Kyoto bet backfiring on some energy companies

Published October 1, 2001

While the usual cast of anti-free market environmentalists has assembled to pressure Congress and President George W. Bush on CO2 emissions, the anti-market crowd has gained a new and unexpected ally in the global warming debate–some of the very energy-producing corporations that would seem to be most hurt by strict emissions limits.

Many energy-producing companies, in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, assumed that significant CO2 reductions were going to be mandatory and inevitable. In an attempt to get a leg up on the competition and avoid a last-minute crunch of required changes, some of these companies began to enact costly CO2-reduction programs.

However, with the November 2000 defeat of Al Gore and President Bush’s subsequent refusal to get prematurely stuck in a bad treaty, many companies have discovered they bet on the wrong horse. Now they are siding with anti-market environmentalists in lobbying Congress to enact mandatory emissions reductions.

“I think some of this is the hangover form the Clinton era, when some of these emissions changes seemed inevitable,” stated Rob Long, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Mining Association. “And I think some people got locked into that mind-set. I think the world changed in January. It can’t have escaped their notice that the new President won’t support constraints on CO2.”