Green Scheme Is a Lobbyists’ Dream

A cap-and-trade scheme is a lobbyist’s dream. For those of you unacquainted with how these boondoggles work, it goes something like this: (1) regulators assign an emissions quota to tens of thousands of individual industrial suppliers and users of energy (because emissions are synonymous with conventional energy use, an emissions “cap” is the same as energy rationing); (2) these businesses then purchase the right to emit their allotment in the form of permits disbursed by a government-run auction; (3) these businesses are allowed to trade permits among themselves (ie, a company that exceeds its emissions quota can buy permits from a company that emitted less than its quota); and (4) the government spends revenue raised in the auction of emissions permits-as much as $300 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office-on green technologies and mitigation of the cap-and-trade’s adverse economic impact.

Lobbyists love cap-and-trade because of its complexity. At every step of the process, there are myriad nooks and crannies into which they can stuff special favors for their corporate clients. Industrial suppliers and users of energy will hire lobbyists to claim that they deserve free permits for some reason or another. And the auction-generated revenue would create a huge money trough coveted by every conceivable special interest and their pricey lobbyists.

Given that the President last night announced that legislation for “a market-based cap” on greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for his administration, it should come as no surprise that there has been an explosion in climate lobbying on Capitol Hill. According to an article in today’s Politico,

“A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows 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, as the issue gathered momentum and a bill came to a vote in Congress.

That’s an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of global warming lobbyists since 2003, when Congress previously voted on climate change legislation, and means that Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress.”

Let that last line sink in: Four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress!