The Environmental Protection Agency will roll out a regulatory scheme to curb the carbon dioxide power plants emit. The Obama administration and its supporters will pretend (a) these rules represent a war against greedy Big Business, and (b) these rules represent a groundbreaking consensus with Big Business.
|The history of climate policy is a story of some businesses seeing profit in regulation.|
These story lines contradict one another. They also contradict the truth.
Corporate lobbyists are divided on Obama’s current climate push, for a perfectly sensible reason: Obama’s rules benefit some companies while hurting others. This isn’t new. The history of climate policy is a story of some businesses seeing profit in regulation, and thus lobbying for regulation, and others seeing only costs, and thus lobbying against regulation.
Al Gore made the first serious push to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The-then Vice President endorsed the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. The Clinton White House, however, soon realized Congress would never ratify the treaty. This didn't stop the Treaty's biggest boosters from trying, though.
“This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!” That was the bottom line of a 1997 memo by John Palmisano, an environmental policy executive at the notorious energy giant. Throughout the memo, Palmisano referred to various Enron “victories," such as a slush fund for renewable energy, the creation of a trading scheme in emissions credits and rules that would favor natural gas over its competitors coal and oil.
So Enron liked a policy that helped it get government money for reducing U.S. emissions. Environmentalists applaud that. But that same Enron memo also defended Kyoto's exemption for the developing world: Poor countries wouldn't be covered by the same emissions rules affecting the U.S. Guess what Enron was doing in Africa, Asia, and South America at the time? Building coal-fired power plants.
If Enron was burning coal in Africa, it would benefit from the U.S. shutting down coal-fired plants, because that would lower the global coal price. Making it more profitable for Enron to burn coal in Nigeria is an odd feature of a climate policy.
When Enron died, its heir in climate policy was the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. USCAP brought together the same environmental groups that used to applaud Enron with companies like General Electric and DuPont.
USCAP lobbied for a federal “cap-and-trade” scheme in emissions credits, similar to that required by Kyoto and currently proposed by Obama’s EPA. One USCAP member, AES, was pulling an Enron — lobbying to limit coal use in the U.S., while opening coal-fired plants in the developing world.
The Chamber of Commerce lobbied against Obama's attempt to curb emissions through legislation -- the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill -- while USCAP supported it. In April 2010, then-Sen. John Kerry lined up a group of corporate supporters for the Senate version of the bill. BP was one of those supporters. At the time, the company's Deepwater Horizon oil rig was burning.
Back in 2007, when the Supreme Court first ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant (and thus covered by the Clean Air Act), energy giants Calpine and Entergy filed an amicus curiae brief with the court supporting federal regulation of CO2.
In an April Supreme Court case on emissions where the EPA beat a power company, Calpine filed another pro-regulation amicus brief, along with energy giant Exelon.
Most industry lobbyists will oppose Obama's current rules, but many will see profit in them. One lobby, called “Advanced Energy Economy,” is applauding Obama. “We see this as a real opportunity," said Malcolm Woolf, an Obama donor and AEE's top lobbyist. AEE represents companies like First Solar and Johns Mansville, a manufacturer owned by billionaire Obama lobbyist Warren Buffett.
Each time one of these corporate-green collaborations occur, Democrats or the mainstream liberal media declare some sort of great breakthrough and a sign of consensus. This climate policy is so necessary and reasonable that even Corporate America is on board!!!
Simultaneously, others on the Left maintain that opposing climate regulation is simply doing the bidding of big business. Splenetic New York Times blogger Paul Krugman, for instance, attributed opposition to Obama's proposal to the fact that it “isn't good for the Koch brothers.”
These simple narratives are useful to Krugman and the Left. That they're false doesn't seem to bother them.Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.