Fact Checker

Fact Checker: Hinson's Green New Deal tweet speaks to base, not facts

Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson hands out pens May 6, 2019, used by Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign a bill at the Educational Leadersh
Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson hands out pens May 6, 2019, used by Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign a bill at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Hinson campaign sent sourcing from the National Law Review, not the National Review. Updated at 10:55 a.m. July 20, 2020.

Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson, who is running this fall for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District against Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer, had this to tweet June 23:

“@Abby4Iowa wants Iowans to front a $123 billion bill to pay for the Green New Deal. Does she know that the Green New Deal puts farmers OUT of business?”

Analysis

Graded a D

The Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution proposed by House Democrats in February 2019 to address climate change in the United States, has been excoriated by Republicans from local lawmakers to President Donald Trump.

Because Congress hasn’t passed the resolution and because it would take specific bills to start the ball rolling, statements about its effects are mostly predictions. The Fact Checker checks predictions from time to time, but checking something that hasn’t happened yet relies on finding unbiased sources with authority. The Fact Checker decided it could evaluate Hinson’s claims because there has been some analysis of what the Green New Deal would, and could, do if approved.

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Claim 1: Finkenauer “wants Iowans to front a $123 billion bill to pay for the Green New Deal.”

When we asked Hinson’s campaign for the source of its information about the estimated cost, it sent a June 4 article in the National Law Review about the INVEST in America Act, a $1.5 trillion bill passed by July 1 by the U.S. House.

The bill, which has no path forward in the Senate, includes $494 billion for infrastructure and transportation projects, Politico reports.

The National Review says parts of the bill that relate to climate change add up to $123 billion.

These include $8.3 billion for new carbon pollution reduction apportionment program to reduce greenhouse gasses in transportation programs; $1.7 million for zero-emission buses and $105 billion for “authorization across all modes of transit,” according to the Review.

House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore.), says the INVEST in America act is the “application of the principles of the Green New Deal.” But it’s not the Green New Deal.

The American Action Forum, which describes itself as a center-right policy institute, said the Green New Deal could cost from $51 trillion to $93 trillion. But the resolution itself doesn’t include any cost estimates and several policy experts told Factcheck.org in 2019 it was impossible to put a dollar figure to the plan, which is a set of ambitions, not policy.

The Congressional Budget Office has not done an estimate of the cost of the Green New Deal resolution, House Resolution 109.

Finkenauer did vote for the INVEST in America Act, but there has not been a House vote on the Green New Deal.

Conclusion: We give this claim an F for conflating the INVEST in America Act and the Green New Deal. It’s also misleading to indicate Iowans specifically would be required to pay $123 billion.

Claim 2: “Does she (Finkenauer) know that the Green New Deal puts farmers OUT of business?”

Hinson’s source for this statement comes from an April 12, 2019, story in the Washington Examiner, a right-leaning news outlet that quotes Quad County Corn Processors Chief Executive Officer Delayne Johnson, in Sioux City, as saying the Green New Deal would be “devastating to rural America.”

Johnson said the Green New Deal would get rid of biofuels and leave farmers without a market for corn. Most agriculture groups have denounced the resolution, in some cases, because of its connection to extremely left members of the Democratic Party.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, who has been most closely associated with the Green New Deal, fueled perceptions about the resolution in February 2019 when her staff sent a list of FAQs to National Public Radio that mentioned getting “rid of farting cows and airplanes,” Factcheck.org reported.

The Green New Deal doesn’t say anything specifically about cows — which do produce methane with their digestion — or airplanes.

The resolution does seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 40 to 60 percent by 2030 and move to net-zero emissions by 2050. It calls for supporting “zero emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean biofuels are out.

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A 2012 study by Argonne National Laboratory found when doing a life cycle analysis that using corn-based ethanol in place of gasoline reduces greenhouse gas emissions on average by 34 percent, reported the Alternative Fuels Data Center of the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Using ethanol as a vehicle fuel has measurable GHG emissions benefits when considering the life cycle steps required for gasoline,” the Data Center reported. “Carbon dioxide (CO2) released when ethanol is used in vehicles is offset by the CO2 captured when crops used to make the ethanol are grown. As a result, FFVs running on high-level blends of ethanol produce less net CO2 than conventional vehicles per mile traveled.”

The Green New Deal also calls for “supporting family farming,” investing in conservation practices that increase soil health and “building more sustainable food systems.”

Conclusion: We give Hinson a D for this claim. While a move to zero emission vehicles could, in the long run, be bad for ethanol, there isn’t evidence it would put farmers “out of business.”

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan of The Gazette.

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