PR Battle Over Cap-and-Trade Reaches a Fevered Pitch

Oil and coal companies — the most vocal opponents of US cap-and-trade climate legislation — have spent more than $76 million over the last four months on public relations and mass advertising trying to to defeat the climate bill now before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. When you combine that incredible sum with money spent by gas producers and heavy industries, it’s safe to claim that many of America’s leading companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2009 to discredit climate change legislation and, by extension, the science of global warming. One environmentalist suggested that the final tally will be in excess of $1 billion.
Which isn’t to suggest that cap-and-trade legislation supporters haven’t opened their pockets, too: it’s just that their bank accounts aren’t nearly so deep. The Campaign Media Analysis Group suggests that cap-and-trade proponents have spent $28.6 million to convince us that a low-carbon economy is vitally important to the US, and the planet.

The cap-and-trade spoiler campaign is multifaceted, and it includes industry front groups and lobbying firms which have been buying television, print, and radio advertising in important markets and across the US. These same industries have also made donations to key members of Congress. As many as 12 pivotal House Democrats come from coal- or oil-producing states, and nine of that number have accepted donations greater than $90,000 from the fossil fuel industries and utility companies during the last US last election.
It’s a well-honed plan of attack. Democrats accepting fossil fuel money hold key positions on Chairman Henry Waxman’s House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the suggestion is obvious that they could be swayed by parochial interests. That’s why many environmentalists are suggesting that this is ground zero for cap-and-trade legislation. Analysts believe that the real danger isn’t getting a cap-and-trade vote in the House, it’s getting strong legislation out of committee.
Recent pronouncements from Beltway insiders suggest that the Waxman-Markey bill has been watered down over the last week, and that House Democrats have seen enough movement in favor of industry to bring the package to a vote. We’ll be watching closely to see what measures are included – and which have fallen by the wayside – after the dust settles

Richard is a writer and editor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia who specializes in clean technology and climate change. He's the founder of One Blue Marble, a climate change activism blog and web site.