The climate change bill should hardly be a surprise to anyone in the industry. Both Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain said early in their presidential campaigns they favored a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. By early last year it was widely expected to be an early issue taken up by the 2009 Congress.
But National Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Harry Alford — who is set to speak at a rally today against the bill — admits this week’s opposition rallies are overdue.
Some opponents “have been asleep at the switch,” Alford said, but he notes his organization has been on the record against such a bill since 1996 when it opposed the Kyoto Treaty that led to the current European emissions trading system.
But Anadarko Chairman and CEO James Hackett, a big supporter of the local event, said the bill went through the House “like a freight train,” moving much more quickly than anyone could have expected, with House leaders giving concessions that further weakened the bill just to get it passed. But as we’ve noted before, maybe it’s just the natural gas industry caught off-guardabout the bill, because the coal industry has been on the ball.
The American Petroleum Institute has been accused of trying to make the events appear more “grassroots” than they really are by concealing its involvement (a term called “Astroturfing”). Last week Greenpeace got an API memo spelling out the message of the events (the legislation will be costly and a call to Congress to “get it right”). A group that thinks API isn’t being firm enough in refuting man-made climate change dug up another API memo with talking points on how to refute the Astroturf claims. This is the response to the hypothetical question “Isn’t this just a cynical Astroturf campaign?”
“The 6 million Americans who depend on the oil and gas industry for their jobs do not view this as Astroturfing. Energy Citizens is an alliance of individuals and organizations that share similar concerns. These energy citizens are concerned about unsound policies–climate, taxes–that will cost Americans jobs and raise energy prices. ….We believe it is important that issues Americans care deeply about – American jobs and affordable energy – are heard in this debate.”
Not everyone in the energy industry is on the same page when it comes to climate change law, however. For example, Chevron has “invited Chevron’s Houston employees and retirees to participate” in the event and will provide transportation, said spokesman Scott Walker.
But BP isn’t providing transportation, nor is Shell Oil, which has been one of the most outspoken in support of climate change legislation. The company is a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership which has supported a cap-and-trade program although wanted the House version to give away more of the initial emissions credits.
Shell is “neither encouraging nor discouraging participation in the rally,” according to spokesman Bill Tanner.
The Greater Houston Partnership is “still in the process of formulating an official position on the carbon cap and trade plan incorporated in the energy legislation,” according to a release concerning the event, but it encouraging dialogue about it because of its potential impact on the region.
Victor Flatt, an environmental law professor who taught a course on carbon trading at the University of Houston earlier this year and has advised states and Congress on the climate change laws, said he doesn’t believe the rallies will have a huge impact on Senate votes in states already heavy with API affiliated companies.
“California, New Jersey, and Illinois senators are firmly in the “for” category, and Texas, Louisiana, and Wyoming are in the other camp. It might make a difference in Alaska and maybe Colorado,” Flatt said.