Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

A Spectacular Math Fail on EPA Rule Costs

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Roy Blunt’s office sent out a press release with a spectacular math fail that made the new EPA regulations on power plants look far more expensive than even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s own study suggests.

“The study reveals that U.S. consumers would pay almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030, an average of $17 billion more per year,” the release reads, before going off the rails.

“Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Both of those figures for Missouri are spectacularly wrong — and even internally inconsistent.

Blunt’s release was charging that Missouri’s 6 million residents — about 2 percent of America’s population — would end up with more than 20 percent of the entire nation’s costs from 2014 to 2030.

And even weirder, it was simultaneously saying that Missouri’s yearly costs were two-thirds of the entire country’s.

As it turns out, the Chamber study did not actually come up with a total for Missouri, but did break down costs by region.

And that’s where the math trouble started.

Missouri is covered in part by three different regions, Blunt’s spokeswoman, Amber Marchand, explained in an email. Blunt’s office totaled up the costs for all three regions — including parts of 25 states — and divided by three to come up with Missouri’s supposed costs of $65.4 billion.

That’s not how math works.

The Blunt release then kept the $11 billion total yearly costs for all three regions — remember, parts of 25 states — and assigned them all to “Missouri consumers.”

Oops.

It’s simply wrong to take regional costs — and certainly not the costs for three regions covering 25 states — and ascribe them all to Missouri.

You can’t break down the state’s particular costs without knowing more about how the Chamber study assigned costs. But it would certainly be a far smaller number than $11 billion a year.

That’s not to say the Chamber is saying there wouldn’t be costs for Missouri; they would still certainly total in the billions by 2030.

Just not $65.4 billion. Or $11 billion a year.

Marchand stood by the release’s faulty math, although she changed the release from “on average $11 billion more per year” to “up to $11 billion more per year” on Blunt’s website.

Still really, really wrong.

The broader study’s numbers, meanwhile, also need to be recalculated.

The Chamber study looked at the cost of implementing a 40 percent reduction from 2005 levels. Obama’s proposing a milder, 30 percent reduction.

The administration disputes that its rules will cost consumers, claiming benefits from energy efficiency measures, health improvements and reduced climate impacts will outweigh costs — but that’s another post.

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