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March 02, 2009
Climate Change Lobbyists Pour into Washington on Behalf of Special Interests
    by Robert Kropp

An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity finds an estimated 2,340 lobbyists seeking to influence climate change policy, a 300% increase over five years.

In a comprehensive analysis of the growth of lobbying efforts directed at climate change, Marianne Lavelle of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing investigative journalism on issues of public concern, found that more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in the past year, an increase of more than 300% in the number of lobbyists on climate change in five years.

Noting that President Obama, in his speech before a joint session of Congress on February 24, said, "I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America," the article, entitled The Climate Change Lobby Explosion, found that investment banks, private equity forms, and insurance companies now have 130 lobbyists working on global warming policy.

The cap-and-trade system favored by Obama would allow companies to trade emissions permits in an open market to give them incentives for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. According to Commodity Futures Trading Commission member Bart Chilton, carbon trading could become a $2 trillion market, by far the largest commodities market in the world. Under the cap-and-trade system, some of the same financial firms that contributed to the current economic crisis could become responsible for buying and selling emissions permits.

Among the lobbyists currently focused on climate change, which include the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the US Climate Action Partnership, is the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), which was formed in 2008 and spent $10.5 million lobbying Capitol Hill in opposition to the Warner-Lieberman climate change bill defeated in the Senate last year. The ACCCE supports clean-coal technology, although opponents of coal-fired power plants argue that such a technology does not even exist.

Notable Washington insiders now employed as lobbyists on climate change include former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Livingston.

With so many lobbyists arguing on behalf of special interests, there is concern among environmentalists that not only will the cap-and-trade system favored by Obama face a concerted opposition, but the prospects for agreement involving the US at December's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen as well. And to meet Obama’s goals of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and returning emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, vigorous legislation will be required.


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