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Big Oil Didn’t Kill Cap and Trade, the Public Did

In The Washington Post August 29th, David A. Fahrenthold had a good report on the environmental movement and its inability to pass comprehensive climate change legislation - even with a left-leaning Congress, a Democratic President and a record oil spill. The article nicely demonstrates how the public does not have an appetite for cap and trade or any other bill that will increase the cost of energy. Fahrenthold misleads readers when he says it was industry and the oil groups that stopped cap and trade in its tracks. Writing about the environmentalists, he says, “A year ago, these groups seemed to be at the peak of their influence, needing only the Senate’s approval for a landmark climate-change bill. But they lost that fight, done in by the sluggish economy and opposition from business and fossil-fuel interests.”

What Fahrenthold misses is the crony capitalism that went into the constructing of the climate bills. The truth is big industry and several of the oil companies were (and some still are) pushing for a price on carbon. Why? Because they would receive handouts the way the Congress wrote the bill and could pass any additional costs onto the consumer. In fact, included in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and environmental organizations, is Duke Energy, General Electric and Shell, to name a few. BP and ConocoPhillips recently quit USCAP.

Take the words of one major electricity CEO who said, “We don’t flinch from the charge that, yes, some of our motivation and enthusiasm comes from the fact that we should make money on it if it happens.” As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner stresses, the handouts will go to the businesses that won the lobbying battle while the costs will be passed onto the consumer.

The reason cap and trade legislation failed is because the American public does not want it. A recent Rasmussen survey found “that only 17% of adults believe most Americans would be willing to make major cutbacks in their lifestyle in order to help save the environment.” They don’t want to pay exorbitantly higher energy prices and as soon as it became known that cap and trade was a massive energy tax, the public let Congress know.