The Anti-Cap-and-Trade Lobbying Blitz

Photo by flickr user <a href="" target="new">davipt</a> used under a Creative Commons license.

Cap-and-trade legislation may clear Henry Waxman’s Energy and Commerce Committee as early as next week. But are its supporters ready for it? The bill faces a hostile blizzard of ads and PR from big carbon emitters, whose spending has vastly outstripped that of environmental groups.

So far this year, opponents of climate change legislation have spent $76 million on ads while supporters have spent just $29 million, according to data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group obtained by the Guardian.  The oil, coal and gas industry also boosted its lobbying budget by 50 percent, spending $44 million in the first quarter of the year. In comparison, Grist reports, clean energy interests and environmental groups have managed to cough up less than half that sum.

As you would expect, the adversaries of climate legislation are finding that their money gets results. In 2007, the coal industry launched a savvy marketing campaing touting the wonders of “clean coal” with improbably cute viral ads like this one. It was especially creative during the presidential campaign, planting questioners in town halls to quiz the candidates on their support for clean coal policies. Their hard work is paying off. The Waxman-Markey bill allows new coal plants to be built until 2015 as long as they’re adapted to cut carbon emissions by at least 40 percent. Proven technology that would acheive this doesn’t actually exist yet, but luckily the bill generously includes $1 billion to help the industry figure it out.

All in all, cap and trade proponents should be thinking hard about how to counter the effects of their opponents’ copious spending. Back to the Guardian:

…the fate of the draft “cap and trade” bill now lies in the hands of just a dozen Democrats, who have yet to back Obama’s energy transformation. The Democratic leadership cannot take their support for granted. Seven of those pivotal Democrats received campaign donations in excess of $100,000 from the oil and gas industry, coal producers, and electricity firms during last year’s elections, according to an analysis provided to the Guardian by the Centre for Responsive Politics.  Another two received more than $90,000 last year.