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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Latest anti-Hodes ads are grossly misleading

Guest Commentary

A pro-fossil fuel political group, the American Action Network, has spent a whopping $450,000 over the past three weeks on TV and radio ads attacking U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes for his vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act.  The ads also support Kelly Ayotte, Hodes’ leading opponent to fill Sen. Judd Gregg’s Senate seat.  

One of us is a Republican who has publicly endorsed Ayotte, and the other is an independent who has yet to endorse a candidate. Both of us believe the ACES bill could have been greatly improved, but we also both strenuously object to the ads’ grossly and dangerously misleading claims.

The bad information in these ads rely on a study published by the Heritage Foundation asserting that the ACES bill would have increased electric rates by 90 percent and gas prices by $1.38 a gallon, as well as kill 2 million jobs over its first two decades.

Heritage’s analysis is likely tainted by its heavy reliance on funding from anti-climate science, fossil-fuel interests: $200,000 from ExxonMobil from 2005-09 and more than $1.6 million from Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest, privately held company.

The real facts are that New Hampshire bleeds more than $3 billion dollars each year – 6 percent of our state’s annual economic output – purchasing imported oil and coal. Our dependence on these fossil fuels exports jobs and weakens national security by flowing our dollars directly into the pockets of America’s adversaries, such as Venezuela and Iran.

The ACES bill, even in its less than perfect form, would have boosted the New Hampshire and U.S. economies and job counts by replacing these fossil fuel imports with clean sources of energy and energy efficiency – sources made and invented here in America and New Hampshire.

New Hampshire companies already lead in clean energy: Lebanon’s Mascoma Corp. in cellulosic biomass, Merrimack’s GTSolar, Jaffrey’s New England Wood Pellet, and Nashua’s ARC Energy in LED lighting materials manufacturing.

ACES would have stimulated further growth in New Hampshire clean energy production, technology and jobs, reducing fossil fuel market share. This explains why so much money is being spent on these ads.

And reliable, independent sources show the dire claims about ACES causing consumer pain are false. The Congressional Budget Office assessed the cost impact of ACES and – even taking no account of the bill’s efficiency-related savings or climate-related cost savings – found that the bill would cost the typical American household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 and actually save money for low-income households.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that the efficiency provisions of the bill would save each New Hampshire household $653 and create 3,000 New Hampshire jobs by 2030.

And the ad recklessly fails to make any mention of the findings of the National Academy of Science, the world’s most prestigious body of scientists, that climate change is happening, is accelerating, and that our consumption of fossil fuels is unambiguously the major cause. NASA reports that Earth’s average surface temperature for the first seven months of this year is the warmest of the past 131 years.

If the United States continues its heavy reliance on fossil fuels, under climate change modeling developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, by the time today’s grade-schoolers become senior citizens, New Hampshire could suffer extreme summer heat waves with two months over 90 degrees (now 10 days in Concord-Manchester) and three weeks over 100 degrees (now one day).

It is healthy that political partisans engage in debate and critique their opponents over differences in policy choices and perspectives. But American Action Network’s ads are front work for the most retrograde elements of the fossil fuel industry.

The ads’ gross inaccuracies perpetuate America’s harmful addiction to fossil fuels, corrode public confidence in the political process, and are completely contrary to the national interest.

Jim Rubens is a former Republican state senator and a supporter of Kelly Ayotte. Charlie Niebling is an independent and general manager of New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey.