On Monday, the Obama administration announced it had hired an environmental economist from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to join the National Economic Council. Replacing member Joe Aldy, Nat Keohane, a long-time advocate of cap and trade, will now be advising President Obama on the economics of energy and environmental issues.
With Keohane’s addition, it now looks like the Obama administration is preparing to go to battle against congressional Republicans who balk at the prospect of any environmental legislation. But Keohane’s hire also represents something else – the continuation of Obama placing global warming alarmists in positions to have major influence on environmental policy.
While Keohane has never acted as a lobbyist, he heavily pushed for energy legislation like cap and trade while at EDF. The EDF is also a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership – a lobbying coalition of businesses and environmental groups that pushes energy legislation.
During his time at the EDF, Keohane wrote several articles and videos promoting cap and trade. In the summer of 2009, for example, he co-authored a piece with global warming scientist Michael Oppenheimer entitled “Four Reasons to Use Cap and Trade to Fight Global Warming”.
(Oppenheimer is the scientist who, in his 1990 book “Dead Heat,” predicted that by 1995 global warming would be “desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…” He also said that by 1996 the Platte River in Nebraska would run dry and the entire continent would be covered in a blizzard of topsoil that “will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.”)
In their article, Oppenheimer and Keohane used dramatic rhetoric, saying that cap and trade is needed to prevent emissions from causing “warming that would cause ice sheets to disintegrate, droughts to become endemic, and killer heat waves to become the norm.”
Oppenheimer and Keohane went on to acknowledge that yes, cap and trade would result in higher energy prices, but that would be offset by either giving away carbon permits to companies for free or re-allocating the revenue brought in by permit purchases.
As an economist, Keohane likes to say that the reason behind his support for cap and trade is because it is a market-based solution to global warming. He outlined that belief in a 2007 article in which he wrote, “The solution is to harness the power of market forces by establishing firm caps on greenhouse gas emissions…If the government will lead by capping carbon pollution, the primary cause of climate change, the market will respond with investment and innovation on a scale to solve this problem.”
He reiterated that belief when he appeared in a video produced in January 2010 by the EDF and the group Clean Energy Works titled “The Facts of Cap and Trade.” In it, Keohane made lots of claims about the benefits of such legislation, even going so far as to say that if the Senate did not pass cap and trade, neither India nor China would pursue energy policies, and the world would be left to the destruction of global warming.
Keohane went on to compare cap and trade to other landmark pieces of legislation from the more liberal Congresses. “Remember, some of the most important laws in our nation’s history — social security, civil rights, the Clean Air Act — were all seen as imperfect, but all of them ended up changing the nation profoundly,” he said.
Besides being an ardent cap and trade supporter, Keohane’s addition to the president’s advisory team is also significant considering the current state of play of cap and trade. After the Waxman-Markey bill died in the Senate last year, the Obama administration effectively gave the job of regulating greenhouse gas emissions over to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In other words, what failed the legislative process was going to be implemented through backdoor regulatory schemes.
So in 2009, the EPA, under Administrator Lisa Jackson, began the process of regulating greenhouse gases. And in the summer of 2010, the agency demanded that states either follow suit by passing laws to implement the regulations, or the EPA would start handing out carbon-emitting permits to companies itself.
Critics saw the move as a power grab by the EPA, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced legislation to block it. The measure, however, was defeated by a vote of 53-47. To make things even more complicated, the EPA announced just last month that by the end of 2012 it would begin setting actual limits on the amount of greenhouse gases power plants and oil refineries are allowed to emit.
It’s evident the EPA has made regulating greenhouse gas emission a top priority for the agency. And given his record, experts see it as likely that Keohane will now go to work advising President Obama on how the EPA can improve on regulating companies that emit pollutants like carbon dioxide.
“It’s clear Obama is keeping his radical environmental agenda alive and well,” Tom Borelli of the Free Enterprise Project told The Daily Caller. “By bringing the so-called economic brains of cap-and-trade in the White House Obama can still execute his war on fossil fuels…Hiring an economist from the EDF will keep environmentalists happy.”
Keohane will join other influential environmentalists in the administration like Cathy Zoi at the Department of Energy and Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.
“With Browner and Keohane in the inner circle we can look forward to an administration that places a high priority on eco-policies at great cost to jobs and economic growth,” said Borelli.