Sunday, January 21, 2007

Global Warming and Evangelicals Part Deux

After setting up the initial post on global warming I had a further chat with my wife. She points out that the ice core samples go back thousands of year and make perfectly clear that there has been a dramatic acceleration of the rise of the temperature of water in recent times. My son then chipped in with the following piece which is worth reading---

Global Warming Skeptics: A Primer
Guess who's funding the global warming doubt shops?

In 1998, Exxon devised a plan to stall action on global warming. The plan was outlined in an internal memo that promised, "Victory will be achieved whenuncertainties in climate science become part of the conventional wisdom" for "average citizens" and "the media." (Read the memo [PDF].)

The company would recruit and train new scientists who lack a "history of visibility in the climate debate" and develop materials depicting supporters of action to cut greenhouse gas emissions as "out of touch with reality."

While there is no indication that ExxonMobil paid the climate skeptics directly and the scientists may have their own motivations for participating, the company poured millions of dollars into spreading its message worldwide. Here's where some of that money went.

The following information is from Exxon documents and the organizations' web sites. (Specific sources and links are listed below the table.)
Organization Receiving ExxonMobil Funding 2002-2003 2004 2005
Competitive Enterprise Institute $870,000 $270,000 $270,000
American Enterprise Institute $485,000 $230,000 $240,000
American Council for Capital Formation $444,523 $255,000 $360,000
Frontiers of Freedom $282,000 $250,000 $140,000
George C. Marshall Institute $185,000 $170,000 $115,000
National Center for Policy Analysis $105,000 $75,000 $75,000
Tech Central Station Science Foundation $95,000*
Heartland Institute $92,500* $100,000 $119,000
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow $72,000* $125,000 $90,000
Fraser Institute $60,000* $60,000
International Policy Network $50,000* $115,000 $130,000
Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide & Global Change $40,000* $25,000
American Council on Science and Health $35,000 $15,000 $25,000
Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy $27,500* $75,000 $30,000
Cato Institute $25,000* $15,000
Consumer Alert $25,000 $25,000
Independent Institute $20,000 $30,000
Advancement of Sound Science $20,000 $10,000

*These numbers are for the year 2003 alone.

The information above is from Exxon documents and the organizations' Web sites: Exxon's 2002 contributions [PDF], Exxon's 2003 contributions [PDF], Exxon's 2004 contributions [PDF] and Exxon's 2005 contributions [PDF].

Find Out More
They're taking their act on the road: Global warming skeptics shower their climate denials onto the U.K., according to the Guardian (1/27/05)

For more information on the science of global warming and the politics of combating climate change, go to our Global Warming issue page

You may find further information on ExxonMobil's funding of global warming skeptics by visiting the database web site.

For details on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, the most effective bipartisan legislation to reduce America's emissions of greenhouse gases, visit

This particular piece which I have reprinted here can be found at cfm?ContentID=4870.

The further point needs to be stressed. In the specialized field of climate scientists there is almost no debate on the topic of global warming. There is a near unanimity on the topic. Guess where you find most of the doubters-- they work for companies like Exxon. Hmmmm...... I don't suppose that might reflect a conflict of interest.

Here's my point for Evangelicals. Do you want to be a good witness to people who do care about this world and our ecosphere? If you don't you should. Thus I would suggest that you accept, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as global warming (remember that hole in the ozone and what was said to cause it?). Assume that we have some serious responsibility for causing this problem. How then would be the best way to witness to people who do care about the environment. I would suggest that one way is to show we also care about it and about things like global warming because we have a theology that says God has given us a big beautiful world and called us to take good care of it until he returns. 'Nuff Said.


Hollands Opus said...

Hi Ben,
I offer the following link to a Senate subcommittee report with various other links. At the bottom of the linked page, you will also find a .pdf file "Skeptics guide to global alarmism". It is a very interesting read.

Indeed, global warming is happening, but it seems that man's role and what can be done about it are matters of some serious debate.

Senate Subcommittee on Environment

What thinkest thou?

yuckabuck said...

Why do we have to keep going down the conspiracy and accusation road?


Here's a guy who says that increased solar flares are causing a slight increase in temperatures, and when the flares die down, we will actually go into a global cooling period. Oh, and he makes sure he mentions how there's a lot of grant money to be had from advocating global warming.

This is issue is so politicized, that it's nearly impossible to know who is truth-telling, and who is advocating, and who is just duped.

Oh, and just for my buddy Traditionalist1611, I have been told elsewhere that the same increase in solar flares are actually one of the sign in the sky that says the rapture will occur any day now.

