29 April 2010

Industries gang up on green

That elements of the oil and coal industries oppose Obama's green agenda is not news. The efforts of ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company and Peabody Energy Corp, America's biggest coal company, to undermine the science of climate change are notorious. The coal industry is leading the campaign to defeat the climate and energy bill currently before Congress and to prevent the Obama administration from using the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curb emissions.

Now it appears the chemical industry is joining the battle. A secretive group linked to Solvay Chemicals is joining other corporate groups and their supporters in legal challenges to the EPA's authority to act on greenhouse gas emissions. Solvay produces sulphur hexafluoride, an industrial cleaner that just happens to be an extremely potent greenhouse gas, 23,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Last year, the EPA proposed regulating sulphur hexafluoride.

The secrecy of the group is typical of corporate efforts to suppress the regulation of greenhouse gases. Corporations that like to present an environment-friendly face to the public prefer to keep their environment-unfriendly activities private.

Opposition in the U.S. to dealing responsibly with climate change is formidable. It includes members of the above industries and others, the legislatures of oil and coal states, right-wing think tanks, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They are powerfully organized, filthy rich, and equipped with all the propaganda tools, lawyers and lobbyists money can buy. This raw power, imposed largely out of the public view, seriously undermines the possibility of honest democratic debate on the climate change issue. It does explain the laggard nature of U.S. efforts to deal with the most important challenge facing all of us, a lagging we cannot afford from the world's major emitter of greenhouse gasses.

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