An unraveling climate coalition?

Global warming skeptics are delighted at defections from a high-profile lobbying group

Published February 17, 2010 7:48PM (EST)

So what does it mean that three multinational corporations -- BP America, Conoco-Phillips, and Caterpillar -- have quit the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a lobbying group that supports legislative action to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

If you hail from the climate skeptic camp, it must mean that some of the corporate leaders who previously "stood poised to sell out America's free enterprise system" have finally seen the evil of their ways. The theory of human-caused climate must be a hoax, a Trojan horse designed "to impose burdensome regulations at the expense of American consumers."

That's Kevin Mooney's view, anyway, presented at the American Spectator, along with a recap of the months of bad (and not undeserved) press that climate change science has generated in recent months.

But judging from a blog post by the New York Times' John Lorinc, the real reason the three companies are quitting doesn't appear to have much to do with the state of the science, but rather, the state of their lobbying success.

[The companies] cited mounting concerns over the direction of climate change legislation, particularly concessions to the politically influential coal sector....

Jim Mulva, the chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, reiterated the point in a statement released Tuesday. "House climate legislation and Senate proposals to date have disadvantaged the transportation sector and its consumers, left domestic refineries unfairly penalized versus international competition, and ignored the critical role that natural gas can play" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Mulva said.

What's apparent, however, is that reducing greenhouse gas emissions was never the real reason for these companies joining the Climate Action Partnership to begin with. It was all about getting a piece of the action.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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