Ben Witherington said...


Yes, I quite agree that the question of what is to be done about so big a problem is a matter of serious debate.

For example, take all those coal fires in China. Take account of the some 975 million peasants in China who do not live in the city areas and have little or no prospects to become more than a peasant. Take into account that they don't have other means of heating themselves in the cold. What shall we do? Shall we ask the Chinese government to provide electricity for them? Well the three gorges dam project is meant as a step in that direction, but it is already seen as an environmental disaster. And the Chinese government has actually had the guts to make a rule about the number of children a family can have, unlike almost all other nations primitive or 'civilized'. The problems are legion to be sure.

But to do nothing is to be a bad witness to a Creator God who made it all and made it very good (tov m'ov as the Hebrew says).

It is a pleasant fiction to think that Jesus must be coming soon due to current events in the Middle East. The very same sort of events have happened dozens of times in that volatile region, and as Orthodox Jews will tell you, the current 'government' of Israel is no fulfillment of prophecy-- its a secular Zionistic state.

But in some ways I hope Jesus is coming soon before the world falls totally apart, before the last polar bear dies due to loss of the polar cap, before the last hummingbird hums, before we all become blue because there are no more bluebirds.

But then I remember the human race that Jesus died for, and I think, what would Jesus do, the Jesus who had so many eloquent things to say about nature and how it illustrates the goodness of God who gives his sun and rain to the just and the unjust and feeds the sparrows and clothes the grass of the field?

I think of course he would call us to focus on rescuing perishing humans. But I know as well he would call on us to be good stewards of our resources as well. It is a hard balance.

It takes some courage to stick your finger in the dike when others are ridiculing you and calling it a lost cause. It is never lost however when we have a sovereign God who intends to turn this world into a new earth to go with a new heaven as Rev. 21.

So here is my wisdom. While it may look like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while the ship is going down, actually by being good stewards we are serving as God's prophets and ensigns of the final redemption of this world-- which is after all our Father's world and he does not intend to abandon it.

Our final destination is not, nor was it ever according to the NT as disembodied creatures in heaven. Our final destination is here on earth at the resurrection and then in the kingdom when it finally comes fully on earth, as we pray for in the Lord's prayer.

This being so, rather than curse the darkness, disease, decay and death, I choose to be a symbol of what is to come-- anakeinisis, renewal, new earth, new resurrected people, and a world where the effects of the fall are felt no more. Rev. 21-22 is the truth, and escapist theology is not.

I saw a good bumper sticker the other day--- 'Where are we going, and Why are we in this handbasket?"
This is how it feels. But in fact 'it does not yet appear' how things shall be when it is all changed. Of course I do not think that humans can save the world by themselves. I do think that God has chosen to use us as his emissaries of the future and final solution.


Bob Bliss said...

Why no discussion of who is funding the global warming alarmists? That might be just as interesting and revealing. Conspiracy theories can cut both ways.

Michael Duduit has an interesting post about Al Gore's film for a different evangelical view point.

Trierr said...

A few quick notes:

Romans 1:20 notes that "God's Invisible qualities ... have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." When we destroy the environment, we destroy some of God's witness to himself. When we care for God's creation, we value his witness in creation. It truly is a matter of witness.

So, I don’t understand why we fight so hard for our right to drive oversized cars, consume so wastefully, and pollute so wantonly. I’m curious which one of Jesus’ teachings we get that from.

jean said...

Ben, you might be interested in this article at,2933,220341,00.html

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Bob: I read Michael's post. Of course it is true that Gore's movie involves some rhetoric. This is beside the point. Even if his facts were only 25% we'd still be trouble and there would still be no excuse for being poor stewards of our resources, our air and water and the like. It is irresponsible to suggest those Scandanavian scientists are representative of the majority of the climate science community.


Ben Witherington said...

Hi Jean.... that url doesn't work anymore.


byron said...

It is this world which groans and awaits its liberation from bondage to decay (Romans 8.20-21). We groan with it as we await the liberation of our bodies. Even God's Spirit is groaning, or is the cause of our groaning, because we have (and so are) a taste of the future, as Dr Witherington says. Our hope is resurrection of the body on a renewed earth, not a disembodied flight into heaven. I have written a whole series on this here.

Before we get stuck in details about whether and to what extent and in what ways humans have damaged the environment, it is worth reflecting carefully on the theological reasons why this matters. If we are content to ignore the Bible's commands to be stewards of creation then it becomes easy to dismiss detailed evidence as irrelevant or a conspiracy of environmentalists.

Matt said...

Of course the oil companies would want to deny global warming. It makes total sense to their bottom line to try to cast doubts on it. That does not prove or disprove it. It just proves what we already know - money is more important to them than anything else.

I really appreciate this take on it though and I think it is a more substantial plea than the first post. I appreciate your concern and using a widely read medium to publicize critically important issues - not because they help or hurt your bottom line but because you have strong feelings that it is a godly concern. Keep it up.

Bob Bliss said...

So how do we count noses and find out just what opinion about global warming is representative of the scientific community?

Jeremy Pierce said...

The main opposition to global warming does not deny that it is taking place. Nor does it deny that human beings have had some role in its increase. There might be some debate about what percentage of the increase is from humans, but that's not the central issue. The main issue for things like Kyoto is whether the expense of such treaties would have a significant enough effect on the rate of global warming to be worth the disastrous consequences of implementing such policies, consequences the countries who have agreed to Kyoto have not even been able to abide by. The critics are saying that the economic and other consequences of that treaty are not worth the miniscule effect that it would have on the warming, which might amount to a couple years' delay or something.

brian said...

Hey Dr. W.,
Given the general ambivalence toward corporations, your own as an example, it is no wonder that Exxon feels the need to support the other side of the debate. (Frankly, that list of organizations they funded would be a hall of fame for some of us.)
I believe it is incumbant upon Christians to not get caught up in the secular tournament of name-calling and group accusations. In other words, your life experience may not have brought you in much contact with corporate executives, but the ones I know are, for the most part, people of integrity, accomplishment, and character. I believe the Board of Directors of ExxonMobile would compare well, in this regard, to the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, or any church for that matter.
My larger point is that the global warming issue will be best addressed when we set aside the moral grandstanding and approach it as a matter of science - both environmental and economic. On one hand, it would be prudent to reduce our production of greenhouse gasses. On the other, economic growth has been a tremendous boon to the environment, not to mention many impoverished people across the globe. So how do we balance the two? I suggest a tax on carbon. The issue of balance depends on the size of the tax, and there I would be cautious.
There is a middle ground here, where the true believers don't get all they want, but the skeptics grudgingly accept something, "just in case."

BW (former student, great admirer of your work)

Ben Witherington said...

Right Jeremy, right you are. But then we do not know what new advances in science may yet help us with our environmental problems, and so we must move on faith, do what we can, take best evidence.

There is a way to take best evidence in any field of expertise as a guide. It requires critical thinking but it can be done. For example, in NT studies just as in climate science, you pay close attention when a large and diverse group of persons in the field who are genuine experts but by no means always agree on things, find something they are all adamant and rather sure about. Global warming is such a thing. A enormous array and range of climate scientists are sure about this, scientists who often disagree.

There are a wide variety of lines of evidence that support this conclusion, such as the ice core samples, the very impressive NASA satellite shots over the last 25 years of the polar caps showing how dramatically they are shrinking and so on. The converging lines of evidence are compelling even if you can find another reasonable explanation for this or that piece of the evidence.

This is what I mean by we must take best evidence as presented to us by a wide array of experts. When you do that, then you know we have some serious problems and it would be wise to start responding to them, individually, incrementally, and on a larger scale as well.

Thank you all for your good points.



Terry Hamblin said...

The UK is one of the few countries likely to met the Kyoto standards, mainly by retreating from coal-fired power stations and the taxation of fossil fuels to stimulate fuel efficiency in automobiles.

I am sure that technology is capable of reversing the man-made bit of global warming. Many of the necessary changes cost very little - better insulation in our houses, for example - but most technological innovations are expensive. Since the driving force for man-made global warming is going to be the industrialization of China and India, it is hard to see these countries adopting them.

America is the other great producer of man-made global warming, and is in a difficult position because India and China are likely economic competitors in the 21st century. Already most types of manufactured goods are made in China because labor is so cheap. Cheap energy is seen as a remedy to cheap labor.

Few Americans would be happy with gas at around $7 a gallon, but that is what it costs in the UK.

Nevertheless, in the long run, Americans will have to aid developing countries in producing fuel efficient power generation. It would be better if it were to do so in a way that raised the living standards of the workers in these countries, so that the cheap labor advantage were lost.

I think the scare stories that we hear are exaggerated and the global-warming put-downs are too. What we are witnessing is the sparring of industry and governements, each trying to gain a tactical advantage in the new global economy.

