Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 29, 2015

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.

Comments (109)

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  1. NoVestedInterest

    June 2, 2014
    9:29 p.m.

    It sounds as though Blunt’s people put the decimal point in the wrong place.

    • Steven Dennis

      June 3, 2014
      10:42 a.m.

      No. They just fudged in a spectacularly bad way. Like adding up the cost of a chicken, a cow and a pig and saying that’s how much the drumstick costs.

  2. Grand1

    June 2, 2014
    11:23 p.m.

    So it had 6 million people paying 65 billion dollars by 2030. They would have to discover gold in the Ozarks!

  3. ShadrachSmith

    June 3, 2014
    9:39 a.m.

    The author suggests that the new rules won’t harm the economy. That isn’t a maths mistake, that is just a lie.

    • Steven Dennis

      June 3, 2014
      10:41 a.m.

      I’m the author. Where are you getting that?

      • ShadrachSmith

        June 3, 2014
        11:45 a.m.

        Gosh, but I try to be obvious. I mean that it is a logical fallacy to argue that because one objection to the new EPA rules has maths errors; therefore, the new EPA rules must be good.

        You imply, without evidence, that the new rules are good for the economy…which they aren’t. Was that an accident?

        Cool shades :-)

        • Steven Dennis

          June 3, 2014
          11:49 a.m.

          The article implies no such thing.

          • ShadrachSmith

            June 3, 2014
            11:50 a.m.

            It does to me. Since we have opened the question, what is your opinion (good or bad) about the new EPA rules?

          • Steven Dennis

            June 3, 2014
            11:53 a.m.

            Well then you misread the article. The point of the article is that Blunt’s office made a spectacular math fail and hasn’t corrected it. It’s not a debatable point. 2+2,000 does not equal 4. Whether you like or dislike the EPA rules — or think they help or hurt the economy — is for you to decide.

          • ShadrachSmith

            June 3, 2014
            12:07 p.m.

            And your rhetorical technique (assuming the facts are as you state them) is to ridicule a critic of the rules, and present Obama’s response as the conclusion. Dude, that is not objective commentary on the events of the day, that is partisan issue framing (See: Lakoff).

            You do this for a living, I assume you know the reasonable import of your words. I have nothing against political partisanship in the press. It has been an honorable part of our political heritage since Jackson bought newspapers to tell lies about Adams. This is not personal criticism.

            I just happen to believe that the new EPA rules are bad. It is your right to present my side in the worst possible light, and that is what you did. Fair play. However, me refuting sophistical devices is also fair play. At least until you redefine fair play by eliminating the comments sections like the NJ did last week.

            Again, no insult intended, you write better than I do. But your significant skills are being employed in this article to denigrate all opposition to the EPA rules. That is what I read, and I like my reading comprehension.

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