In February, President Barack Obama asked Congress to “send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.” His words will send energy lobbying, already highly active, into overdrive.
A February study by the Center for Public Integrity found that 770 companies and interest groups employed an estimated 2,340 climate change lobbyists in the last year, a 300 percent increase in just five years. Because of this growth, the study concluded, “Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress.”
Shell, Ford, General Motors, Duke Energy, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, Pacific Gas and Electric, and other major corporations have joined leading environmental groups to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Why form a coalition with old enemies? Because, as the group acknowledges, “emission allowances in an economy-wide capand- trade system will represent trillions of dollars in value over the life of the program.”
When the government issues permits to emit carbon dioxide, the companies want most of them to be handed out for free. According to a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report, “If all of the allowances were distributed for free to producers in the oil, natural gas, and coal sectors, stock values would double for oil and gas producers and increase more than sevenfold for coal producers, compared with projected values in the absence of a cap.” The prospect of doubling to septupling a company’s stock price clearly interests executives. Let the rent-seeking frenzy begin.