The Fact Checker: Environment

Gingrich and cap-and-trade: a flip-flop?

“I’ve said publicly, sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi is the dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years. But if you notice, I’ve never favored cap and trade, and in fact, I actively testified against it. I was at the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee the same day Al Gore was there to testify for it, I testified against it and through American Solutions we fought it in the Senate and played a major role in defeating it.”

— Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Dec. 3, 2011

“I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.”

— Gingrich, Interview on PBS’s “Frontline,” Feb. 15, 2007

Every politician makes mistakes, although few are willing to admit it. Gingrich’s ad with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on climate change is certainly amusing in retrospect.

But what of the Republican presidential candidate’s claim that “I’ve never favored cap and trade”? Rival campaigns immediately pounced, sending around quotes from a PBS interview in which Gingrich appeared to say the opposite, suggesting support for a limit on greenhouse emissions. The conventional wisdom holds that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has a flip-flop problem, but does Gingrich?

The Facts

As Slate columnist David Weigel has noted, cap and trade was once a very respectable conservative position and several of the GOP contenders have a history of expressing interest in it, to varying degrees.

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Did Texas improve air quality, lower emissions as much as Rick Perry claims? (Fact Checker biography)


Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a stop in Jackson, Miss. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. (Greg Campbell - AP)

“We cleaned up our air in Texas more than any other state during the decade of the 2000s. And no it wasn’t the EPA’s regulations. As a matter of fact, they tried to come into Texas after we cleaned up our air and take it over, and what they’ll do is just kill a bunch of jobs and won’t clean up the air at all. We lowered our ozone levels by 27 percent during the decade of the 2000s and we lowered our nitrogen oxide levels by 58 percent.”

— Texas Gov. Rick Perry, during a town hall speech in Derry, N. H., Sept. 30, 2011

Perry claims Texas topped the charts in terms of air-quality improvements, and his remarks suggest that the state knows how to clean up just fine without oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency, thank you very much.

We wondered where Perry found his data and how bad Texas was doing before he took office. We also wondered whether federal regulations really kill jobs — a subject the Post already covered this week.

The Facts

Perry cited data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The state agency calculates its ozone numbers based on a three-year average of the monitors that showed the fourth-highest eight-hour emissions concentration for each of the three years.

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