For each and every report, there is an opposing report. Yesterday, Peter G. cited an issue brief published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which contended that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to curtail CO2 emissions would create 5,600 jobs in the Old Dominion and shave $1 billion off Virginians’ electric bills.

Now comes a report issued by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, “The Costs of New EPA Rules to Virginia.” The institute hired the Beacon Hill Institute to gauge the impact on Virginia’s economy. Concludes TJI Chairman Michael Thompson:

Virginia will need to reduce its CO2 levels by 38% from 2012 levels and the costs to our state’s industries will be $1.7 billion by 2030. Those costs will be paid for by our citizens in higher prices. Our electric bills will increase by 25% and we will lose over 38,000 jobs that would not be lost if these EPA regulations were not implemented here in Virginia.

My point here is not to side with one report over another. Both NRDC and the Thomas Jefferson Institute probably had reasonable grounds for reaching the conclusions they did. The trick is to dig into the assumptions and methodologies that each side is making to see if they stand up to scrutiny.

I’m working on an in-depth analysis that, hopefully, will lay bare the logic of the opposing sides. Not that it will change anyone’s minds. People believe whom they want to believe, and as long as someone provides them a fig leaf of a justification, they will continue believing whom they want to believe.


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20 responses to “Dueling Reports”

  1. larryg Avatar

    here’s the question I would ask.

    if someone built a widget that would save on energy costs –

    would it:

    1. – create jobs?
    2 – conserve energy?
    3. – conserve resources?
    4. – save money?

    so what is the argument against these 4?

    what is the difference between a company that buys a new piece of equipment that allows them to produce more widgets for less costs
    and a consumer that buys a widget that saves them energy costs that more than pays for the cost of the new energy saving device?

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Let’s see. The NRDC is a well known environmental group.

    A quick Wikie read of the Beacon Hill Institute notes that it as founded by a conservative businessman in the early 1990s, has taken money from the highly conservative Coors family and places articles supporting limited government and little regulation in various media outlets. Its position papers on renewable portfolio standards have been criticized as intellectually lame.

    And the fact that this comes from the Thomas Jefferson Institute speaks for itself.

    1. That’s probably a powerful indictment in your mind, Peter. All you have to do is label a source as “conservative” and that’s the end of the story. You don’t have to listen to anything that source says or any arguments/facts it may present. The intellectual door slams shut. Any source deemed “conservative” is, by definition, declared illegitimate and unworthy.

      Saves a lot of trouble, doesn’t it? No thought required.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    And the NRDC doesn’t have an agenda? Doesn’t raise money from people with an agenda? It reminds me of some of my friends who want business out of elections, but feel differently about labor unions. Or that Soros’ money is welcome in elections, but not the Koch’s.

    Personally, I like to see a variety of papers written and debate occurring.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    1) The EPA rules are not final and the final rules may be at least somewhat different than the most recent version. They may be significantly different.
    2) There will then be litigation.
    3) Beacon Hill and NRDC both come at this with a point of view that has to be taking into account when analyzing their data. But I’m not going to waste much time because (See 1 and 2).

    1. larryg Avatar

      I certainly think the NRDC has an “agenda” but what is it? Isn’t it to reduce pollution and increase conservation?

      what is the Agenda of the Thomas Jefferson folks relative to energy use and pollution?

      They have a traditional anti-govt, free market perspective where they essentially do not acknowledge responsibility for pollution .. it’s just an “externality”.. that is unfortunate but should not cost people money because that’s not how the free market “works”.

      government regulation and restrictions against pollution is “wrong” and should be opposed…. correct?

      I can deal with the differences in philosophy.. as long as the positions are principled.. but when we take positions that essentially pretend that pollution is not an issue, not for people, markets, nor govt to deal with – that’s not a principled position in my view. It just denies the realities that we do have to face.

      It’s not like we confronted Kepone, DDT, dixion, PCBs and came way reaffirming the Thomas Jefferson position. Nope.. in each case – the vast majority of people rejected the TJ philosophy and demanded that Govt stop companies from releasing these substances into the environment.

      Now, TJ – pretends it never happened and that govt should not be regulating int he first place. It’s just a wacko view of how the world actually works.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Or raising money and keeping in existence. A non-profit entity, once in existence, will find a way to remain relevant to donors and keep the bucks flowing in.

        Steve is also correct when he focuses on smog and ozone.

        1. larryg Avatar

          a lot depends on what the mission of the organization is as well as it’s funding sources beyond membership.