In the meantime there are more pressing concerns. With the amount of money that is required to make an impact on global warming, we could already have eliminated malaria - which in itself would raise the world's GDP by 3% - give every AIDS sufferer retroviral drugs and provide fresh water for everyone in Africa.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Brian:

With all due respect how exactly has economic growth been a boon to the environment? I understand how its been a boon to human economies but I can't think of many ways its been a boon to the environment.

Take for example the growth of the Brazilian coffee industry. Most of us enjoy coffee, but few realize that in order to plant so many many coffee plantations 80% of the vital Brazilian and general Amazon rain forest was clear cut! We needed that rain forest to put back more O2 into the air. Oh well.

Or consider Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina. For years many of us natives fought to keep the developers off the island all together. We begged the legislature to make this one tiny island a wild life sanctuary because it was a place of pristine beauty with 40 different species of fish, crustaceans, birds, and even wild ponies not found anywhere any more on the Eastern seaboard and many others critters which were rare. Did we win this battle? Nope.

The developers moved in, destroyed the estuary, cut down most of the trees, polluted the ravines where the fish spawned, all in order that rich people could buy more exclusive beach condos. Like we don't have enough of those on the coast of N.C. and S.C. already! All in the name of economic growth.

I am sorry, but I fail to see how such ventures are good for the environment. And as for Exxon. Perhaps you have forgotten the Exxon Valdes disaster on the coast of Alaska? Perhaps you have forgotten how companies like Exxon and General Motors bought up all the patents on electric cars and then buried the idea so they could keep the oil and gas driven industry on top?

I too have met heads of major companies. Like that good Methodist from Houston that was head of Enron. I'm sorry to say but your faith in the integrity of many of those folks is largely naive and misplaced. In my experience their number one concern is the bottom line and to heck with ethics. Its just a matter of not wanting to get caught.


Ben W.

Traditionalist1611 said...

First usually when people say things like "seculer zionistic state" about Israel they do not like the Jewish people or the nation of Israel the only country ever created by an act of God. Im hoping sir that you don't harbor such feelings towards the Jewish people and I really don't think you do but please recognize that "zionist" is one of the favorite slang words of anti-semites. Second thing is that as long as anyone affirms that this present world is going to pass away at some point and my guess is probably soon, then you have to admit that you are never going to force the New Heavens and Earth on us. It will only be an act of God. I dont mean we should just go and kill every animal or cut down every tree but God gave us dominion over this earth (Genesis) and His biggest concern is us and not spotted owls or other animals that dont even have eternal souls like human beings who are created in God's own image. Enviornmentalists want to give nature dominion instead of man. Another thing is that some of you must be missing the news if you don't think that we are in the end-times. The Jewish people already have plans in store to rebuild the Temple and all the equipment they need once the Holy Spirit gives them the go-ahead. Theres many many other signs but we are indeed living in the age of the knowlege explosion that the prophet Daniel predicted in Daniel 12. No other age in history has seen such an increase in knowlege, the birth of the Jewish nation, such an increase in the signs mentioned in Matthew 24, and all the other signs on the global stage. Lets just say Jesus isnt coming for another 200 years, that still means this planet is on life support and cannot be turned into the garden of Eden. Last, why is it such a surprise that those businesses who have their jobs threatened by the enviornmentalists would spend money and speak out on the issues of concern to them. How come only the enviornmentalists can lobby for their cause? The business community is doing the right thing standing up for the economy and people's jobs. The enviornmentalist agenda would make a lot more people suffer than so-called global warming will.

brian said...

Ben W.,
I guess all's fair in love and blogs.
You mention in a previous comment that you hope that scientific innovation may help us solve the gw problem. History shows that the amount of scientific innovation in a society is correlated to the ability of persons to profit from said innovation. No profit, no innovation. I hope you can see the logic of this relationship. If, in our short-sightedness we destroy our ability to create wealth in the name of a clean environment, we will have neither. I simply ask that we keep a balance in mind.

(I urge you to go to wikipedia and type in "Amazon rainforest." You will get a clearer picture of what is going on down there. If you don't trust wiki, go to the bibliography at the bottom and check out original sources. You taught me the value of that.)

The larger point of my previous post was really not about economics. It was about the tenor of the debate and your willingness to question others' motives rather than debate the merits. As a teacher, you have to know that the best of motives does not necessarily a good arguement make.

Here is a link to an essay about this issue - the context is more about economics, but it applies well in this case:

Corporate execs are lousy people. So are UM bishops, theology professors, farmers, economists, etc. That's why they all need Jesus.

brian said...

