Home Energy and Environment Debunking Ken Cuccinelli’s Top 5 Lies, Distortions at Last Week’s Fossil-Fuel-Funded Energy...

Debunking Ken Cuccinelli’s Top 5 Lies, Distortions at Last Week’s Fossil-Fuel-Funded Energy Forum

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The other day in Arlington, at an fossil-fuel-funded energy forum in Arlington, Ken Cuccinelli didn’t even bother trying to say anything truthful, and the idiot/lazy/cowardly media didn’t bother looking into it. Fortunately, the “media” these days isn’t just the dead-tree version. There are also many blogs and other social media outlets, obviously of varying quality (just as the legacy media is of varying quality – mostly crap, infotainment, etc., but a few that are generally excellent, like PBS, NPR, and the New York Times for the most part). In the case of Blue Virginia, our focus is overwhelmingly on Virginia politics, but we also write about whatever other issues we’re interested in and/or have some expertise. In my case, I worked at the U.S. Energy Information Administration for 17 years, and have consulted at clean energy PR firm Tigercomm the past three years. So I feel that I have a bit of knowledge when it comes to energy. Enough knowledge, anyway, to easily debunk Ken Cuccinelli’s multiple lies and distortions that he made the other day in Arlington.  

Check out the videos here and on the “flip.” I’m going to pick out 5 of Cuccinelli’s biggest lies and show why they are demonstrably false. I’m not expecting that the legacy media will give a crap, or even spend two minutes reading this, because they are lazy and don’t care about substance. Still, I feel it’s worthwhile setting the record straight, if for no other reason then to prove how pitiful the “mainstream media” is, and how bloggers can easily kick their butts.

Cuccinelli Energy Big Lie #1 (5:42)

“I’ll encourage the free-market development of alternative sources of energy, including more nuclear power, solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources. I’ll prevent our government from picking winners and losers in the energy markets…”

I’m not sure if Cuccinelli realizes how wildly he contradicts himself here, but a few seconds before he talks about a “free market” in energy, he pledges to massively interfere in supposedly “free” energy markets: protecting the coal industry (how is it “free market” exactly for the government to artificially prop up/subsidize an industry?), preventing energy prices from rising (how it is “free market” for the government to control prices?!?). Note that later in his presentation, Cuccinelli flatly asserts, “government should do all it can to reduce energy costs.” That’s about as opposite of a “free market” as is humanly possible; much closer to socialist-style central planning, actually, which I thought Cuccinelli abhorred? Guess not?

So that’s just ridiculous. But the biggest howler is Cuccinelli’s  claim that he’ll prevent our government from picking winners and losers in the energy markets.” There are two options here. One is that Ken Cuccinelli is completely ignorant of the entire history of energy markets in America. Two is that he knows the history, but is just lying through his teeth. The fact is, the U.S. government for the past 100 years has very much picked “winners” in energy markets: namely, the U.S. government has picked fossil fuels, via massive subsidies ($594 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies over the last 60 years), billions of dollars in government R&D on things like “fracking,” indirect subsidies of all kinds (e.g, building an interstate highway system with our tax money in order to facilitate gasoline-and-diesel-powered transportation, as opposed to investing that money in, let’s say, a high-speed rail network crisscrossing America), and of course allowing fossil fuels to spew their pollution into the air and water without paying for it.

That last item is what’s known as an “externality,” or alternatively “market failure,” and it’s enormous in the case of fossil fuels. How enormous? Well, for coal alone, a Harvard study found that “the full ‘lifecycle cost’ of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year” in terms of health and environmental costs. Again, that’s just coal. The “externalities” for oil in terms of national security costs, environmental costs, health costs, you name it, are enormous as well.

Anyway, the point is that there is absolutely no “free market” in energy in the United States, nor has there ever been. To claim that there is an energy “free market,” or that the government hasn’t for over a century picked oil, gas, and coal as the big “winners” in U.S. energy markets, is a Big Lie. Nothing whatsoever is true about it. Does Ken Cuccinelli know that, but lie anyway? Or is he an ignoramus who won’t listen to anyone who points out his ignorance? Or both? You decide. I can’t read this guy’s severely addled/confused mind.

By the way, it’s unintentionally hilarious that Cuccinelli says government doesn’t have a “great track record” of picking “winners and losers,” since he’s basically admitting that government made a huge mistake in picking oil, gas and coal as “winners” the past century plus. But of course that’s not what he means; he’s just lying and/or severely confused.

