The Education of Charlie Baker

Since I’ve been following Cape Wind carefully I’ve been amazed at how rarely the opposition to the project says or writes anything that is completely true. So, I was interested to see a press release on Cape Wind from Charlie Baker, Republican candidate for governor. I wondered: Would Mr. Baker be afflicted by the same aversion to the truth that Audra Parker and the Alliance have displayed for years now? Or would he actually use truth to criticize the Project? Mr. Baker’s letter can be read here. I’ll examine his points one by one without skipping any.

First, Mr. Baker says: 

I believe that competition is good and the state shouldn't pick winners and losers. The state and federal government essentially gave a single developer a sweetheart deal. Unfortunately, Massachusetts utilities and ratepayers are on the hook for the cost of a project that wasn't competitively bid.

This is a classic red herring. When Cape Wind started working on the wind farm well over a decade ago, federal regulations and processes existed for applying for a project on the continental shelf. They weren’t as complete and effective as they are today, thanks to the Cape Wind experience, but they were there.  Any company could apply and, more specifically, any company could have applied for a license in Nantucket Sound.    Question: How many companies applied? Answer: One, Cape Wind. What was the Federal Government to do? Should it have said: “Sorry Cape Wind, we can’t consider your application until someone else applies for the very same location so that we can have a competitive bidding process”? Of course not. As I said, this is a classic red herring.

Second, Baker said:

Cape Wind is going to increase the cost of electricity for many people in Massachusetts, which is a shame because there are other renewable energy choices that could lower costs for consumers.

If Mr. Baker had stopped at his first comma, I would have been forced to admit that he’d been completely truthful. Luckily for me, however, he did not stop. Question: What other renewable energy sources cost less than prevailing market rates for electricity? Answer: None.

Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. These rates add to the high cost of living and doing business in our state, disproportionately affecting those least able to afford it.

While I’m almost forced to give this a grade of “completely true”, I’m going to escape on a technicality: This paragraph is not directed at Cape Wind. Whew! That was a close one.

We can't be blind to the economic impact of our energy choices. While Massachusetts rightly values clean energy and efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, we also value our commitment to economic equality. I refuse to believe that Massachusetts can't be both green and affordable.

I’m not really sure where Mr. Baker is going with that paragraph. I suppose it’s just spirited rhetoric. But I think I’ll take this opportunity to make up for that fact that I weaseled out in my response to the previous paragraph. With these last two paragraphs, Baker is obviously referring to the fact that Cape Wind will increase electricity rates, which is true. But I still can’t give Baker a grade of “completely true” because he fails to mention that the increases will be tiny. In fact, the way he writes makes these increases sound dire, when they are anything but that. Typical National Grid customers will see their monthly rates increase just $1.50 per month. That comes to $18 per year. For NSTAR customers the numbers are $1.25 per month and $15 per year. Mr. Baker does not leave the reader with a balanced understanding of this. Rather, by failing to mention the very small size of the rate increases, he misleads the reader.

The rest of the press release is just inspirational sounding words. Typical press release fare.  So how did Mr. Baker do?

Red herring, wrong, unrelated to Cape Wind, misleading.

That’s about par for the course among anti-Cape Wind writers. Mr. Baker has a way to go, however, to catch Audra Parker of the Alliance in the art of anti-Cape Wind propaganda. But he’s learning fast!
 

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