In recent years, the number of lobbyists seeking to influence federal legislation on global warming has grown at an incredible pace. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the number of lobbyists have increased 300% in the paste five years. Now, more than 770 companies and organizations are represented by some 2,340 lobbyists seeking to represent their clients’ views on the issue, spending over $90 million.
With the Obama administration pledging action on global warming, it will have to contend with lobbyists advocating a wide variety of policies, some of which are antithetical to those of other lobbyists.
There are several major lobbyists seeking to have their clients’ interests represented in any legislation aimed at targeting global warming. Moreover, they include former members of Congress and Congressional staffers.
The make-up of lobbyists is also changing from the past debates on global warming. In 2003 when the U.S. Senate first voted on climate-related legislation, 150 business and interest groups were opposed by just 8 environmental groups. Now, a wide variety of groups–likely recognizing that some form of legislation is increasingly likely–are seeking to shape it to their benefit.
The Center for Public Integrity has produced a chart showing the sectors lobbying on the legislation:
Manufacturers–many of whom like the coal industry group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity–are seeking government money to develop technologies to address global warming.
Among Obama’s plans to curb global warming is the development of a market-placed cap on carbon pollution. Under such a “cap-and-trade” system, companies would see their carbon emissions “capped” at a certain level. If they reduced their emissions more than that cap, they would be able to sell excess emissions credits to companies that are not able to reduce their pollution as quickly.
A number of major financial companies–JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch–are all seeking involvement in such a market, which the federal government estimates could grow to $2 trillion within five years.
Lobbyists Present Potential Problems, but Also Show Opportunities
The Center for Public Integrity and many environmental groups caution that lobbyists could derail a new agreement to fight global warming, either by defeating it outright or watering it down with compromises between the numerous factions seeking to shape the debate.
However, the fact that there are so many lobbyists on the issue also means that Congress is finally taking it seriously. This means that there is a potential for making progress and it also shows how the issue has moved from the margins to the center of political debate.