2. Cuccinelli Energy Big Lie #2 (6:02)

“I’ll fight burdensome federal regulations that seek to put coal, oil, and natural gas out of business…”

Yeah, whatever (rolls eyes sarcastically). That’s why oil and natural gas production are booming,  because they’re being put “out of business.” Uh huh. Also, as for the supposed “burdensome federal regulations” supposedly seeking to put coal out of business, there are a couple of facts Ken Cuccinelli doesn’t want to acknowledge: a) the federal government has actually been extremely WEAK, pitifully so really, when it comes to the abomination of mountaintop removal coal mining, also when it comes to taking strong action against b) global warming, of which Ken Cuccinelli is a Koch-brothers-funded denier.

3. Cuccinelli Energy Big Lie #3: 13:00

“In Virginia, the war on coal is a war on our poor; that’s who suffers in Virginia from the war on coal…drive with me down through Southwest Virginia and you’ll see what I mean.”

Bzzzzz. Nope, false on ALL counts. First, there is no “war on coal.” In fact, as these three graphs demonstrate, it’s the opposite if anything: in fact, coal mining employment in Virginia is actually UP a bit from the George W. Bush years, while most of the decline in coal mining employment in Central Appalachia occurred under Presidents Reagan and George HW Bush (the trend continued under Bill Clinton, then reversed a bit under George W. Bush and Barack Obama). So much for THAT theory. As for how much coal mining employment contributes to Virginia’s economy, see here: we’re talking about 0.46% of Virginia jobs and 0.56% of Virginia’s economy. Third, it’s important to emphasize that the major competitor to coal in recent years has been cheap, “fracked” natural gas, which has undercut coal as a fuel for power plants. In other words, if there’s a “war on coal” (which there isn’t), it’s Cuccinelli’s friends in the natural gas industry (at CONSOL, for instance) who are waging it. Finally, as for coal being a source of riches for Appalachia…I mean, seriously, do we have to debunk that one? After decades and decades of coal mining, Appalachia remains one of the poorest regions in America. I mean, if coal mining is so great, why isn’t Appalachia rich? Perhaps because, as >Professor Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University has found in his research, “Appalachian counties with the heaviest concentration of coal mining have the worst unemployment and the worst economic conditions in the region.” Hmmmmm.

Cuccinelli Energy Big Lie #4: 16:50

“In 2009, Kansas made their voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard mandatory, and the Kansas Policy Institute estimates that that law will eliminate 12,000 jobs during this decade and increase electricity prices by approximately 45%…Studies of Washington and Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio laws have shown similar results…lost jobs and higher electricity prices.”

Wildly false on all counts. First, though, what on earth is the “Kansas Policy Institute?” Check this out.

The Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) has been the central coordinating think tank within Kansas as outside interests have backed ALEC’s attack clean energy laws. KPI co-published the debunked Beacon Hill Institute report that ALEC has used for its clean energy standard repeal in Kansas (see sources in Beacon Hill section above for debunking).

Kansas Policy Institute Vice President & Policy Director James Franko testified in the Kansas legislature alongside representatives of Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity and Beacon Hill Institute on Feb. 14 to weaken Kansas's renewable portfolio standard…KPI has served as the glue for other State Policy Network affiliates entering Kansas to amplify the opposition to clean energy.

What is the “State Policy Network?” According to Sourcewatch:

The State Policy Network (SPN) has franchised, funded, and fostered a growing number of “mini Heritage Foundations” at the state level since the early 1990s.[1] It describes itself as a network and service organization for the “state-based free market think tank movement,” and its stated mission is “to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.”[2] It was founded in November 1991[3] and incorporated in March of 1992.[4]

The founding chairman of the board and a major funder was Thomas A. Roe (1927-2000),[5] and the founding executive director was Byron S. Lamm.[3] In the mid-1980s, Roe allegedly told fellow wealthy conservative donor and Heritage Foundation trustee Robert Krieble, “You capture the Soviet Union — I’m going to capture the states.”[6]

SPN was formerly known as the Madison Group (see SPN’s history below).[1]

Fueled by robust funding from right-wing funders including the Koch brothers, the Bradley Foundation, the anonymous wealthy donors to the donor-advised funds of DonorsTrust, and others, SPN has grown rapidly in recent years. There were 12 original think tanks when SPN was founded. In 2012, there were 59 SPN member think tanks in all 50 states. Please see SPN Members for more, including links to articles about each of them.

