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Energy Policy: Hopefully Not Keeping Up With General Jones

I had known that General James Jones had, since retirement, involved himself in some kind of Chamber of Commerce energy project. I didn’t have great hopes for a Chamber of Commerce energy project, but I hadn’t realized what a real stinker it was until I read Brad Johnson’s writeup. It’s some bad stuff. Presumably Jones will have his hands full doing the National Security Advisor’s job and let’s hope folks with sound views on climate and energy get picked to do those jobs.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting how odd it is that the United States has the kind of highly ideological and deeply shortsighted business community. There’s no way a serious climate policy could be anything other than bad for oil companies and catastrophic for coal companies. But for most companies? Well, there shouldn’t really be a general problem. Firms whose operations are more carbon intensive than the average firm would be put at a competitive disadvantage, but by the same token firms whose operations are less carbon intensive than the average firm would be given a leg up. And there should be half of each. You can see why the business community might have good reason to quibble around the margins with the green community about the desirability of using carbon pricing revenue for green investments versus doing a straight rebate or something. But there’s no particular reason, other than sheer solidarity with the adversely effected minority of businesses, to want to take a blinkered attitude to climate/energy policy in general. After all, Florida being under water isn’t going to be good for business.

But the business community rarely acts in a farsighted and roughly rational manner about this kind of thing. You saw during the 1994 health care fight that business leaders across the board preferred to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anti-reform interest groups even though most businesses would benefit from a better health care policy. The ideological battle against progressive governance is seen as more important than the practical stake big business has in seeking reasonable policy outcomes. That’s not a universal attitude, but it’s definitely the predominant one.

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