          Most groups like NRDC do not get funding from industry sources nor do they align their advocacy with those funding sources.

          they largely operate on shoestring funding..

          more than that – they have nothing to gain from their advocacies. Reducing pollution does not make them financially better off..or bigger…

          they actually gain membership when the public becomes more concerned about pollution.

          In terms of smog and ozone – any and all air quality – of which there are dozens if not hundreds of substances of which the concentration of the substance is also an issue.

          to give a for instance – the concentration of mercury and SO2 – not just the fact they are in the environment – but at what concentrations – that’s the science that is involved.. and I still don’t understand why we believe the EPA on what they say about Mercury and SO2 but not smog and ozone.

          what drives the variable “skepticism” and indeed why are the smog/ozone skeptics not also seriously doubting the other criteria levels that the EPA sets for other pollutants?

          it’s a little bit wacky in my view. I don’t think we have to have an all or nothing approach to believing or not believing the EPA but at the same time there seems to be no rhyme or reason the doubters have on SOME but not other EPA guidance.

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            But lots of them get funding from left-wing foundations. Even a very right-leaning Henry Ford has seen his money go to causes that would have him spinning in his grave. Does anyone think the Ford Foundation would fund a study challenging global warming or EPA regulations? Or that nonprofits will do what they need to do to get funding, be they on the left or on the right?

            This is not to say everything the EPA does is wrong or that discharge of CO2 cannot have an effect on long-term weather, i.e., climate.

            But people, businesses and interest groups challenge federal agencies all the time. For example, there is pushback as to how US DOT measures traffic congestion or calculates benefits from transit. The FCC is being pummeled by some over its network neutrality rules. DoD has been criticized for not providing any retirement benefits to military who leave before 20 years and too much for those who leave at or after. It’s looking at 401K-like plans and reevaluating traditional pensions. Military tactics have changed over the years. The NTSB and FAA are constantly rethinking safety standards for airplanes. Congress has been critical over excessive use of radio spectrum by federal agencies and has taken away federal spectrum and given it to the public.

            But the EPA is somehow sacred. As are environmental groups. It almost like being in a lawsuit and told the other side’s expert witness cannot be deposed or cross-examined. The science or pseudo science should be debated. Cost/benefit analyses should be subject to vigorous challenge. That is both the scientific method and the American way of government.

    2. larryg Avatar

      here is an example of how “dueling” reports might play out:


      EPA Announces It Is Unlikely to Approve New Outdoor Neonicotinoid Pesticide Uses
      For Release: April 2, 2015

      As part of EPA’s ongoing effort to protect pollinators, the Agency has sent letters to registrants of neonicotinoid pesticides with outdoor uses informing them that EPA will likely not be in a position to approve most applications for new uses of these chemicals until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.”

      now – my question to folks here:

      1. – what do you think the NRDC position on this will be – and why?

      2. – now tell me what the TJ position on this will be – and why?

      My suspects are that the NRDC will issue their position which will support the removal of pesticides from the environment because of the known harm they are suspected of causing..

      Now tell me what the likely TJ response would be for this same issue.

      would it be specific to this issue or would it more likely be a repeat of their generalized anti-govt, pro-free-market positions…

      this is why I say we have opponents but no alternative proposals -just re-spouting the Conservative dogma.. not a constructive alternative solution.

      this is not a principled philosophy – it’s just mindless posturing.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    We had an alternative called cap and trade, but somehow that became uncool among conservatives. If you are willing to give them that label and remove it from people like me, who remember that Nixon created the EPA in the first place….actually I don’t think many “conservatives” know a darn thing about these issues and I know few of them lived in Southern California in the 60s, like I did. THAT was an experience that made me something of a clear air fanatic. If the attitudes of today ran the GOP of yesterday, LA would look worse than Beijing.

    The “sky is falling” climate change fanatics are just as guilty of mindless posturing. SMOG is pollution. Ozone is pollution. CO2 is not.

    1. larryg Avatar

      Steve – SALT is pollution if you ingest too much of it guy …

      when I speak of alternatives – I’m tying it to opposition. It’s okay to principally oppose something as you affirmatively favor something else.

      but it’s more than “uncool” to indict science – as your excuse – unless you’re going to indict science in general as unfit for most all issues.

      there is no way that science can be correct for the Chesapeak Bay and Hurricanes and Kepone and wrong on other things – just because you don’t like the implications.

      this sounds ever so much like the cigarette and ozone holes arguments.. where there was nothing that could be done to convince the “skeptics”. They were bound and determined that science was wrong and there was no need to go any further on any of it because it meant if they did not believe science – they did hot have to believe any of the data that science generated.

      this is not a reasonable and cogent position.

      it’s totally in-congruent with basic facts and realities that over 90% of the world’s scientists do – essentially agree.

      when you find yourself siding with the opponents of 90+% of science – it is not a virtue nor is it principled – UNLESS you simple do not believe science in general – across the board. I can respect that as not hypocrisy.. even if I cannot agree. But when folks pick and choose which science they “like” then.. it’s a problem.