So much for the “Kansas Policy Institute” and its “study” of Renewable Portfolio Standards. As for the Oregon “study,” Cuccinelli’s apparently referring to the Cascade Policy Institute, another member of the right-wing, fossil-fuel-funded “State Policy Network.”

Meanwhile, just in the past couple days, the Wichita Business Journal reported, “Kansas ranks sixth in nation for creation of green-energy jobs.” And earlier this year, the conservative, Republican-controlled Kansas legislature beat back a fossil-fuel-funded effort to repeal the state’s 20% Renewable Portfolio Standard target. Why? Because:

… Representative Moxley, a Republican and rancher by trade, said it best when he noted that there is an entire industry built up on the RPS, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars, and that changing this would be devastating to Kansas’s economy.  The RPS truly is a bipartisan issue that is bringing jobs and prosperity to the state.  The number of wind farms that came online from 2011 to 2012, after the passage of the RPS, nearly doubled Kansas’s installed wind capacity. And the 19 wind farms operating in Kansas have created more than 12,300 jobs, $13.7 million in payments to landowners annually, and $10.4 million in contributions to communities each year.  These are real benefits, experienced by real Kansans.

The fact is, State Renewable Portfolio Standards Create Jobs and Promote Clean Energy, with success stories ranging from Kansas to Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, etc, etc. What on earth is Ken Cuccinelli talking about? Simple: he’s spouting his fossil-fuel masters’ lies. That’s it.

The question is, why would anyone listen to him? Also, why is the media not reporting on Cuccinelli’s lies? Are they oblivious? Are they in the tank for the fossil fuel companies too? Are they just too cowardly, afraid of being criticized by the fossil fuel companies and their right-wing pals? My guess is it’s all of the above. Anyway, we’ve just shown that it’s not hard at all to debunk Cuccinelli’s Big Lie on Renewable Portfolio Standards. It took us maybe 10 minutes. Why can’t a “real reporter,” one PAID to do this job, spend 10 minutes Googling and finding the same information anyone else (like me) can find? Think about that.

Cuccinelli Energy Big Lie #5: Second video, 0:49

…at least some people in the Sierra Club supported getting rid of those [RPS standards] because they artificially incentivized our utilities without any environmental benefit that any of us could discern…we were just funneling money to what amounted to special interests…”

It’s hard to know exactly what Cuccinelli’s babbling about here. Obviously, environmental groups are STRONG supporters of mandatory, ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standards. Perhaps Cuccinelli is referring to frustration by some Virginia environmentalists that “lobbyists for the state’s largest utility companies riddled the RPS with so many loopholes that it is not serving this intended purpose [to “make Virginia’s air and water cleaner, and reduce the commonwealth’s emissions of greenhouse gases”]. The question is, if Virginia’s weak, pathetic, voluntary RPS has been even further “gamed” by Dominion Power and others so that they end up “getting credits for power they generated at old, out-of-state facilities, almost all of which were already in operation when the RPS was passed,” the there’s a serious question whether Virginia’s weak, pathetic, voluntary RPS is even worth having at all. Of course, a MUCH better option would be to make Virginia’s RPS mandatory and strengthen it in every other way. But that’s not what Ken Cuccinelli and his fossil-fuel masters want, of course. They want NO RPS AT ALL, just fossil fuels forever, global warming be damned, and also the enormous economic potential represented by clean energy be damned. It’s short sighted. It’s stupid. And it’s greedy (see “Dirty Money, Dirty Power: How Virginia’s Energy Policy Serves the Interests of Top Campaign Contributors” by CCAN, Sierra Club, and Appalachian Voices), if you’re a fossil fuel company or one of the politicians they’ve bought and paid for. But it’s not anything the rest of us should support on November 5, or any other day, that’s for damn sure.

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So, those are just five of Ken Cuccinelli’s Big Lies on energy, from just one conference on one day, debunked. I could go on and on with this all day, as almost literally not a SINGLE WORD Cuccinelli said on Thursday in Arlington was true. Go through the videos yourself. Examine every statement Cuccinelli made, even the seemingly most innocuous. What you will find is that they are either totally or partially false, deceptive, misleading, and or bizarre. But what else would we expect from someone who is being lambasted in today’s newspapers for being wildly corrupt in his unethical/should-be-illegal dealings with…you guessed it, a fossil fuel company (CONSOL Energy)?

  • kindler

    And yes, it is a big problem that our media rarely goes into this level of depth, except for the rare “fact check”.  It’s all “he said, she said” and both sides are equally right or wrong…