPA should not reduce mercury pollution. Would you be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports EPA standards to reduce toxic mercury pollution or one who opposes them?”

In essence, do you want more or less “toxic mercury pollution” in the environment? Unless you happen to be a ”toxic mercury polluter,” you are more likely to respond that you are “more likely” to vote for the guy who wants to reduce “toxic mercury pollution.” This framing abstracts from all the scientific, technical, and economic information that a presidential candidate would need to make a rational choice in the public interest

By the EPA’s own reckoning, the costs of the mercury reductions required by the agency’s Utility MACT Rule exceed the quantifiable health benefits by a ratio of 1,600 to one or even 19,200 to one. And in the 22 years since Congress tasked the EPA to study the health risks of mercury, the agency has not identified a single child whose learning or other disabilities can be traced to power-plant mercury emissions. 

Include those facts in the question along with the statement that the EPA policy would be ”bad for business,” and the results would undoubtedly be very different from those NRDC is touting to the media.

Earlier this week, Politico published an op-ed by former Sen. Majority Leader George Mitchell (1989-1995) and former EPA Administrator William Reilly (1989-1993) that is as intellectually mushy as it is politically devious. 

In “Calif. Must Again Lead Way on Emission Standards,” Mitchell and Reilly pretend that the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) proposal to establish a 62 mpg fuel economy standard is the moderate middle between automakers who “protest that the proposal is too demanding” and environmentalists who “want something more stringent.” Horsefeathers!

In September 2010, CARB, EPA, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an Interim Joint Technical Assessment Report where they considered raising the passenger car fuel economy standard from 35.5 mpg in 2016 to 47 mpg, 51 mpg, 56 mpg, or 62 mpg in 2025.

Let’s not forget that the 2016 standard imposed by EPA, CARB, and NHTSA accelerated by four years the standard Congress set in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which was itself 27% more stringent than the previous standard (27.5 mpg). In May 2011, the Auto Alliance, citing a U.S. Energy Information Administration assessment (p. 26), cautioned EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that a 62 mpg standard would depress auto sales in 2025 by 14%. Team Obama subsequently settled on a 56 mpg standard. That’s a tad less extreme than the 62 mpg standard championed by CARB, but it’s still over the top.

A remarkable study by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) – The U.S. Automotive Market and Industry in 2025 (June 2011) — reveals how cockamamie these proposals are.  [click to continue…]

Post image for Obama Nominates Cap-and-Trader John Bryson to be Commerce Secretary

President Barack Obama this week nominated John Bryson to be Secretary of Commerce.  Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) immediately announced that he would try to defeat Bryson’s confirmation by the Senate. It’s easy to see why Inhofe didn’t have to spend much time weighing Bryson’s qualifications.  Bryson is a model crony capitalist, lifelong professional environmentalist, and leading promoter of cap-and-trade legislation to raise energy prices.

Here is what Bryson said at a symposium at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009: “Greenhouse gas legislation – either with a tax or with a cap and trade, which is a more complicated way of getting at it, but it has the advantage politically of sort of hiding the fact that you have a tax, but at the same – you know that’s what you’re trying to do, trying to raise price of carbon….”  He went on to say that the Waxman-Markey and other cap-and-trade bills in Congress would not raise energy prices enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the required amount, so that he also favored federal regulations, such as renewable requirements for electric utilities, on top of cap-and-trade.  Later, Bryson referred to Waxman-Markey as a “moderate but acceptable bill.”

[click to continue…]