On Monday, the Checks and Balances Project, Greenpeace, and Oil Change International will file this Freedom of Information Act request to determine if there were budgetary threats applied by members of the House of Representatives to force the release of a deeply flawed report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). We are filing this request because the public must know if Acting Administrator of the EIA, Howard Gruenspecht believed the report’s production was unduly influenced by demands placed by elected officials, who receive significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Yesterday, the Energy Information Administration released the controversial report that its Congressional “requestors” – Representatives Jason Chaffetz (UT-3), Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) and Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6) – had basically designed to defend government handouts to fossil fuel interest in the middle of the current budget fight.
Earlier this week, Climate Progress reported that Acting Administrator Gruenspecht might have attempted to postpone the release due to “quality assurance” concerns relating to the rigged nature of the study.
The release is an update to a 2007 report originally requested by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The earlier version had been used to distort the debate around the massive government handouts for oil, coal and gas companies. If it’s true that Acting Administrator Gruenspecht called this report a “piece of garbage,” he was right. This is little more than a propaganda exercise because it deliberately leaves out several other ways in which coal, oil and natural gas get government handouts: pollution clean-up, low-cost insurance, tax breaks, low-interest loans, access to federal loans, and government agencies dedicated to fossil fuels.
And that is just the start of how this report distorts the truth on federal energy subsidies in order to favor fossil fuels. Take what a former Senior Economist and Team Leader at the EIA, Lowell Feld of Scaling Green noted:
“According to Table ES2 in the EIA report, “renewables” received about $8.5 billion in non-ARRA (one time only)-related “quantified energy-specific subsidies” in 2010. Of this, however, about $7.6 billion went to biomass or biofuels. Which means that only about $525 million of non-ARRA-related subsidies in 2010 went to solar ($346 million), wind ($134 million) and geothermal ($45 million). This is down about $140 million from 2007, when about $669 million in subsidies went to solar ($179 million),wind ($476 million) and geothermal ($14 million). And while subsidies for solar/wind/geothermal were falling, production was rising sharply (e.g., wind went from 34,450 thousand megawatt hours in 2007 to 96,647 thousand megawatt hours in 2010, and solar went from 612 thousand megawatt hours in 2007 to 1,299 thousand megawatt hours in 2010).”
Furthermore, by using “BTU” models, the report fails to show the vast extent of welfare for the fossil fuel industry – which is tens or hundreds of times greater than the cost of pro-renewable policy support.
If there was Congressional influence in the production or release of this misleading report, then the American public deserves to know.