An association of CEOs of large, U.S.-based corporations has joined the global warming bandwagon, releasing a new policy document, “Addressing Climate Change.” Is this move by the Business Roundtable “a sea change in corporate attitudes on climate action,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip called it?
Maybe. The statement really seems crafted to cover the collective backsides of association members and companies regardless of who ends up controlling Congress and the White House and to reduce exposure to financial risk. Not exactly a sea change. And not likely to garner the environmental halo they covet. ExxonMobil, for example, has been moving closer to the supposedly enlightened position on climate change for years yet still remains the top corporate target of public relations attacks and grandstanding lawsuits.
In coming out in favor of increased regulation, the Business Roundtable is doing what many big companies have done for decades: appear to support altruistic goals while using public policy to advance their own interests.
So, while they acknowledge that climate change “poses significant environmental, economic, public health and security threats,” they want to make sure that new policy is “maximizing compliance flexibility and minimizing costs” for themselves. They want the government to “support both public and private investment” in low-carbon technologies, which likely means giving more taxpayer handouts to firms adept at lobbying executive branch officials. No doubt this will enable 100 new Solyndras to bloom.
The Business Roundtable statement also calls for “regulatory certainty,” which in the world of special interest lobbying often translates into locking in a good deal for oneself against competitors. The statement says current federal and state climate policies have “negatively affected the long-term investment strategies of many U.S. companies.” Rather than calling for the repeal of those policies, they want the law rewritten to benefit them.
Environmental activists are unlikely to approve. The “existing patchwork of federal and state regulations” they want swept away is the result of decades of work by activists most worried about the effects of climate change and wary of corporate influence over public policy.
Perhaps most tellingly, the Business Roundtable statement envisions a future in which an expanding universe of law and regulation is aimed at paying, subsidizing, and protecting members while they discharge their virtuous climate responsibilities.
They claim, for example, that they want to make the current system of regulation simpler but also acknowledge that hiking energy prices in the U.S. will put domestic manufacturing at risk; so, they endorse a system of “rebates, allowances and/or border adjustments.” Much like the current administration’s policy of starting a trade war with China and then paying out billions of dollars to U.S. farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs, this system would kneecap factories while attempting to bail them out simultaneously. That doesn’t sound streamlined or competitive.
This ostensibly simple and equitable system would also require “targeted incentives” to “help to ease the transition.” That’s lobbyist talk for cronyism, in which every company that can afford it comes to Washington to stick their snout into the climate appropriations and tax loophole trough. If you want to know how that will work, just look at the steel and aluminum tariff exclusions that the Department of Commerce has been mysteriously granting and withholding over the last few years.
Finally, building a clean energy infrastructure to replace fossil fuels, even assuming that is a good use of resources, will require both massive new investments and the removal of many legal and procedural hurdles that make major infrastructure projects costly and slow. One of the biggest victories of the environmental movement has been the entrenchment of NIMBYism, the “not in my backyard” sentiment that helped derail countless useful construction projects across the country. To suggest that climate activists who lay down in traffic to protest new road construction will nod approvingly at the effort to take away their monkey wrenches is delusional.
Read the full article at The Washington Examiner.