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Fact Check: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Radio Ad Uses Bogus Global Warming Data

Right-wing think tank supplied error-filled study

Jan. 27, 2010
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A new radio ad sponsored by the right-wing Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC)—attacking the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act, just introduced in the state Legislature—is, as usual, full of misinformation.

Voices of two anonymous women claim that the bill would cost the average Wisconsin family more than a thousand dollars per year and lead to job losses, as well as high electricity rates and gas prices.

But that claim is based on an already debunked study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), largely funded by the ultraconservative Bradley Foundation, and the Beacon Hill Institute, a free-market think tank that accepted more than $50,000 from the Bradley Foundation in 2007 to develop a “tax model” for Wisconsin. (Yes, that is the same Wisconsin Policy Research Institute that was exposed in last week’s Shepherd Express for cooking their results to make their conservative board members happy.)

These two right-wing think tanks produced a report in November that purported to calculate the costs of recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming. That report alleged that the impacts of all of the task force’s recommendations would lead to roughly 50,000 job losses in the state over the next decade and cost the average Wisconsin resident more than $1,000.

But don’t believe it.

“A Complete Fabrication”

Thad Nation, executive director of the business alliance Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE), which supports the bill, called the claims in the WMC ad “a complete fabrication” because it’s based on WPRI’s bogus study that analyzes the costs of all 13 task force recommendations—even though eight of the 13 are not included in the legislation.

“The [WPRI] study is not based on what’s actually included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” asserts a CREWE fact sheet.

Here are just a few errors:

  • The WPRI study includes the cost of a cap and trade system. But the legislation doesn’t recommend a cap and trade system. That throws the study’s overall cost estimates into doubt.
  • The WPRI study made a number of incorrect assumptions. For example, it assumed that 30% of the state’s energy sources would have to come from renewable sources by 2025, rather than the actual figure of 25%.
  • The WPRI study doesn’t include the many economic benefits of the legislation.

For example, state Rep. Spencer Black, who helped to author the bill, argues that $20 billion leaves Wisconsin each year to purchase fuel from other states and countries. Redirecting that money toward clean energy sources in Wisconsin—for example, solar or wind power—will increase the state’s tax base and jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, Neal Verfuerth, founder and CEO of Orion Energy Systems Inc. in Manitowoc, wrote in an editorial that up to 1.4 million person-hours of work would be spent on projects like installing the Apollo Solar Light Pipe, one of Orion’s clean energy products that would be fast-tracked under the legislation. In addition to supporting jobs, the pipe would drastically reduce the demand for electricity from dirty fossil fuel sources like coal. So it’s a win-win for a Wisconsin manufacturer, its workers and the environment.

Who’s the Voice of Wisconsin Businesses?

The radio ad states that it’s paid for by WMC Issues Mobilization Council Inc. (WMC INC), an issue advocacy group that does not have to disclose its donations or expenditures. Corporations may contribute to the fund, and there are no contribution limits.

Previously, WMC INC promoted the 2008 candidacy of state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, still under fire for his race-baiting campaign commercials and anti-defendant bias, and it fights against tax increases to support any kind of improvements in Wisconsin, no matter how necessary or beneficial to the average Wisconsin resident.

While WMC purports to be “Wisconsin’s business voice,” not all Wisconsin companies agree with its opposition to the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill’s supporters include We Energies and Alliant Energy, and household names such as MillerCoors, Johnson Controls and Poblocki Sign Co. The Global Warming Task Force included representatives from General Motors, SC Johnson, We Energies and Johnson Controls as well as consumer and environmental advocates.


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