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Business group bashes Western Climate Initiative

February 17, 2009 |  5:10 pm


Before the energy companies and business lobbies got hammered by junk-science charges, their strategy in attacking proposed global warming laws was to cast doubt on whether the Earth is suffering any human-caused climate change. But with a swelling body of evidence pointing towards dramatic climactic shifts, their new game plan is to question the economic assumptions of government climate plans. The costs of limiting carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, they say, are underestimated and far too high.

Tuesday, the Western Business Roundtable, a lobby group for energy and mining companies, released an extensive economic critique of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional plan to cap greenhouse gas pollution and reduce the cost of regulation by allowing companies to trade emissions permits. The 157-page report by the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Management Information Services Inc. asserted that the climate action plan by seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces would "impose significant new costs on consumers and retard job creation in the Western U.S. over the coming decade."

The climate initiative, which is considered a model for broader cap-and-trade legislation now being written in Congress, seeks to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the region by about 15% below 2005 levels in the next dozen years. But the Roundtable report asserted that it would deliver "no scientifically measurable benefit in terms of reduced global climate temperatures as far out as the year 2100."

Moreover, the report found, the regional initiative would largely preclude building new hydropower, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy electricity plants through the year 2020, instead favoring the installation of "highly intermittent" wind and solar facilities. "The key to creating new jobs while reducing emissions is not to throttle back our economic engine, but to turbo-charge it with new technologies that allow it to run faster, cleaner and more efficiently," said Roundtable president Jim Sims in a statement accompanying the report.

Michael Gibbs, assistant secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said of the consultants' report: "They misunderstood the design of the program ... Using flawed assumptions, they have drawn erroneous conclusions, particularly about the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency."

To participate in the regional system, the 11 states and provinces must have legal authority in place by 2012. California, which adopted a state-wide climate plan in December, is furthest along. In some states, including Utah and Arizona, Republican legislators have launched as yet unsuccessful efforts to bow out of the initiative.

-- Margot Roosevelt

PHOTO: a solar demonstration plant in Lancaster, California. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/LA Times