Government Electric: Cap-and-Trade 

What: A federal limit on greenhouse gas emissions combined with a regulated market in emissions credits. For instance, the Kerry-Boxer bill of last congress, or Warner-Lieberman or McCain-Lieberman of previous Congresses. The Kyoto Protocol, if the U.S. had ratified it, would have mandated such a law.

How GE lobbied for it: Immelt was a leading player -- perhaps the leading player -- in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a lobbying coalition of Big Business and green groups pushing for cap-and-trade. Immelt repeatedly called for cap-and-trade, saying on at least one occasion, "we must put a price on carbon." GE lobbying filings also consistently show the company lobbying on climate issues.

How Obama pushed it: On the campaign trail, in his speeches, and in his budgets, Obama has pushed for cap-and-trade.

How GE would profit from it: GE is heavily invested in wind turbines, and through its "Ecomagination" iniative, the company has invested in efficiency-enhancing technologies. Some technologies to enhance energy efficiency pay for themselves, but some don't. Especially for the latter class of technology, a significant increase in electricity prices would be a boon -- and cap-and-trade would certainly increase electricity rates.

But most important in this gambit might be Greenhouse Gas Services, a joint venture between GE and power giant AES. GHGS creates and trades in greenhouse-gas credits. As of now, some companies do this voluntarily. Under cap-and-trade manufacturers and other energy consumers would be required to buy GHG credits.

How it hurts you: Cap-and-trade would increase the price you pay for electricity and heat, but also everything that is made using electricity and heat (which is everything) and everything that is shipped. As GHGS pockets money from cap-and-trade, what we essentially have is a transfer of wealth from you to GE.

This will drive more manufacturing overseas, costing jobs, too. Because China, Indonesia, and Mexico have laxer environmental standards, there might be no net reduction in greenhouse gasses. As a clue towards how companies expect to handle cap-and-trade, look at AES -- GE's partner in GHGS and a member of US-CAP.

Here's what I wrote about them back in 2009:

When Enron died, its assets were scattered. Two heirs — taking up both Enron’s power generation and its climate change entrepreneurship — were General Electric and AES. GE got the windmills, and AES got floating coal-fired power plants off Nigeria’s shores.

AES is currently building a new coal-fired power plant in India with an accompanying coal mine. AES has also just opened a diesel-fired plant in southern Chile, adding to its four Chilean coal-fired plants. Last December, Vietnam’s government announced a joint venture with AES for a coal-fired power project there.

More links on this issue:

AES & GE imitate Enron on coal & climate

Subsidymagination: GE's regulatory robbery

Obama's hidden bailout of General Electric

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Timothy P. Carney

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