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Seventeen Players Who Could Make or Break Cap and Trade

By Josh Harkinson and Jonathan Stein
Mother Jones
March/April 2009


By year's end, world leaders are to negotiate the successor treaty to the Kyoto
Protocol climate agreement in Copenhagen—our last chance, many experts say, to
reverse the disastrous course of global climate policy. Here's how the
battlefield is shaping up in Washington.

Nancy Pelosi: The speaker of the House has said Congress may not be ready for a
cap-and-trade bill this year. But enviros say she's just managing expectations.
They see some kind of climate legislation passing this year, though it could be
incremental—think carbon targets in a broader energy bill.

John Boehner: With about a dozen Senate Republicans likely to support
cap-and-trade legislation, the gop's chances of blocking it may rest on the few
surviving moderate Republicans in the House; look for the minority leader to
blast cap and trade as too costly for an economy in crisis.

Henry Waxman: Under former chairman John Dingell, the House Committee on Energy
and Commerce was where energy legislation went to die. Under Waxman, the
committee's mix of liberals and Blue Dogs could craft a bill with wide appeal.
Lawrence H. Summers: As Bill Clinton's deputy Treasury secretary, he argued
that stemming climate change too quickly would drag down the economy. As head of
Obama's economic team, he'll square off against the White House's progressive
climate czar, Carol M. Browner.

Lisa Jackson: Obama's epa administrator is in a position to move forward on
carbon even if Congress won't—by regulating CO2 as a pollutant, for example, an
avenue opened by a groundbreaking 2007 Supreme Court ruling.

TOM kuhn: As president of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents most
of the nation's electric utilities, Kuhn routinely makes The Hill's annual list
of the capital's most powerful business lobbyists. Last year he spent $5.5
million lobbying Congress, in part to water down the Lieberman-Warner climate
bill. But watch for up-and-comers like the increasingly powerful American wind
energy association to give him a run for his money.

The United States Climate Action Partnership: With members ranging from the
Natural Resources Defense Council to Dow Chemical, it aims to broker a climate
compromise. "When we rolled this out in January 2007, it really shook up
Washington," says Manik Roy of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a
founding member of the group. "All of a sudden, you could not say this is
industry versus the environment." But when it was revealed that some partnership
members were also funding efforts to block mandatory carbon cuts, environmental
groups such as the Sierra Club cried foul.

David Hunter: A former staffer to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), he now lobbies
on behalf of the International Emissions Trading Association to promote carbon
offsets, arguing that allowing US industries to retrofit a power plant in China
is more efficient than forcing companies to cut emissions. But experts say the
bona fides of specific offset projects are hard to verify.

Van Jones: Oakland's evangelist for the green-collar economy will battle the
industry-backed alliance for energy and economic growth, which says a carbon cap
would be disastrous for blue-collar America.

John Doerr: In January, Silicon Valley's best-known clean-tech investor told a
Senate committee that the single most important thing it could do to boost his
sector was pass a climate bill. No Republicans attended the talk.

rick boucher: The Blue Dog Democrats will be crucial to passing cap and trade
in the House, and Boucher (D-Va.) is the most climate savvy of the lot. A shrewd
bargainer for coal interests in his Virginia district, he's pushing for heavy
subsidies for carbon capture technologies, followed by deeper cuts to emissions
if and when coal cleans up.

Steven Chu: Obama's energy secretary loves next-gen biofuels and the oil
companies researching them almost as much as he hates climate change. A Nobel
laureate, he'll have the president's ear as few others will—and might even cure
corn-fed Agriculture Secretary tom vilsack of his addiction to ethanol.

 

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