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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

1,120 Days – and Counting – Till Election 2012!

In what could be an early preview of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney – a once and perhaps future Republican presidential hopeful – has released a new video on his political action committee’s Web site attacking President Barack Obama on climate change legislation.

Romney says that any cap-and-trade proposal "wouldn’t do a thing" because it would simply move "greenhouse gas emitters from America, to other nations like China and India that don’t participate in our program." But that’s speculation. While conservatives have expressed the view that such a program would simply cause polluters to take their smokestacks elsewhere, India and China might not be the most hospitable new hosts. During last month’s U.N Climate Change Summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to develop a "low carbon economy" that would include cutting emissions "by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level." And in August, the India Times reported that the government announced a new mission to save about 5 percent of annual energy consumption by 2015.

Romney also says that Obama’s climate change proposals would have a "devastating impact" on families and the economy, claiming the "plan would raise energy prices on the average American family by $1,761 a year." But that’s an unreliable figure we’ve debunked before. As we pointed out in September, the number comes from simple back-of-the-envelope calculations by CBS blogger Declan McCullagh using a redacted Treasury Department memo.The memo gave a $100-$200 billion range for the amount of revenue the government could conceivably take in through several types of cap-and-trade programs. McCullagh took the high estimate, $200 billion, and divided it by 113.5 million, the number of U.S. households, according to the Census Bureau, and he concluded that "the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year." But the Treasury wasn’t examining specific legislation or a specific proposal, and McCullagh’s rough calculation doesn’t take into consideration financial benefits from the program – both Obama and the Waxman-Markey bill in the House call for giving rebates to households to help with energy costs. Alan B. Krueger, Treasury’s assistant secretary for economic policy, has called the figure "flat out wrong."

Projections of the economic impact of various proposals to address climate change come in many flavors from groups on all sides (conservativeliberal and governmental). But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that under a House-passed bill "the average per-household loss in purchasing power would be $90 in 2012 and $925 in 2050 and would average about $455 per U.S. household per year over the 2012–2050 period."