  6. Looking forward to your separation of the wheat from the chaff. These reports usually are full of chaff on both sides.

  7. 38% CO2 reduction speaks for itself as an enormously difficult target especially considering population swell by 2030. My feeling is it’s either impossible or requires expensive shift to nuclear power which is not my preference. Keep in mind the law is not final so it is perhaps too early to assess.

    I sort of expect this law to be reversed due to lack of feasibility. Of course that will be met with cries of impropriety but the law is onerous (draconian) for VA anyways.

    1. In its response to the Clean Power Plan, the SCC said that it might be impossible to roll out new nuclear in capacity, which has long lead times, in time to meet the EPA deadlines. Therefore, nuclear really isn’t an option. Virginia will have to choose some combination of more gas, renewables, or wholesale electricity purchases.

      1. larryg Avatar

        this is an example of the regs that EPA did NOT implement and force Dominion to handle before it became a problem – which ratepayers now have to pay and which is not included in the comparative costs of coal verses solar:

        Duke, Virginia agree to $2.5 million coal ash settlement
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        Posted: Friday, April 3, 2015 2:50 pm
        Associated Press | 0 comments
        RICHMOND — Virginia environmental officials say Duke Energy has agreed to a $2.5 million settlement over a massive coal ash spill in the Dan River last year. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced the settlement Friday.

        The settlement would include $2.25 million in environmental projects that Duke would perform in communities affected by the spill in February 2014. The remaining $250,000 would be placed in a fund for the department to respond to environmental emergencies.”

        now where are the folks who say the EPA is requiring unreasonable and costly and unfeasible regulations?

      2. I am not sure exactly what SCC meant, but the CPP stringent interim targets are for 2020, so yes that would be impossible to meet that with new nuclear. But 2030 we could meet with new nuclear. Seems to me almost certainly the 2020 interim targets need adjustment before the final rules.

        My interpretation of the CPP is that EPA is basically holding VA to ~50% carbon-free (nuke + renewable) like we have today. So any nuke retirement would probably have to replaced in kind. If we want to keep VA coal plants running, which is a GA/Dominion decision option, then more new nukes could be needed to get our CO2 average yield per KwHR down.

        Jim- I don’t really know how this CPP proposal is going to shake out for VA…I would like to see a non-partisan assessment, presenting various options or outcomes.

        1. larryg Avatar

          I concur about the 2020 date for Nukes.. but I seriously doubt there are going to be any more nukes … North Anna sits on an active fault line.. that saw devastating damaged to school building in Louisa and many chimney’s toppled throughout the region.

          I cannot imagine any sane decision to put another Nuke there but who am I.

          Nukes are not only decades long in getting built but they are ungodly expensive and really are not possible without govt backing.

        2. larryg Avatar

          With the Ozone holes – there was a proposal for reductions, right?

          were there discussions that the amount of reductions recommended were “infeasible” or would wreak economic disaster if implemented?

  8. larryg Avatar

    The CPP is the BEGINNING of a conversation to see what compromises are possible – and I suspect the PJM will play a substantial role – this is pro-forma for many if not most of the EPA proposals before the final rule is written – and then lawsuits from both sides erupt.

    folks here act like EPA has gone haywire over CO2. EPA has virtually always picked a middle ground .. there are no regs that require pristine environments – it’s always a compromise ..but it’s step in the right direction.

    you guys may or may not remember the brouhaha over some of the toxics, and, in fact, right now – significant amounts of mercury are released as approved by the EPA. you may remember the term BAT – best available technology… another term that has been litigated. You may remember regulations over CSOs which were not required to be fixed everywhere – immediately and instead phased in . over decades.

    so all this talk about the EPA is basically right wing idiocy.. politicizing something without themselves offering any kind of alternative compromise. It is the opposition who has, in fact, made it an all or nothing proposition.

    TMT – you can see the finances of most environment groups. so you know how they are funded. How about the industry groups?

    what is the pay off for the environmental groups vs the industry groups?

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