Prices at the pump and for home heating oil have been rising steadily for months.

So, now that newspaper headlines warn of a $4 per gallon charge because of the invasion of Ukraine, how do The Yankee Institute and the Republican Party feel about TCI?

Last year, the right-wing think tank decried the Transportation and Climate Initiative as “a gas tax” too onerous for the average citizen to bear, and Connecticut Republicans regurgitated Yankee Institute talking points. Some moderate Democrats capitulated and TCI went out with a fizzle because election year caution prevailed.

State Rep. Christine Palm

But TCI — a sensible and critical interstate compact that aims to charge fossil fuel companies for their carbon footprint — would actually have cost drivers, at most, 5 cents more per gallon. Unlike the open market vagaries of OPEC and soon, price hikes caused by inevitable Ukrainian supply chain interruptions, TCI was capped at 5 cents per year and would never have gone above 9 cents. (That means that, based on average mileage driven and gas tank sizes, TCI would have costs drivers between $15 and $50 per year.)

Last October, when I wrote an op-ed supporting TCI, The Yankee Institute countered that my calculations “don’t add up.” Their reasoning? We had used different numbers for estimating how many miles the average Connecticut driver travels each year. But the Institute agreed about the 5 cents. So really, my calculation wasn’t off at all — we just  had a different starting point, or, to put it in mathematical terms, we used a different factor by which to multiply the 5 cents. But they ran with this baseless soundbite anyway because, thanks to the Trump administration, we now have the oxymoronic concept of “alternate facts.”

I can’t wait to hear how the Republicans spin the fact that their leader, the disgraced President Trump, continues to egg on his bellicose pal Putin — even to the point of calling the grotesque and inhumane invasion “genius.”

Meanwhile, Forbes reported this week that “oil prices are sitting near seven-year highs after a two-month rally amid fears that the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine will cause severe global supply disruptions… and as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last week, the price of European benchmark Brent crude spiked to $105 per barrel —up 47% since December 20 to its highest level since July 2014.”

So whom will they blame when gas prices soar as a result of the economic turmoil the war will cause? I’m guessing President Biden, Gov. Ned Lamont and Democrats in the legislature.

Sometimes “alternate facts,” also known as lies, are relatively benign. But when protecting the environment is at stake, it is an intellectual and moral imperative to be truthful. So what publications does the Yankee Institute cite as among its trusted sources? Consider: The Federalist, which is connected to The Heartland Institute, a known fossil fuel shill; World Net Daily, “credited” with being among the first ’zines to espouse the “Birther” theory about President Barack Obama; The American Thinker, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a not-so-thoughtful online publication”; and Real Clear Media, about which The New York Times in 2020 said: “Real Clear became one of the most prominent platforms for elevating unverified and reckless stories about (then-President) Trump’s political opponents.” Real Clear  is also reputed to run a website full of Islamaphobic memes.

Connecting some of these groups is a web of dark money which even the New York Times has had trouble unraveling.

In addition to these dubious sources, The Yankee Institute staffer who penned their op-ed denouncing mine has to his credit a book entitled: Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot.

Speaking of hobgoblins and boogeymen, I’m not afraid of all those terrifying high school climate activists skipping class to hold cardboard protest signs and meeting via Zoom to volunteer for environmental organizations. And I’m brave enough to stare all those menacing biologists in their bespectacled eyes as they point to bar graphs showing doomsday predictions about climate change.

You know what does scare me, though? The fact that the polar ice caps keep melting, that animal and plant species continue to go extinct at an alarming rate, that Connecticut’s air quality remains among the worst in the nation, that underserved communities continue to get saddled with polluting facilities, that hurricanes once rare in Connecticut are becoming commonplace, that some New Yorkers have drowned in their own basements because of deluges the cityscape can’t absorb, that the majority of Millennials say the reality of climate change has made them question whether to have children, and that even as the world reeled from the pandemic, the top two dozen oil companies posted $174 billion in profits last year. 

But the scariest fact of all? Even as Ukrainian civilians — many of whom have never held a gun — take up arms to defend their country against Trump’s pal, Republican anti-TCI politicians are mum as Rachel Carson’s hollow, silent spring.

Christine Palm, a Democrat, is a state representative servicing Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. She is Vice Chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee.