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Best of 2009: CEI Touts Study of Non-Existant Policy

All day, we’re re-running our favorite blog posts of the last year. This post was originally published on Sept. 16, 2009.

Earlier this week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute posted a set of documents (PDF) it obtained via the Freedom of Information Act that it’s touting as evidence that the Obama administration secretly believes that climate change legislation will cost the average American $1,761. Problem is, these hot documents don’t actually reflect any real policy being considered.

The documents are from the Department of the Treasury and reflect the cost of a cap-and-trade plan that would auction off all the carbon credits. This is what Obama talked about on the campaign trail, and it’s the basic outline he included in his first budget proposal earlier this year. The Treasury analysis also does not account for provisions in a cap-and-trade policy that would return all or part of those auction revenues to consumers.

But that’s a far cry from the plan that passed the House in June, and is likely very far from the bill the Senate is expected to take up. The House bill auctions just 15 percent of credits, and invests a significant amount of money generated by the legislation into programs to lower costs for consumers and rebates.

Actual studies of the House bill have found that the costs are much lower. The Energy Information Administration found that the House bill would increase household costs about $83 per year. The Environmental Protection Agency put the cost slightly higher, at between $88 and $140 per household per year, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated about $175 a year by 2020.

Of course, climate bill opponents are pitching quite a fit over the documents, egged on by a report by a CBSNews.com correspondent, claiming them as evidence that the administration is lying publicly about the costs of cap-and-trade. Whether the documents are relevant to actual policy doesn’t seem to matter too much.

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