Denise Robbins is Senior Researcher, Climate and Energy, at Media Matters for America.
It seems like a different study attacking the EPA’s Clean Power Plan pops up in the media every other week. But many of these studies are riddled with flaws and funded by competing energy interests, so media and the public should think twice before repeating their claims.
A new briefing from the Energy & Policy Institute (EPI) detailed the fossil fuel funding and methodological flaws of six reports attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon pollution standards. One of them, a study from NERA Economic Consulting, has been thoroughly debunked by multiple experts, who say the report is completely out of date, uses faulty efficiency cost assumptions and outdated renewable energy cost assumptions, and does not acknowledge any of the EPA plan’s economic benefits, rendering its findings irrelevant.
The deeply flawed NERA study also forms the basis for a new analysis from the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research (IER) (not included in EPI’s briefing), which concluded that the Clean Power Plan will result in 14,000 premature deaths. IER’s analysis led to horrific (and completely false) headlines like this, from the Daily Caller: “Report: EPA’s Global Warming Rule Could KILL Thousands of People.”
To arrive at their conclusion, IER used NERA’s estimate of a supposed impact on the Gross Domestic Product and converted it directly into increased premature deaths. However, using that method doesn’t make much sense, as NERA failed to acknowledge the Clean Power Plan’s projected life-saving health and economic benefits, as well as much lower prices for renewable energy. Thankfully, IER’s conclusion has so far been confined to the media fringes.
However, numerous groups have touted the public health benefits of pollution standards, and the EPA estimates that its plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
So how does IER’s analysis arrive at such a drastically different conclusion? A look at the chain of funding behind IER and the NERA study may provide the answer. For more on the players and a graphic showing their interconnections, please see my post at Media Matters.
EPI’s report illustrates how multiple industry-funded studies work in concert to simulate what may seem like a chorus of diverse voices attacking the EPA’s flagship plan for reducing carbon pollution. But really, it’s just competing industries trying to protect their bottom line.
This is an abbreviated version of a piece which first ran at MediaMatters.org.