Fake news

You may have seen this graphic. I was looking for a reputable conservative news source, to see the other side’s perspective. I am interested in Mr Trump’s cabinet nominations- how much damage can he do, and how do his supporters see them? I was glad to see The Hill was “reputable” from a conservative viewpoint, so I went there.


The Left worries about Scott Pruitt heading the Environmental Protection Agency. We need to prevent global warming. The Hill publishes an article by Benjamin Zycher, the John G. Searle scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who says Scott Pruitt is precisely the right person to clean the EPA up. Commenters say things like Roll Train, Drain the Swamp or Drill, baby, drill, as well as longer, mostly derisive comments.

Zycher testified before the Senate Finance Committee that the EPA analysis of the costs of carbon emission was “the most dishonest exercise in political arithmetic” I had ever seen produced by the federal bureaucracy. The EPA benefit/cost analyses… literally are bogus. In the article he gives one example to back that up.

The EPA has published estimates of the effects of its greenhouse-gas efficiency rule for medium- and heavy trucks:

The results of the analysis, summarized in Table VII-37, demonstrate that relative to the reference case, by 2100 … global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.0026 to 0.0065 °C, and sea-level rise is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.023 to 0.057 cm.

The EPA then states that “the projected reductions in atmospheric CO2, global mean temperature, sea level rise, and ocean pH are meaningful in the context of this action.” And so we arrive at the benefit/cost conclusion, given in all seriousness:

[We] estimate that the proposed standards would result in net economic benefits exceeding $100 billion, making this a highly beneficial rule. 

Can anyone believe that a temperature effect by 2100 measured in ten-thousandths of a degree, or sea-level effects measured in thousandths of a centimeter, could yield over $100 billion in net economic benefits?

How is that possible?

23 to 57 thousandths of a centimetre, or in other words hundredths of a centimetre. That detail shows shallow dismissiveness, a bias. But it is worse: I looked at the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles; Phase 2 Proposed Rule Document. It is very long, and there is no contents page, but CTRL-F finds Zycher’s quotes. The savings are not stated to arise from a temperature effect or sea-level effect, but from three ratios of cost effectiveness:

  1. Total costs per gallon of fuel conserved.
  2. Technology costs per ton of GHG emissions reduced.
  3. Technology costs minus fuel savings per ton of GHG emissions reduced.

The saving arises from projected reduction in the use of fuel of 75bn gallons. That is a cost of $1.33 per gallon saved.

There are conservative arguments that these matters should be left to manufacturers rather than government. The upfront cost of technology will be passed on to buyers of trucks. However, $1.33 per gallon sounds good to me. Zycher has not bothered with the arguments, but with a deliberate distortion. My quote is five paragraphs before his, so he will have seen it. Experts might dispute the EPA’s statistics or calculations but I only needed a few clicks and a few minutes to refute Zycher’s statement.

There are free marketeer arguments as well: regulation of trucks in the US is a “non-tariff barrier” making it harder for foreign manufacturers to export to the US; but inhibiting free trade might please those commenters.

This is not fake news of the “Pope endorses Trump” variety. Older language will suffice- Zycher is lying. That is wrong.

Has Mr Pruitt denied anthropogenic climate change? Greenpeace’s evidence is sparse, but he wrote, Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. CO2 in the atmosphere has increased because of human action. This warms the planet. This is not disputed except by science-deniers and obfuscators.

Interest has moved on, by now. Most commenting ended three days ago. Chris Stone, a horrible man who trashes Environmentalist arguments- “Try to keep up.” “Are you always this stupid”. “Scurry off, hug your tree and then go to your cry room, moron”- said the EPA Falsely Tied Hydraulic Fracturing to Ground Water Impacts, citing this press release from climate denier Senator Jim Imhofe. Does fracking pollute groundwater? A study by Acton Mickelson Environmental, Inc. in Wyoming found that there is gas in the drinking water, but that The potential contribution of gas seepage along gas wells versus natural upward migration of gas is undefined and would be difficult to quantify– the gas might have been in the water, even without fracking- and total dissolved solids exceed drinking water standards or comparison values in almost all the samples. It is not as clear as Senator Imhofe’s press release implies. There should be Continued evaluation of surface pits for potential contribution to water-quality issues.

What non-experts can do is limited. I am satisfied that Zycher is lying. I don’t think Stone has reason to be satisfied the EPA’s connection of fracking to ground water impact was false, let alone deliberately so, and if false it could be only one mistake, so that most EPA activity is still in good faith and reliable.

I have not shown that Imhofe is wrong, or that the Wyoming report admits fracking pollutes ground water. I have made selective quotes from the executive briefing. I disbelieve Imhofe because of his climate denialism. He lies about one reason why fossil fuels should not be extracted, so I cannot trust him on another alleged reason. I see from the Wyoming report that the gas, and the fracturing, is much deeper than the deepest well, and it might seem reasonable that something so deep might not affect water hundreds of feet above, but I really don’t know. If it were my drinking water, I would want to be certain it was safe.

We need to be careful of what we believe, and hold sites like The Hill to account for disseminating falsehoods. One deliberately deceptive article does not mean The Hill is never reliable, but it cannot be taken for granted.

Benjamin Zycher attacking the EPA.
The Proposed Rule document.