U.S. Climate Action Partnership: A Carbon Fox in the Cap-and-Trade Henhouse

U.S. Climate Action PartnershipTaken at face value, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) seems like an organization with a selfless goal.

On its website, the entity describes itself as "a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

I’ll stop short of calling it sinister, but there is certainly more going on here than meets the eye.

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the USCAP, including details on the policy they’re trying to stay ahead of.

A Call for Action

One look at the member list of USCAP makes you immediately aware that you’re not dealing with the greenest of companies — intentions aside.

Only the list you’ll find such carbon-intensive entities as Duke Energy, Alcoa, ConocoPhillips, and NRG Energy, just to name a few.

And while USCAP is adept at putting forward a good public persona, a look at their policy recommendation plan, called "A Call for Action," unearths a few ulterior motives.

To be clear, I’m not saying the end goal of the group isn’t a good one. Capping emissions is a wonderful way to mitigate pollution and make clean energy profitable.

I’m just saying most of the firms involved here aren’t necessarily at the forefront of the cleantech revolution, and are simply using the USCAP to be at the legislative table rather than on the menu.

For example, A Call for Action calls for "mandatory approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the major emitting sectors." A noble goal.

Yet the plan goes on to qualify it by stating those reductions should be "phased in over time."

To me that says: We want to cap emissions, just not yet because we’re not ready.

The plan also calls for "approaches to establish a price signal for carbon." By all measures a system like this is in the works. It’s called cap-and-trade.

But that’s not good enough for USCAP. They want "flexible approaches. . . that may vary by sector."

Translation: We want the plan that best suits our business interests.

Remember the breadth of companies we’re dealing with here. Certainly Duke Energy wants different rules than Alcoa. With USCAP, they can lobby for both.

This is a cake-and-eat-it-thing.

But the best caveat in the plan is one that calls for "approaches that create incentives and encourage actions by other countries, including large emitting economies in the developing world, to implement GHG emission reduction strategies.

Folks, this is the Bush excuse for backing out of the Kyoto Protocol in the first place. Remember that mantra: We’ll do it if China and India do.

Not gonna work this time.

Riddled with Requests, Contradictions

But the underhanded attempts at securing favorable policies for its members don’t end there.

The Call for Action goes on to lobby for "cost-effective carbon capture and storage, which will be particularly important in the deployment of advanced coal technologies."

At least they said "advanced coal" instead of "clean coal." Either way, carbon capture at competitive prices is currently a pipe dream being pursued only by those whose business models are dependent on burning coal. . . like some of the members of the USCAP.

And then come the contradictions.

Like when the plan calls for cap-and-trade legislation "that will establish a uniform price for GHG emissions for all sectors" only paragraphs after asking "to establish a price signal for carbon that may vary by sector."

Which is it?

Then the plan requests that "companies that take early action should be given appropriate credit or otherwise be rewarded for their early reduction in GHG emissions." But that was after floating the idea that carbon caps be "phased in over time."

So let me get this straight.

USCAP wants a uniform price for carbon that can vary by sector.

They also want carbon caps to be phased in over time, but still want retroactive credit if they do a few things now.

But the biggest laugh-line of them all is one that mandates any cap-and-trade policy "provide appropriate assistance to those disadvantaged or disproportionately impacted by such a program," with special attention paid to certain economic sectors.

I thought that was the point of capping emissions. Those that heavily emit carbon are supposed to be disadvantaged. That’s the impetus for change.

At any rate, I’m not going through their entire self-serving agenda line-by-line, I just wanted to highlight a few choice parts that make clear the true intention of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.

To be fair, the general idea is a good one, and one that I support. Cap-and-trade is a good thing that can usher in economic and environmental benefits.

But as I see it, the USCAP is nothing more than a carbon fox in the cap-and-trade henhouse, using the cover of progressiveness to mask its lobbying efforts.

Nick Hodge is a regular contributor to Green Chip Review and Energy & Capital. One of the bright young minds in today's cleantech industry, Nick is putting his knowledge of nascent green markets to use in several ways. . . He's the Managing Editor of Alternative Energy Speculator, an investment advisory service focused on taking advantage of every aspect of cleaner energy, from the stop-gap companies that are making a fortune lowering carbon emissions to makers of more fuel efficient engines and other technologies that will help the U.S. successfully build a bridge from current fuel to the energy of the future. Nick also runs Green Chip International, which is dedicated to giving you the sharpest insight, not just into clean technology trends but also the geopolitical context that makes markets move. A featured guest on Canada's Business News Network and Yahoo!'s Tech Ticker, Nick is also very interested in uncovering the massive profit opportunities associated with a growing lack of freshwater and the maturation of the global carbon markets. Nick is also the co-author of the bestselling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks.

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