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The Official Blog of National Taxpayers Union

The Climate Collaborators

Posted by Ross Kaminsky - May 18, 2009

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and socialist “climate adviser” Carol Browner recently met with members of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), companies who are angling for “free” CO2 emission permits for themselves as part of a federal “cap and trade” scheme. Beyond the fact that “cap and trade” will have no relevant impact on climate, the process of designing the scheme is, as it must be, inherently corrupt. The Bloomberg article notes that “The free allowances may be worth as much as $40 billion a year…,” more than enough for those companies to spend their time and their campaign contributions trying to get a piece of the pie.

USCAP is described on their own web site as “a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

One of the leaders of the USCAP group is Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers, who turned into a “global warming” cheerleader in a transparent effort to curry political favor and financial advantage for his firm. But now that the plan is moving in a way he doesn’t quite like, including Budget Director Peter Orszag saying “You should anticipate no changes in our climate proposal”, Rogers is warning that the plan will lead to much higher electricity prices and, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, “‘a redistribution of wealth’ from Midwestern industrial states to coastal states.” This is the same Jim Rogers who said in late 2007 “We support federal legislation to address global climate change by putting a cap-and-trade system in place.”

I suppose Rogers forgot Dick Armey’s maxim that “If you make a deal with the devil, you are the junior partner.” You can be sure that Obama, Emanuel, and Browner haven’t forgotten.

For comparison, it’s worth reading a speech given by Utah energy company Questar’s CEO, Keith Rattie, who notes that “Any way you slice it, cap and trade is a tax on the way we live our lives – one designed to produce a windfall for government” and “When it comes to deciding how much energy gets used, what types of energy get used, and where, how and by whom energy gets used –that job is too important not to be left to markets.”

The blatant hypocrisy of some of the rent-seeking USCAP companies is impressive, if not surprising. Among current members of the group, at least these following companies were once members of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition (“GCC”): British Petroleum (BP), Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, DuPont, Ford, General Motors, and Shell.

The archived web page of the GCC described the group’s policy position: “It is imperative that climate policies focus on responsible voluntary actions.... Unrealistic targets and timetables, such as those called for under the Kyoto Protocol, are not achievable without severely harming the U.S. economy and all American families, workers, seniors and children.”

The GCC disbanded in 2002, although many companies had left it earlier. While the group’s end came in part because of the failure of the Kyoto Treaty to be ratified in the US (such failure having been one of the GCC’s laudable goals), there is no doubt that the changing public perception about “global warming” made many companies afraid of the bad PR which might come from being on the wrong side of the growing “global warming” hype.

So, USCAP was formed to grovel at the feet of Al Gore, his loyal minions in liberal media outlets and environmental organizations, and to pander to people who buy a Prius to save the planet (or at least feel guilty if they don’t.) USCAP moved quickly to insert themselves into the political debate, and are feverishly trying to ensure that they help set the rules of the “cap and trade” scheme for their benefit, at the expense of every American consumer and taxpayer.

Just what is that expense to the rest of us? While the Obama administration has put forward a cost estimate of $646 billion, the deputy director of the National Economic Council said the cost would more likely be "two-to-three times" that amount. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “This could mean the cap and trade system could actually generate between roughly $1.3 trillion and $1.9 trillion between fiscal years 2012 and 2019.” And that ignores the ripple effects of the scheme on the prices of essentially everything that Americans do and buy. We’re talking about something on the order of two trillion dollars out of our pockets in less than a decade in pursuit of both a Quixotic quest to alter climate and the left’s dream of having government exercise substantial control over nearly our entire economy.

Readers of these pages are more well-informed than the average American, but I’d wager that even a substantial percentage of you have at most a modest understanding of “cap and trade”. If that describes you, you’re not alone. In a newly released Rasmussen poll, only 24% of people surveyed knew that “cap and trade” had anything (even theoretically) to do with environmental regulation. Seventeen percent said it was related to health care reform and 29% to “regulatory reform on Wall Street.” As Rasmussen notes, “a plurality (30%) have no idea.”

Don’t think for a minute that public ignorance of the details of “cap and trade”, much less its basic definition, has not been well-explained to the public by Congressional Democrats and other anti-capitalists. Indeed, Democrats are even misleading each other about it, as pointed out in a recently-released memo from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget which comments on the EPA’s “proposed findings” regarding climate change and regulation of carbon emissions.

Some highlights of the memo, the entire 9 pages of which is a must-read:

• “The finding rests heavily on the precautionary principle, but the amount of acknowledged lack of understanding about basic facts surrounding (greenhouse gases) seem to stretch the precautionary principle to providing for regulation in the face of unprecedented uncertainty.”

• Regarding the EPA’s desire to regulate CO2 because of “aeroallergens”: “It is unclear whether temperature effects will result in net mortality increases or decreases and the scientific literature does not provide definitive data or conclusions about aeroallergen impacts. Further, the impact of climates sensitive diseases may be minimal in a rich country like the US."

• “To the extent that climate change alters our environment, it will create incentives for innovation and adaptation that mitigate the damages from climate change. The document should note this possibility and how it affects the likely impacts of climate change.”

• “The finding could be strengthened by including additional information on benefits, costs, and risks (where this information exists); meeting appropriate standards for peer review; and accepted research protocols… The Finding should also acknowledge that EPA has not undertaken a systematic risk analysis or cost-benefit analysis.” A stunning rebuke of the EPA’s slack methods for reaching a tremendously important policy conclusion.

• “(T)here is a concern that EPA is making a finding based on (1) 'harm' from substances that have no demonstrated direct health effects, such as respiratory or toxic effects, (2) available scientific data that purports to conclusively establish the nature and extent of the adverse public health and welfare impacts are almost exclusively from non-EPA sources...” In other words, the Office of Management and Budget is accusing the EPA of basing a critical "finding" on propaganda fed to them by environmentalists and anti-capitalists rather than doing their own research.

The myths of “global warming” and of CO2 as a pollutant are already beginning to filter through the general public despite the Obama Administration’s desire to keep us poor and stupid. It’s just a question of whether rent-seeing corporations, anti-free-market politicians, and radical environmentalists are able to implement their economy-destroying “cap and trade” scheme before Americans know enough, and push back enough, to stop them.

Thoughts?   Add Comment -

StevieB said on May 18 2009 at 12:51pm
Don't know what the hysteria is over the unrealized threat of SOCIALISM. The military industrial complex and Wall Street thrive on socialism that has smiled on them over the past eight (now nine) years. Any scraps that lowly citizens get will be a drop in the bucket. We're a trillion (or two) dollars in debt not because of the poor, I assure you. On that note, can't believe the hypocrisy of John McCain speaking at the 2009 Conference. He is happy as a lark putting your money into Iraq at $10 billion a month. The north and south no fly zones and a negative on the WMD's wasn't enough to keep your money safe from that man. Ask him for a refund at the Conference. Socialism? It came and went. Why do you think we're in debt?

Ross Kaminsky said on May 18 2009 at 9:45pm

I only used the word "socialist" to describe Carol Browner because she was a high-ranking officer of an explicitly socialist organization.

As for what's going on with Obama and the economy, including "cap and trade", the trends are generally closer to fascism than socialism.

And if you don't know what the "hysteria" is about, then we're not doing a very good job explaining the risk to our nation's future.