The Western Business Roundtable hosted a conference call yesterday. It was touted as a "sneak peek" into a new analysis of the Western Climate Initiative. But if you'd dialed in hoping to hear a fresh critique of the cap-and-trade framework designed to encompass 90 percent of the emissions across much of the west and part of Canada, you would have been disappointed. The Western Business Roundtable advocates for energy and mining companies. According to Sourcewatch, Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, Shell and Chevron sit on its board of trustees. Maybe that's why the report it commissioned is less interesting as a new analysis than as a case study in a few tactics people use when they want to protect their assets from climate rules:
Hide behind an underdog: "Humanist" may not be the first adjective that springs to mind when you think of the industries that have helped put western Colorado through the economic wringer, and that have reaped big profits while employees suffer. But even so, the roundtable report warns that the Western Climate Initiative will unfairly impact "low income and minority families" -- and it's saying that without blushing. The report argues that energy prices will climb in the face of a regional cap-and-trade agreement, and that those prices will place a disproportionate burden on the poor. This argument (the so-called "War on the Poor" approach) has been used before to oppose legislative pushes for renewable energy, notably by Utah Congressman Orrin Hatch.
Downplay the benefits: The Western Climate Initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its seven member states below 2015 levels within the next 11 years; but the roundtable report says the initiative will deliver, "no scientifically measurable benefit in terms of reduced global temperatures as far out as the year 2100." With this, the roundtable has propped up something of a straw man. A meaningful response to the global problem of climate change will likely rise from an accumulation of local efforts -- any one of which might seem insignificant on its own.
Push for business-as-usual alternatives: The roundtable offers "constructive suggestions for an alternative approach" to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. But those suggestions boil down to a promotion of further fossil fuel development and the as-yet-unproven technology to sequester its results. As the Pew Climate Change Center points out, fossil fuels aren't going away any time soon. So we'd best plan around them while they're here. But the roundtable would have us stay stuck in the same old bog of dinosaur fuels without trying to claw our way out.