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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Ads Energetically Thank Democrats

Recently, we have seen several ads from liberal advocacy groups thanking various Democratic representatives for voting in favor of the Waxman-Markey energy bill. Some, like those from the group Americans United for Change, benignly mix images of nature with kind words of thanks. Others pour on the superlatives, but could use some further explanation.

For instance, an ad from VoteVets says that because the bill was passed, "now America is poised to import less oil, 300,000 barrels less every day."

We contacted VoteVets to see where the figure came from, and the group told us that an analysis done by the National Resources Defense Council calculated that the U.S. would import 330,000 fewer barrels in 2020 than it would have without the legislation. The NRDC report is not publicly available, so we couldn’t review it. But the VoteVets ad doesn’t tell us that it’s referring to a point 11 years in the future. Plus, according to the analysis, imports won’t be less than they are now, but rather less than they otherwise would be at that time. And to put the number in context, the U.S. imported a little more than 9 million barrels of crude oil a day from other countries during June 2009.

Another ad, this one from the building trades union of the AFL-CIO in conjunction with the Blue-Green Alliance, also used a projection, this time about jobs. In one ad, lauding Michigan Rep. Mark Schauer, the group says that because the energy bill passed the House, "Michigan stands to gain over 53,000 new jobs."

The 53,000 jobs figure comes from a study done by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that has been an advocate of the legislation. (Technically, the study says 54,000 jobs.) The figure is based on the assumption that "clean-energy investments create 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending" and that "$4.8 billion in investment revenue" would pour into the state from the private sector because of subsidies, tax credits and other incentives. For the country as a whole, CAP "calculates that roughly 2.5 million new jobs will be created overall by spending $150 billion on clean-energy investments, while close to 800,000 jobs would be lost if conventional fossil fuel spending were to decline by an equivalent amount."

But a conservative group disagrees with that projection. The Heritage Foundation has predicted that "[s]upport for renewable energy would likely cost more jobs than it creates." In criticizing a different CAP projection of job growth from alternative energy last year, Heritage argued that the study "ignor[ed] the equally large destruction of jobs from taxing" the amount of money that is spent. Both groups obviously have different views about cap and trade legislation.

Correction, July 13: We originally wrote that the VoteVets ad said "America’s ports will import less oil." However, we misunderstood the speaker, and the correct wording is "America is poised to import less oil." We have revised our post, and its critique of the ad, accordingly.