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When Big Business Gets Behind Cap and Trade, The Wall Street Journal Suddenly Re-Frames Its Position Around Standing Up for the Little Guy

Back in January, when a coalition of Big Industry CEOs and environmental groups got together to urge Congress and the President to pass “cap and trade” legislation on global warming pollutants, a sudden crack appeared in the long standing conservative opposition to major policy action on the problem.

Indeed, with CEOs like Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and Peter A. Darbee of PG&E; offering up a plan that would lead to a 20 to 40 percent reduction in current levels of global warming pollutants by 2050, it was time for long time opponents of action to regroup and reassess their message strategy.

In an editorial yesterday at the Wall Street Journal it appears that the new message is taking shape, and it focuses on “looking out for the little guy.”

According to the Journal editorial board, contrary to any motivations of corporate responsibility, or even a desire to see Federal legislation rather than a patchwork of state regulations, these Big Industry members are really just motivated by profit at the expense of others. In other words, as the Wall Street Journal frames it, if things are going to change, these CEO big boys believe that they might as well be at the table to set the rules of the game so that they come out on top, while screwing everyone else. From the WSJ editorial:

The difficulties don’t lie with the trading, but with the cap, which is where the companies lobbying for restrictions come in. James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, put it plainly earlier this year: “If you’re not at the table when these negotiations are going on, you’re going to be on the menu.” Translation: If a cap is coming, better to design it in a way that you profit from it, instead of being killed by it….

…Thus, Entergy, a utility that relies heavily on natural gas and nuclear power and thus produces relatively less CO2, would love a cap that distributes the allowances based on how much electricity you churn out, rather than on how much CO2 you produce. Entergy’s “carbon footprint” is small compared to some other utilities, so an electrical-output-based cap would be windfall city. Dupont, meanwhile, wants credit for reductions already made because it sees instant profit in costs already paid. It also wants a cap to cover as many industries as possible so it can make money selling emissions-reduction products….

…The emerging alliance of business and environmental special interests may well prove powerful enough to give us cap-and-trade in CO2. It would make Hollywood elites feel virtuous, and it would make money for some very large corporations. But don’t believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming.


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