The Waxman-Markey Crisis

As the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill nears a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, environmental groups are "teetering at the edge of existential crisis," writes Josh Harkinson. "Almost all environmental groups agree that Waxman-Markey is far from ideal," but some are supporting it, while others "believe the bill is so deeply flawed it might actually make matters worse." Critics say the bill "lines the pockets of polluters with little to show for it. The most it would cut carbon emissions by 2020 is 17 percent below 1990 levels, nowhere near the 25 to 40 percent reduction sought by scientists and international climate negotiators." Other concerns are that the bill may decrease clean energy production, as it would overrule higher renewable mandates in states like California; it would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants; and it would auction just 15 percent of emissions permits, giving a whopping 50 percent "to the fossil fuel industry for free." Some environmentalists blame the United States Climate Action Partnership, "a coalition of industry and moderate environmental groups," for sticking with a "quietly hammered out" agreement developed during the Bush administration. Others criticize President Obama, "who spoke out in favor of auctioning off pollution permits during his campaign ... but is now thought likely to sign whatever bill crosses his desk." Meanwhile, the industry front group Cooler Heads Coalition is planning efforts to oppose the bill, with "scientific skeptics and legislative critics," reports Greenwire.


The apparent contradictions within this bill sound similar to those within the Waxman-Kennedy bill to give the FDA regulatory control over tobacco. That process also divided advocates, with those going for a quick-fix actually lining up with Altria, the parent of the Philip Morris tobacco company.

1) Waxman is no idiot, so these contradictions can't be blowing by him unnoticed. It raises the question of just whose friend he is when his name appears repeatedly on such bills.

2) Fracturing the advocacy community seems as big a pay-off for the industries involved as the actual contents of these bills. Stacey Carter's 2002 article "Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin: destroying tobacco control activism from the inside" (Tobacco Control 11:112-118) demonstrates how a PR firm taught the tobacco industry to do this kind of splitting.