The Nose Knows: Washington Post Fact Checks President Biden’s Utility Savings Statistics
The Washington Post is calling the White House to task for President Biden’s fantastical claim that his plan to fight inflation and reduce energy costs would save families $500 in annual utility savings. The Washington Post rated the claim at four Pinocchios – a score that goes beyond “significant factual error.”
President Biden cites a $500 annual saving statistic in his featured op-ed, but the source of the number doesn’t match the claim:
“A dozen CEOs of America’s largest utility companies told me earlier this year that my plan would reduce the average family’s annual utility bills by $500 and accelerate our transition from energy produced by autocrats.”
According to the Washington Post, the figure grew out of an earlier statistic from the President’s State of the Union. During his speech, Biden claimed his American Rescue Plan would “cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combating climate change.” The supporting evidence for that figure is an October report published by the Rhodium Group. The report states under a scenario where Biden’s climate change policies are adopted, “national average annual household costs are $411-$566 lower than they were in 2020 and roughly $500 lower than under current policy.”
But “national average annual household energy costs” are not the same as a family’s annual utility bill. The Rhodium Group’s term covers both home energy services and the cost of driving. In an email to the Washington Post, the report’s principal author said the estimated savings in the “national average annual household costs” comes from the driving side of the equation. According to the Washington Post:
“’Of the $495 in savings, $403 comes from mobility savings (spending less money on gasoline either because of more efficient cars or electric vehicles) and the remainder is home energy savings,’ Larsen wrote in an email.”
In the op-ed, Biden said the figure came from a meeting with utility executives, but when the Washington Post looked to a transcript with utility executives earlier this year, there was no reference to the $500 in utility savings. And when the White House responded to an inquiry, they cited the Rhodium Study.
So the $500 figure referenced in Biden’s op-ed was falsely attributed to a meeting with utility executives and is a misinterpretation of the Rhodium Group’s “national average annual household costs.” Whoppers.
As to how this happened, the Washington Post hypothesizes:
“Somehow, as inflation became a hot political issue, the $500 figure that was cited in the State of the Union address appears to have morphed into a reference to utility bills. A May 10 White House release on the ‘Biden-Harris Inflation Plan,’ for instance, called on Congress to pass clean-energy legislation that would ‘save families an estimated $500 per year on their utility bills.’”
A Dollar Short and A Day Late
In fact, the Rhodium Group study found that if President Biden’s plan was adopted, home electricity bills by 2030 would be between one dollar more and five dollars less than under current policy.
The savings would be meager to home utility bills and mean nothing to those suffering from high prices now. The report’s estimated savings by 2030 can’t be one of Biden’s supposed “practical [steps] to make things more affordable for families during this moment of economic uncertainty.”