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Light-switch Fever!

John Boehner and other House Republicans have been going around saying that Obama's cap-and-trade proposal to reduce carbon emissions will cost each U.S. household $3,128 per year. Where'd they get that figure from? Apparently from this MIT analysis of a similar plan. Except when the St. Petersburg Times called up John Reilly, one of the authors of the report, he said of the GOP number: "It's wrong in so many ways it's hard to begin." Doh.

Basically, Republicans had simply estimated how much revenue the carbon auction would raise and then divided that by the number of U.S. households, brushing off the fact that most carbon revenue would be rebated back to consumers, and that certain conservation measures could help reduce energy bills. But the actual MIT study implies that the welfare cost would be around $31 per person in 2015, rising to an average of $85 per person per year—not including the benefits of cleaner air and a habitable planet. I'm not sure if that's the One True Cost Estimate for Obama's plan, but it's certainly different than the GOP number.

Anyway, the intrigue continues: A House Republican staffer had contacted Reilly to ask about his study a few days prior, and Reilly explained that the $3,128 figure was wildly wrong. But Republicans ran with it anyway. By the by, I'd missed this, but the GOP's now referring to cap and trade as a "light-switch tax," which strikes me as way too goofy a term to catch on, but what do I know? Even Judd Gregg, who once upon a time supported trying to avert drastic climate change, is catching the fever.

Update: Over at TPMDC, Brian Beutler chases this down further. Reilly's trying to get Republicans to stop misusing his study. Any bets on how successful he'll be?

And more: Here's a letter Reilly wrote to Congress, explaining in detail why the Republican number is inaccurate. And, my mistake, that $85-per-person welfare cost appears to be before any consumer rebates. So even this modest cost can be offset by rebating revenue from auctioning permits.

--Bradford Plumer