President Obama has promised that passing laws to enhance “green” living would create millions of new jobs. Little did he realize that the growth would start with a surge in federal lobbying.
Congress’ drive to pass legislation to reduce global warming has inspired a multimillion-dollar lobbying increase by energy executives and environmentalists who hope to shape the legislation to their favor.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 7,811 federal lobbyists were hired in 2008 to pressure Congress on energy and environmental issues, up 6 percent from 2007. Lobbying fees totaled $389 million in 2008, a 43 percent increase from the previous year.
President Obama and leading Democrats on Capitol Hill want to limit the amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Their chief plan, called cap-and-trade, would require companies to hold permits for each ton of carbon they emit - up to a given limit - and then obtain or purchase additional allowances for each ton above the cap.
Lawmakers have not said how they plan to allocate those allowances, and that’s where the lobbying action has been most intense. Efforts began in earnest Tuesday in the House to devise a comprehensive plan.
“Companies know the stakes are high, which has increased the number of interested parties seeking representation,” said David Hoppe, a lobbyist at the firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates.
Industries are launching million-dollar campaigns and meeting with key lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the bid to shape the House bill. The Senate is drafting its version and will release it later this year.
The coal industry launched an $18 million TV advertising campaign promoting clean-coal technology and is asking Congress to invest in new technologies that reduce emissions from coal-using enterprises, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an alliance of industries that produce electricity from coal.
The coalition increased its communications budget this year to $40 million, a fivefold increase from 2008, and contracted Quinn Gillespie & Associates for $480,000 and Keelen Group for $40,000 to lobby Congress on its behalf, said Joe Lucas, a spokesman for the coalition.
Mr. Lucas said Congress should not punish the coal industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“There is never an environmental challenge that technology can’t solve,” Mr. Lucas said. “The current challenge is not an exception.”
The oil and gas industry is also seeking provisions in the bill to minimize the costs a long-term cap-and-trade plan could have for producers.
Although the industry doesn’t favor the auction of all carbon emissions credits, called a 100-percent auction, “it can live with it if credits are distributed in a fair and equitable way,” said Lou Hayden, a senior policy analyst at the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association for oil and gas companies.
Individual API members, such as Chevron Corp., are leading their own campaigns to customize a cap-and-trade plan that’s favorable to oil.
Chevron wants Congress to set one standard for carbon emissions from stationary sources, such as refineries, and a separate standard for automobile emissions, said Peter Robertson, vice chairman of the board of directors for Chevron.View Entire Story
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