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Category — Senate cap-and-trade (Kerry-Lieberman)

Post-Carbon Left Enviro Blues (Why the Senate rejected cap-and-trade)

Everyone knows that our industries contain a large collection of minds that are almost indecently fertile. Name the business and you can see lots of people who were quick to spot the growth possibilities in climate policy, whether they were financial, political or technological. The semiconductor industry turned sand into wealth, and we were going to do the same with the world’s exhalations.

And now it’s as good as over. Only the problem is that those of us who were smart enough to get into carbon on the ground floor refuse to acknowledge what is becoming more obvious by the hour.

The great bulk of groups that call themselves “nonprofit” and “nonpartisan”are little more than shills for environmentalists and Democrats. But here is an unusual one: the Breakthrough Institute.

“Breakthrough” is usually a word reserved for psychotherapy, but the Breakthrough Institute is green with an attitude. It has managed to separate itself from the other carbon controllers, thanks to a sense of realism about both technological issues and political reality. Co-founder Michael Shellenberger recently appeared in the Washington Post and pretty much set the world straight about why the Senate finally dropped cap and trade and a national renewable quota, and what it all means.

He says that the usual explanations for the change generally fail. Republicans aren’t to blame, because they needed and got enough Democrats to also reject the policies. Environmentalists in fact made massive efforts and didn’t change a single vote. The administration pushed it hard and also failed to influence marginal votes.

And you can’t blame business, because as Shellenberger points out, cap and trade “arguably had more industry support than any other environmental policy in history.” A protégé  of Ken Lay, James E. Rogers, once at Enron and now head of Duke Energy, for example, got the electric utility industry to the table and behind cap-and-trade. [Read more →]

September 1, 2010   2 Comments

Kerry–Lieberman: A “Simple” 987-page Bill? (Enron postmodernism in a Senator’s voice)

“We’re trying to minimize the package,” [Sen. John] Kerry said yesterday of the 987-page bill. “We’re trying to keep it simple. We’re trying to keep it transparent and open and understandable for why something took place.”

- Darren Samuelsohn, “Kerry-Lieberman Bill Uses ‘Fewer Buckets’ in Giving Out Highly Prized Allowances,” E&E News, May 14, 2010.

“One often speaks without seeing, without knowing, without meaning what one says.”

- Jacques Derrida, quoted in Mitchell Stephens, “Deconstructing Jacques Derrida; The Most Reviled Professor in the World Defends His Diabolically Difficult Theory,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, July 21, 1991.

The late postmodern philosopher,  Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) would find intellectual kinship in the political debates about climate and energy coming from the party in power. If alive today, Derrida would nod approvingly at Senator John Kerry’s above I-say-it, it-is-true inversion of reality. It ranks right up there with Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling telling the world after the Enron collapse that Enron was a great company.

Donway Unmasks Enron’s Inner Philosophy

Roger Donway was the first person to identify Enron as a postmodern company. In “The Collapse of a Postmodern Corporation,” he wrote:

But if Enron’s executives were neither incompetent nor crooked, what brought Enron down? I believe it was a culture of corporate values rooted in postmodernism. These were not your grandfather’s businessmen.

He explained: [

May 19, 2010   6 Comments

The American Power Act: A Climate Dud

“The global temperature “savings” of the Kerry-Lieberman bill is astoundingly small—0.043°C (0.077°F) by 2050 and 0.111°C (0.200°F) by 2100. In other words, by century’s end, reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83% will only result in global temperatures being one-fifth of one degree Fahrenheit less than they would otherwise be. That is a scientifically meaningless reduction.”

Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman have just unveiled their latest/greatest attempt to reign in U. S. greenhouse gas emissions. Their one time collaborator Lindsey Graham indicated that he did not consider the bill a climate bill because “[t]here is no bipartisan support for a cap-and-trade bill based on global warming.” But make no mistake. This is a climate bill at heart, and thus the Kerry-Lieberman bill sections labeled “Title II. Global Warming Pollution Reduction.”

So apparently someone thinks the bill will have an impact on global warming. But those someones are wrong. The bill will have no meaningful impact of the future course of global warming.

That is, unless the rest of the world—primarily the developing nations—decide to play along.

In fact, the United States and the rest of the developed countries have little role to play in the future course of global warming except as developers of new energy technologies and/or as guinea pigs of making do with less fossil fuels.

Our attempts at domestic emissions savings will have only minimal direct climate impact, but instead they will serve as an example for the developing world of what, or what not, to do. So if Kerry and Lieberman were interested in directly tackling the climate change issue, they would be working with China’s National People’s Congress to draft legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not the U. S. Senate.

But, everyone already knows this, as we demonstrated the non-impact of U.S. emissions reduction efforts in Part I and Part II of our analysis of last summer’s Waxman-Markey offering. And as far as the global warming goes, Kerry-Lieberman’s The American Power Act of 2010 is similar to Waxman-Markey’s American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

Kerry-Lieberman’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction schedule is 17% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020, 42% below by 2030, and 83% below by 2050. Compare that to Waxman-Markey’s 20% reduction in emissions (below 2005 levels) by 2020, 42% by 2030, and 83% by 2050. Except for a bit of relaxation of near term targets, the bills’ long-term intentions are identical.

The impact of this slight emissions difference on the resulting future global temperature savings is not manifest until the third digit past the decimal point—in other words, thousandths of degrees C. Climatologically, in other words, the bills are identical. [Read more →]

May 12, 2010   34 Comments


[Editor note: The following post, "Cap-and-Trade: The Temple of Enron," appeared one year ago in MasterResource.  It is being reprinted in conjunction with the release of the outlines of the Senate energy/climate proposal. Robert Bradley, formerly with Enron, further documents Enron's cap-and-trade shenanigans in other MasterResource articles listed at the end of this post. Two press releases from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Energy Research on the Senate outline are reproduced as well.]

“Since 1976, Enron [and predecessor company] employees have been at the forefront of developing air credit trading policies for governments and businesses…. Enron today is the largest and most sophisticated air emissions credit and allowance trading organization in the United States. Since 1990, Enron has participated in over 80 SOx allowance transactions and has also been active in establishing policies for trading NOx in the United States and carbon [dioxide] world-wide.”

- “Enron Corp.’s Participation in Air Trading,” Enron Capital & Trade Resources, November 4, 1996 (copy in files).

“If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative…. The endorsement of [CO2] emissions trading was another victory for us…. This agreement will be good for Enron stock!”

- John Palmisano (December 12, 1997) from Kyoto, Japan. Quoted in Bradley, Capitalism at Work, p. 307.

“If anyone has environmental credit needs, that’s what we do. We want to be to be the clearing house to monetize available credits or to manage risk.”

- Kevin McGowan, director of coal and emissions trading, Enron Corp., Enron Biz, November 29, 2000 (copy in files)

“We are a green company, but the green stands for money.”

- Jeff Skilling, CEO, Enron Corp., quoted in Capitalism at Work, p. 310.

Enron is Exhibit A against Waxman/Markey’s [Kerry-Graham-Lieberman's] cap-and-trade proposal. Enron was poised to make money coming and going by being the nation’s and the world’s largest market-maker in CO2 permits, and the “smartest guys in the room” were ready to game and game for incremental dollars (remember California?).

Enron’s business model, in retrospect, had to do with regulatory complexity, as I note in the introduction to my book Capitalism at Work. Enron gamed the highly prescriptive accounting rules (GAAP), tax system (the corporate tax division was actually a profit center as told in an exposé in the Washington Post), and energy regulatory rules. [Read more →]

May 12, 2010   No Comments