The Kyoto Protocol treaty that promised to save the world was born in the corridors of big business. The name Enron has faded from memory since 2001, when the company nose-dived in flames amidst charges of bribery, fraud, graft and price fixing. Without Enron there would have been no Kyoto Protocol.
In the US in 1990, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) determined by statute how much pollutant an operator of a fossil-fuelled plant could emit. Enron had already helped to establish the market and become the major trader in EPA’s $20 billion-per-year sulphur dioxide ‘cap-and-trade’ programme, the forerunner and blueprint for today's carbon credit trade.
This exchange of emission allowances caused Enron’s stock to rapidly rise. It became a billion-dollar-a-day commodity trader, owning and operating US-wide natural gas pipelines, and buying and selling contracts and their derivatives to deliver utilities such as coal, natural gas, electricity, and internet bandwidth.
Across the Atlantic Maggie Thatcher had demonised CO2 in a successful right-wing move to smash the coal industry and deliver a blow to unions by replacing coal-fired electricity stations with nuclear reactors, a payback favour to Shell and Dupont for in exchange for campaign pledges. Enron saw financial potential in continuing Thatcher’s crusade against CO2-emissions in the US and possibly globally.
The problem was CO2 is not a pollutant, and EPA had no authority to cap its emission. After taking office in 1993 Al Gore became infatuated with the idea of an international environmental regulatory regime. He led a U.S. initiative to review new projects around the world and issue ‘credits’ of so many tons of annual CO2 emission reduction.
Enron aggressively lobbied Clinton and Congress, seeking EPA regulatory authority over CO2. Enron’s philanthropists lavished millions on environmental groups that supported international energy controls to “reduce” global warming.
Profits from alternatives, Enron calculated, would more than compensate for lost coal profits, so it acquired both the world’s biggest wind power company, GE Wind, from General Electric, and, together with Amoco, the world’s biggest solar power company.
Enron saw itself as the only trader in the new barter world of carbon credits but needed governments to establish a global tax on carbon. Utilities would be required to pay billions for permits or close coal plants which would have favoured natural gas or other kinds of power plants, driving up prices for those alternatives. Enron would make money both coming and going - from selling permits and then their own energy at higher prices.
Enron started financing global warming hype, offering grants to scientists – but asking for results favourable to their interest – “proof” that humans were responsible for the excessive emissions of CO2 through fossil fuel burning.
For momentum they needed alliances with the green movement including Greenpeace, and because some individuals were standing in Enron's way they asked President Clinton to harm reputations and the credibility of scientists who argued global warming was an overblown issue. Enron executives worked with the Clinton administration to create a scaremongering climate science environment.
Lobbying the president to shut off public debate on global warming, Enron requested Clinton to appoint a bipartisan Commission for high-level trashing of dissident scientists. The plan was that once the problem (imminent global catastrophe) was in place, the solution (Enron's services) would be put into operation. They wanted to minimise public challenges and for the science to be "settled".
Meanwhile Enron commissioned its own internal study of global warming science. It turned out to be in agreement with the same scientists that they were trying to shut up. The leaked report concluded: "The very real possibility is that the great climate alarm could be a false alarm." Self-censoring them, Enron never made its own findings public.
It all nearly worked, but West Virginia, normally a Democrat stronghold, voted for Bush because the state runs on coal, and the industry made a pre-election deal with Bush to not endorse Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocol was coordinated under the auspices of the UN. The money was funneled through the U.N.’s Global Environment Facility. Only the US was not a signatory because if Kyoto was ratified and in full force, Americans would lose up to $400 billion each year, up to 3.5 million jobs and $6,000 each year per household. It was too much to ask of Americans, just for large energy companies to pocket millions.
Enron collapsed in a quagmire of bribery, misinformation, energy price manipulation and the use of political connections to exert pressure on energy boards. Their CEO committed suicide. Governments realised treaty dealing would wreck every economy it did business in.
In NZ the 2002 Labour government was forced to sign the Kyoto Protocol because the Alliance Party had self-destructed and Labour needed the Greens for support in Confidence and Supply. Part of the cost of that support was our signature to Kyoto.
Since the Rio Conference in 1992, the greens have tried using the threat of global warming to induce Protestant guilt in us all, to cap growth, change lifestyles, and attack America, western prosperity, and the car. Schoolchildren are bullied into believing the planet somehow needs saving.
Playing the climate-change card at the G8 Summit, the final Gleneagles' declaration showed that even the leaders of the developed world had no intention of sacrificing growth and economic success for an ascetic global warming religion, and deftly swapped capping greenhouse gas emissions for an emphasis on technological innovation and imaginative development.
With the Kyoto Protocol effectively dead, the 2009 Copenhagen conference turned into a fiasco. Delegates mostly discussed the date of the next conference.
The Kyoto Protocol was born and died in the world of corporate greed for financial advantage. The green infrastructure it developed still works hard to retain influence and prestige through political power-broking. The Kyoto Protocol has never been about the climate.Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com is a longrange forecaster for Australia’s Channel Seven network.
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