Business Coalition Announces Massive Offensive Against Environmental Protections

Mon, 2014-02-10 11:41Farron Cousins
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Business Coalition Announces Massive Offensive Against Environmental Protections

As the Obama administration begins to take action to rein in the emissions from the dirty energy industry, big business groups all over the country have announced that they aren’t willing to stop polluting without putting up a very serious fight.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Gas Association, and 74 other big business groups said that they are banding together to fight the administration’s forthcoming power plant standards that will require carbon capture technologies to be in place at all plants.  According to The Hill, the groups said that they are planning “everything from lobbying to litigation” in order to fight the administration’s efforts.

These business groups say that they have seen “what Obama has done” to the coal industry, and fear that their industries could be targeted next.  They are also fearful that too much emphasis is being put on developing renewable energy, as The Hill points out:

American Gas Association President Dave McCurdy, a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, said the coalition would need to protect a single-minded push toward renewable energy production.

As expected, politicians in Washington saw that the industry was pushing back, so they have jumped on the bandwagon. 

A coalition of Senators, led by Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, have sent a letter to Obama, asking him to reconsider the EPA’s plans to require carbon capture technology at new and existing power plants.  The coalition consists mainly of Republicans, with the exception of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who represents the coal-dependent state of West Virginia.  Mr. Blunt has personally received more than $1.8 million in campaign money from the dirty energy industry over the course of his career. 

The Senators say that the cost of the new standards would be passed onto consumers, who would be forced to pay higher energy rates as a result.  The combined profits of the oil, coal, and gas industries in both the U.S. and Canada for 2012 was $271 billion, so they should easily be able to afford the technology without having to force consumers to pay more. 

The current yearly cost to American taxpayers of air pollution ranges from $19 billion to $167 billion, and the new standards being rolled out by the EPA will help to reduce those costs. 

The industry can put up a fight if they wish, but they need to be completely transparent about the fact that they believe their profits are worth more than the lives of the 200,000 people who die each year from air pollution.

Comments

For what ever it could possibly worth, this post got me fired up (in a good way). It defines the opposition and lets us, who are freaking out about unfettered fossil fuel development, know what is in store. Many environmentalists seem to believe there is someone smarter and more in tuned with environmental policy out there to protect us. There isn't. In a perfect world, journalism would write articles on environmental issues that help shape policy. Politicians and governmental agencies would act to protect residents and citizens. In this world, all we get is yet another after the fact chemical spill story. A silent government. And environmental NGOs pushing the middle over to the side benefiting those making huge money off of elimiating environmental protection measures.

On taxes and profits. When a corporation makes enormous profits off of natural resource exploitation, it is because prices are high and costs are low. Both are adjusted by a controlled system, whether through commodity price manipulation or cost reduction through environmental regulation workarounds. Yes profits go to the average Joe and Jane through 401Ks and pensions. However, someone has to pay the price of pollution control and environmental remediation. That price is spread out or borrowed. When the governments respond to a chemical spill or climate change related storm event, that cost is paid by taxes and borrowing from the Chinese - since corporations just seem to go bankrupt now or dip its hands into governmental trust tills.

 

It is certainly not good news to hear that the fossil fuel industry is organizing around the notion that “… too much emphasis is being put on developing renewable energy.”  And I'm sure that the EPA's power plant standards include some constructive measures.

However, we should all oppose any requirement that new plants, of any type, be required to include carbon capture technologies. Capture is useless without sequestration, which is a geo-engineering pipe dream. It cannot be deployed at scale and, if it were, would create grave risks related to geological stability and eventual leakage. Even World Bank consultants are loathe to endorse it, given its dubious feasibility.

CCS is included in these proposals so as to allow the administration to maintain the fiction that there can be such a thing as “clean coal” and an “all of the above enegy policy.” The most effective way to reduce emissions is to tax them, with a revenue-neutral federal carbon tax. Such a tax would return all proceeds to the public to mitigate the effects of much higher fossil fuel costs, and include border tax adjustments to eliminate avoidance of the tax by way of cross-border trade. By requiring our trading partners to have similarly structured carbon taxes, the US would provide leadership for effective mitigation measures.

Let's keep our collective eye on the ball, and not let emission-reduction efforts be sidetracked by pushing for standards that will only delay effective action. We need to adjust to the only standard that really matters, which is keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

David Holmquist
 Chicago

 
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