Last week the Climate Action Partnership — including corporate giants BP, Caterpillar, DuPont, and General Electric — called for a national limit on carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change. (Their report, “A Call for Action,” is here [PDF].) Strassel says they’ll make money on the deal — and therefore it must be a Bad Thing:
“The cap-and-trade climate program these 10 jolly green giants are now calling for is a regulatory device designed to financially reward companies that reduce CO2 emissions, and punish those that don’t…. DuPont has been plunging into biofuels, the use of which would soar under a cap. Somebody has to cobble together all these complex trading deals, so say hello to Lehman Brothers. Caterpillar has invested heavily in new engines that generate ‘clean energy.’ British Petroleum is mostly doing public penance for its dirty oil habit, but also gets a plug for its own biofuels venture…. What makes this lobby worse than the usual K-Street crowd is that it offers no upside. At least when Big Pharma self-interestedly asks for fewer regulations, the economy benefits.“
Strassel appears to be criticizing what economists, using 18th-century verbiage, call “rent seeking,” which is trying to make money by influencing legislation rather than by making better products. An honest argument from this point of view would propose that all lobbying and political contributions by for-profit entities be universally banned. But Strassel isn’t making an honest economic argument. She’s OK with some companies’ rent seeking and not others, because she assumes — without even attempting to provide any evidence — that deregulating Big Pharma has no downside and cutting CO2 emissions has no upside.
Strassel’s column is considerably less intelligent than this summary makes it sound, veering wildly from the above “point” to criticizing proposals that CAP hasn’t made, then criticizing what she predicts will be the inaction of the Congressional Democrats on this issue.
Makower, by contrast, is well worth reading in full. He includes links for investors smart enough to want to make money from a runaway climate train, as opposed to standing on the tracks claiming it’ll never come.