Global Warming Games: Big Business Schemes with Environmentalists

Global Warming Games: Big Business Schemes with Environmentalists

Horner Op Ed in The Washington Times
May 17, 2001

Recently, an executive of an aging, coal-burning utility appeared before a Senate committee to testify regarding the possible threat of catastrophic man-made global warming. He spoke to proposals addressing the theory that man, and the government, can somehow impact the weather. His mission may surprise you, however. He prophesied doom and passionately argued for a cap on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is that intentional product of combusting (oxidizing) any carbon-based (fossil) fuel, the activity underlying 80 percent of our country's electricity generation and nearly all automobility. The greatest CO2 contributor (outside of Mother Nature herself): coal.Nixon Goes to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />China? Hardly. Merely a new twist on seeking to fatten one's calf through government fiat, or rent-seeking, a practice which led to corporate interest becoming a slur. This is most often pursued through subsidy, or preference for one's product or disadvantaging your competitor. In this particular form it is what energy-suppression groups and self-styled environmentalists call being responsible.Already omnipresent corporations selling out sound policy for short-term shareholder gain are only growing, as environmentalists continue their assault on our free-market president. Yet, is creatively finding a solution to your own finance or legal troubles reason enough to sell out sound science, policy and affordable energy, by lending your name to dishonest chorus of, "See, even responsible, corporate interests admit our righteousness"?Let's inspect an example of what it now takes to be responsible in pursuit of unearned millions. Your old coal burning facilities are paid off and not burdened by expensive upgrades. They are about to be put to pasture; not immediately, but the day looms. Why not concoct some scheme to pay for it? You are in the business of selling electricity, not burning coal, upon which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has turned every weapon it has. The EPA has only failed to inflict the fatal blow because this abundant, therefore affordable, energy, all myths notwithstanding, when burned in new or (expensively) upgraded plants is now a clean source. Clean, that is, unless you accept that human breath (CO2 and combusted coal, among other sources) is dangerously heating the planet as opposed feeding plants as we all learned in elementary school.Call CO2 harmful and switch fuels, however, and the world is your oyster. The government under this scheme will provide you untold, and unearned, millions of dollars worth of illusory credits to sell others who want to eclipse their ration of energy consumption. This provides certainty, you argue, through capping something now and calling it a pollutant even though no one in the world does, because you lie awake at night wondering if the worldwide resistance to that folly might suddenly break down. That is akin to saying I might get in a horrible wreck some day so I'll just drive over the cliff while I'm in my car, and get it over with.This simply means a certain windfall. Great business. Shameful policy. Yet it is behind the unlikely alliance of environmental organizations and some investor-owned utilities seeking legislation imposing a CO2 cap.Sure, this would provide a short-term boon to much of Big Business, whether selling gas, planning to retire old coal-fired plants or otherwise switching to gas, as many are doing, because of EPA's jihad. Still, not-in-my-backyard forces have ensured we cannot get sufficient gas to market via pipeline, sending prices skyrocketing.Utilities supporting a cap-and-trade program for carbon may be looking out for their stockholders, but not their customers. The utilities won't pay these higher costs, their customers will. Utilities answer to their stockholders and their stockholders are looking at short-term returns. Governments are responsible to the citizens and must keep the larger, longer-term interests of the country in mind. This is why governments set public policy, not corporations.Is it good for the country—not some Big Business interest—capping a beneficial, odorless, colorless gas produced mostly by Mother Nature but which is also a necessary product of any energy production requiring combustion, on the basis of what is clearly at best a theory not worth risking one job given the state of the science? Further, CO2-rent-seeking executives blind themselves to the reality that natural gas is next. The web sites of their unlikely allies advocating the CO2 cap, for example the Natural Resources Defense Council, make no secret of the fact that after they chase coal out of viability, natural gas is their next target.We cannot democratize our lifestyle unless we increase the availability of energy. Increased energy use means increased CO2, unless we switch electricity to nuclear. Therefore, the world's poor will suffer if we cap CO2. Why do this? Because an unlikely alliance provides cover for some attempt to perform some "I care" exercise? That is not leadership. Abundant, affordable energy is necessary to sustain, and expand, our envied wealth and lifestyle. We see how well rationing energy and limiting consumption worked in California. Suddenly those chickens of real human consequences from feel good policies have come home to roost, and are heading your way. Now's time to identify the real Big Business villains of the environmental debate.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />