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A Bit of Advice on Waxman-Markey: Beware the Lobbyists

Tom Schueneman

This advice doesn't come from me personally, I am only passing it on from a lead official within the German Emissions Trading Authority, the American counterpart of which is still a gleam in the eyes of Henry Waxman, Ed Markey, and supporters of their proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 now slowly taking shape in Congress.

He made clear that his advice comes from experience, expressing the hope that the Americans, who need to get up to speed quickly, could learn from the German's first stumbles initiating their own cap and trade program, as was Germany's first-round of emissions trading (Germany's first round of trading, the "learning by doing phase", lasted from 2005 to 2007. The second round of trading, the "stabilization and refinement phase" is in place until 2012.)

The advice? Beware the lobbyists and the excessive pressure they exert on the process.

"Early cap and trade [proposals] receive enormous lobby'" Dr. Enno Harders told our international group of journalists and bloggers earlier this month while visiting the offices of the German Trading Authority. Dr. Harders emphasized the need for legislators to exercise leadership and steel themselves with the political will to "resist the excessive lobby pressure that makes initial cap and trade ineffective."

The concerns expressed by the more experienced Germans follow closely with the concerns of the "Green Big Guns" outlined yesterday in David Levitan's excellent post.

And it is a well-placed concern. A recent report in the Guardian shows a 50% increase in lobbying efforts from the oil, gas, and coal in the first three months of this year, spending up to $45 million to pressure lawmakers to shut down support for president Obama's efforts to enact clean energy and climate legislation. "The pressure is enourmous," says environmental reporter Suzanne Goldenberg, from an advertising barage to money funneled into the coffers of key legislatures, the heat, as it were, is on.

Though Goldenberg reports that supporters of the Waxman-Markey bill are spending more money than ever before to counter this pressure, it is but a "drop in the bucket" in comparison with the resources available to the mamoth fossil energy industry.

The whole world is watching the process unfold and fear that America will fail once again to take a leadership role in building a new, low carbon energy economy.

And so it comes down to the pleas from expert observers like Dr. Harders for legislators to exhibit, perhaps as never before, political will - and do it in the face of enormous pressure to continue with the short-sighted, vested interest for business as usual. For some at the risk of their own political career. Sometimes that's what it takes to do the right thing.

We need heroes in Congress.

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Tom Schueneman is a freelance writer, web publisher, and environmental advocate based in San Francisco, California. Tom is a contributing writer and associate editor for Tom also publishes, writes, and edits and the

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