Writers calling for government restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions like to portray themselves as realists grounded in facts. Their opponents, they charge, ignore “inconvenient truths.”
When the cap-and-trade crowd talks this way, it's especially rich when they prove themselves to be divorced from reality. Former Rep. Sherry Boehlert, who liked to praise himself as part of “the enlightened middle,” has this howler in today's Washington Post (emphasis added).
While many in politics – and not just of my party – refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, leaders of some of our nation's most prominent businesses have taken a different approach. They formed the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. This was no collection of mom-and-pop shops operated by “tree huggers” sympathetic to any environmental cause but, rather, a step by hard-nosed, profit-driven capitalists. General Electric, Alcoa, Duke Energy, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler signed on. USCAP, persuaded by scientific facts, called on the president and Congress to act, saying “in our view, the climate change challenge will create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S.
Okay, first, let me list some ways in which “hard-nosed” and “capitalists” doesn't apply to these companies: General Motors was OWNED BY THE GOVERNMENT as recently as yesterday morning. Chrysler has been BAILED OUT TWICE. Alcoa applauds federal fuel-economy regulations that drive carmakers to use more aluminum in their cars.
And General Electric? Where do I start with General Electric, which helped ban incandescent light bulbs, profits from embryonic stem-cell research, and has just joined a lobby pushing for subsidies for plug-in cars? Maybe with the fact that they spend more on lobbying than any other corporation in America. I've written an entire chapter on these guys, whose CEO regularly complains that Obama doesn't have enough state-industry cooperation, and who bragged that his company was perfectly positioned to profit from a “reset capitalism” in which “the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”
But then there's Boehlert's naive (or dishonest) implication that these companies “profit-driven” nature should lend them more credibility on the issue. Looking at how these “capitalists” profit from cap-and-trade helps explain why the rest of us will suffer.
It would be hard to assemble a bigger bunch of rent-seekers hoping to cash in on complicated new climate change regulations. For example,USCAP favored the incredibly recondite (but lucrative) Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2009. In that bill, USCAP companies would be showered with free carbon emissions permits which they could turn into free cash. Before he became Obama's budget director, former Congressional Budget Office director Peter Orszag testified before Congress that this form of cap-and-trade would “…represent the largest corporate welfare program that has ever been enacted in the history of the United States. All of the evidence suggests that what would occur is that corporate profits would increase by approximately the value of the permits.”