Climate Lobbyists Overwhelming Washington

Fri, 2009-08-14 12:46Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Climate Lobbyists Overwhelming Washington

A total of 1,150 different companies and advocacy organizations have participated so far this year in lobbying Congres on climate change, an increase of more than 30 per cent this year alone.

According to records compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, energy interests and heavy industry led the charge, with agri-business coming in with a huge new push to protect or promote the (highly debatable) benefits of biofuels.

The Centre for Public Integrity couldn’t attach a dollar figure to the over all lobbying effort, but the Associated Press had already reported that oil and gas lobbyists had spent $44.5 million in lobbying in the first quarter alone - a rate of spending that will shatter last year’s record-breaking annual total of $129 million. (Even that number was up 73 per cent over the previous two years.)

Facing legions of lobbyists at work and a faked public outcry at home (see next story), is it any wonder that U.S. legislators have watered down legislation - or simply failed to react to the risks of climate change? They can’t hear the scientists over the self-interested and highly choreographed shouting.

Previous Comments

Included in that number is a lot of pro- lobbying, and an enormous amount of expenditure of lobbying resources on allowance allocation. One of the striking things your piece glosses over is the vast amount of lobbying by the electrical generation industry compared to natural gas interests.

The vast majority of ‘oil and gas’ lobbying was actually oil, natural gas interests really didn’t catch on. Which has led to idea that coal is the only economical and available fuel for generation to go almost unchallenged. The reality is that there may be natural gas reserves than coal in North America. Natural gas emits carbon, but at half the rate per MW, it is probably the best next step - and a heck of a lot closer than ‘clean coal’ through carbon capture and sequestration - which works better and is cheaper for natural gas anyway.

I would encourage you (and everybody) to click through and read the full Center for Public Integrity story. On your chosen topic, for example, you will find this: “Enter a new interest group: America’s Natural Gas Alliance, representing more than two dozen producers of natural gas that are independent — that is, not affiliated with a larger oil company. The alliance, which represents about 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production today, argues that they should be fueling a much bigger share of the nation’s electricity production since natural gas is the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel.” Indeed, in a world of least-worst options, natural gas is a slightly slower road to hell. As to your contention that “there may be (more?) natural gas reserves than coal in North America,” I have never seen such speculation reported elsewhere. Do you have a source?

Well, if I could wave a magic wand and replace all N. American coal by gas, I’d do it, since gas:

1) Is less CO2-intense for the same MWh.

2) Is generally less bad for local environments. [I grew up in Western PA… there are still mine collapses from ones closed years ago]. less mercuryt is not bad either.

3) Is much more conducive to distributed cogeneration (heat/electricity)

4) Is much more compatible with variable solar/wind, i.e., gas peakers rather than big baseload coal.

5) Is lower on construction cost, and higher on fuel cost … and that’s probably good.

The current political system is basically legalized bribery and the dems love it more than anybody else. You know what - they could fix it they wanted to but no - they love the lobbyists and the money behind them.

Washington overwhelmed is Washington’s fault.

ANGA was formed because natural gas interests were asleep at the switch during Lieberman-Warner, and ANGA is tiny in comparison to the efforts of EEI. I think total spending for the coal generators (including EEI in that, perahps somewhat unfair) on Waxman-Markey was over $30 million, natural gas just under $3m. Oil was another huge spender, but if you think through the allowance allocation problem, oil and natural gas have fundamentally different interests.

As for natural gas supply forecasts, the emergence of shale gas plays has meant that available and potential supply has exploded in the past 3 years, one reason why natural gas prices are so low, and will likely stay that way. Unfortunately, I can’t recall a really good summary that is in the public domain, but this press release from the Potential Gas Committee is a decent capsule (http://www.mines.edu/Potential-Gas-Committee-reports-unprecedented-increase-in-magnitude-of-U.S.-natural-gas-resource-base). This is just the tip of the iceberg too, because NG prices are so low now that no one is exploring some high potential shale plays, nor investing in the pipelines that would service them.

In the interest of intellectual integrity, I will freely admit to being professionally involved in this field - but the bottom line is that the coal interests have been selling a load of hooey on their importance to the near-term energy future.

… thanks