The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Climate Bill’s Only Winners Are Lobbyists and Congress

by Aaron Turpen

The climate bill that passed the House of Representatives in June 26, called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR2454, aka “ACES”) and better known as the Cap-and-Trade Bill, had many benefits. None of those benefits were for the American people or even the climate.

All of those benefits were for the lobbyists and Legislators.

On July 14, the non-partisan, non-profit group published their findings of what they called the “watered down climate bill.” In that report, they compared proposed amendments and the person(s) proposing them to the campaign funding and donations received from groups related to the changes that amendment would make.

What they found is that, behind the rhetoric, ACES was just more business as usual in Washington. Those who got paid, performed for their benefactors. Those who didn’t, voted against.

Several amendments are on the ACES list that MAPLight compiled. What was most interesting to me, however, was how truly bipartisan the bribe-taking was. Going down the list of Congressmen and their party affiliation shows that Democrat or Republican, it made no difference. They were all running around with their hand out, waiting for the highest bidder.

As a for instance, let’s look at the “redefining renewable energy” markups. Fred Upton (R-MI) offered an amendment to redefine renewable energy to include nuclear energy. His amendment was narrowly defeated (29-26). Those who supported his amendment received twice as much money from nuclear interests as those who voted no. I guess the nuclear pushers didn’t pay off enough people.

In fact, about the only amendment proposed that was distributed almost entirely on party lines was the now-famous Randy Forbes (R-VA) bill that would have gutted the entire climate bill to start with. This is not surprising, since top contributors to Forbes’ campaigns from 2003-08 were a gas pipeline construction company, large defense contractors, and similar groups. All of which lobbied to oppose the Cap-and-Trade bill.

Even more telling, though, is when you go beyond MAPLight’s analysis and look at who benefits from the ACES bill as a whole. This is easily measured, since the number one thing the ACES bill does is create a new commodities market for carbon emissions. Assuming the bill passes as-is through the Senate, of course.

Who will benefit the most from that new carbon market? Why, those who are already trading in the underground carbon offsets market and those who are poised with an on-the-books carbon market right now.

Is there such a thing already? Has there already been a carbon market created in the U.S. by someone who stands to benefit greatly were it enacted into law and made mandatory to corporations around the nation that they participate?

Of course. That person’s name is Al Gore.

Gore’s private equity firm, called Generation Investment Management (GIM), isn’t even based in the U.S. It’s in London. This firm purchases carbon offsets from green companies and endeavors around the globe and then sells those offsets to its clients. Basically, a business that produces emissions can offset those by purchasing offsets (investing in) companies that do the reverse.

That in itself is laudable and creates no free market problems. It’s voluntary, fits into the paradigm of businesses working together in non-coercion, and could be productive. Where it gets tricky is when the overall “carbon market” is considered.

This market includes several foundations and exchange groups. The largest of the carbon exchange groups is Chicago-based CCX (Chicago Climate eXchange) and the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) of Great Britain. These two are likely to become either the excahnges of choice for an ACES-created carbon market, or the measuring sticks used to build a new one.

In either case, the co-founder of Gore’s GIM is Hank Paulson. Recognize that name? Yep, Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Paulson. Sachs owns 10% of CCX. In fact, most of the founding partners of Gore’s GIM are Sachs officials or former management. Including Peter Knight, Gore’s Chief of Staff when he was in the Senate and manager of the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996.

This means that if Cap-and-Trade becomes a reality, Gore will be at the forefront of those who’ll profit by it in a huge way. Not only will his own offset investment group be ready to pounce and start taking futures, but his stake in America’s only current, recognized carbon exchange will be worth a lot of money.

The Capital Research Center (CRC)’s Foundation Watch published a short, 9-page pamphlet entitled “Al Gore’s Carbon Crusade: The Money and Connections Behind It” in 2007. That short pamphlet details much more than I’ve done here and clearly shows who really benefits from a carbon tax.

It also shows why Al Gore has featured so prominently in early (one-sided) debates, the introduction of ACES, and other climate change legislative work in the past few years.

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