Group uses new media in climate-change debate

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A new advocacy group seeking to expose what it says will be the high cost of climate-change legislation to consumers is spreading its message with the same tools that catapulted President Obama into office: blogs, Twitter and other new media outlets.

The Cost of Energy Information Project (CEIP) is the latest addition to the dozens of ad hoc organizations pressing lawmakers on Capitol Hill to consider the bill’s effects before casting a vote. This group, backed by energy-producing interests, is clearly in the anti-legislation category.

The group plans to reach outside of the Beltway to engage citizens who, organizers insist, have been excluded from the lawmaking process.

CEIP was put together with the help of Morris Reid, a Democratic lobbyist, and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Barbour said two other prominent Republican consultants, Ed Gillespie, also a former RNC chairman, and Ed Rogers assisted with the formation of the organization.

Mr. Barbour said he is not an officer of the group nor is he involved in its day-to-day advocacy work. But he said the pending legislation “will hurt the economy and cost jobs” by increasing the price of energy significantly; he also said he applauds the group’s efforts to spread that message.

“This was not meant to be another Washington type of organization; it’s about getting the information out,” added Mr. Reid, the chief spokesman for the group. “By using the power of new media, you can reach lots of people very quickly.”

The group’s Web site, www.costofenergy.org, features an “energy cost calculator” that estimates how much a person’s energy costs would rise if the climate bill passed by the House this past summer were enacted. The calculation is based on the projected average increase per state as analyzed in a study by the American Council for Capital Formation with the National Association of Manufacturers.

The estimated costs are significantly higher than projections by Capitol Hill’s chief scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, which calculated that the legislation would cost the equivalent of “a postage stamp a day.” The cost calculator is likely to provide fresh ammunition for opponents of the legislation, who assert that higher energy costs would damage the fragile U.S. economy.

Once results are calculated, users can click a button to send the results as a Twitter feed and as an e-mail to their senators, as well as to family and friends.

The group said its offering fills a niche that has been overlooked in the climate bill rhetoric by both ends of the political spectrum: the direct impact of the bill on individual energy costs.

“People want to know how government is impacting them, and this shows the individual that if this bill passes, this will be the impact on your energy prices,” Mr. Reid said.

Mr. Reid said the group does not intend to advertise the site, but will instead publicize it by word of mouth. He added that he plans to speak in states where senators have not yet declared how they will vote on the climate legislation.

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