Wall Street Journal

In Climate Controversy,
Industry Cedes Ground
Support Grows for Caps
On CO2 Emissions;
Big Oil Battles Detroit
January 23, 2007; Page A1

The global-warming debate is shifting from science to economics.

For years, the fight over the Earth's rising temperature has been mostly over what's causing it: fossil-fuel emissions or natural factors beyond man's control. Now, some of the country's biggest industrial companies are acknowledging that fossil fuels are a major culprit whose emissions should be cut significantly over time.


• What's New: With global-warming regulations looking increasingly likely, U.S. companies are gearing up to influence policy-making.

• The Background: Some companies see new markets; others see new costs.

• What's Next: A fight among companies as each tries to shape a potential cap on carbon emissions to its advantage.

A growing number of these companies are pushing for a mandatory emissions limit, or "cap." Some see a lucrative new market in clean-energy technologies. Many figure a regulation is politically inevitable and they want to be in the room when it's negotiated, to minimize the burden that falls on them.

The broadening, if incomplete, consensus that fossil fuels are at least a big part of the global-warming problem signals real change in the environmental debate. The biggest question going forward no longer is whether fossil-fuel emissions should be curbed. It's who will foot the bill for the cleanup -- and that battle is heating up.

Yesterday, 10 companies, including industrial giants that make everything from bulldozers to chemicals to electricity, joined environmental groups in calling for a federal law to "slow, stop and reverse the growth" of global-warming emissions "over the shortest period of time reasonably achievable." Tonight, President Bush, whose administration has rejected such caps as economically unacceptable, will deliver a State of the Union address in which he's expected to announce a bigger push for such things as low-emission alternative fuels.

In the center of the regulatory cross hairs are utilities. They're the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, the global-warming gas that's produced whenever fossil fuels are burned. Written one way, a cap would help utilities in the Southeast or the Midwest, which burn lots of coal, a particularly carbon-intensive fuel. Written another way, a rule would help utilities on the West Coast, the Northeast and the Gulf Coast. They use mainly natural gas, which produces lower CO2 emissions than coal, and nuclear energy, which produces essentially no CO2.

Auto makers and oil producers also are worried about a potential cap, and they're lashing out at each other. The Big Three auto companies are making speeches and running advertisements calling on Big Oil to crank out more low-carbon alternative fuels such as corn-based ethanol. Big Oil, in its own speeches and ads, says the auto makers should build more-efficient cars.

Lobbying on the issue is ramping up. The American Iron and Steel Institute, which opposes any emission cap, this month assigned an executive who had been working broadly on environmental issues to focus specifically on global warming. Some companies that oppose a cap argue it would raise their costs and hurt their competitiveness against rivals in developing countries such as China, where no cap exists.

DuPont Co., the chemical giant, heartily endorses a cap in part because it figures it would help boost demand for energy-efficiency products the company makes.

Entergy Corp., a utility that's also pushing for a cap, had a lobbyist in the room last week when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, announced a carbon-cap bill. Entergy would likely benefit from her measure because the company's fuel mix includes a lot of low-carbon fuels.

"It was a hand-holding, kumbaya moment," says Brent Dorsey, Entergy's director of corporate environmental programs. "Every company is going to be playing to their own strengths and weaknesses" in the regulatory battle that's breaking out over global warming, he adds.

Among scientists, a broadening consensus has developed that fossil-fuel emissions are contributing to global warming; the debate has been over whether they're the main cause. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that periodically assesses climate science, cited "new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." In 2005, representatives of scientific societies from 11 countries, including the U.S., called the science "sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

Still, uncertainties remain. Among them, the U.N. panel noted in its 2001 report, is the extent to which "natural factors" unrelated to human activity play a role in the rising temperatures. The U.N. panel is set to release its next climate-science report Feb. 2.

Fossil fuels provided 80% of global energy in 2004, and they're on track to provide 81% in 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based energy watchdog for Western industrialized countries.

Significantly curbing their emissions would require sweeping technological change, from more-efficient power plants and cars to the potential injection and burial of massive amounts of CO2 underground.


Ten U.S. companies and four environmental groups, joined as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, called Monday for the U.S. to impose a mandatory cap on global-warming emissions. They recommended Congress establish a long-term "target zone" of reducing emissions between 60% and 80% below today's levels by 2050. In addition, they suggested a series of shorter-term targets:
• Keeping emissions to 100% to 105% of today's levels within five years of "rapid enactment."
• Reducing emissions to 90% to 100% of today's levels within 10 years of enactment
• Reducing emissions to 70% to 90% of today's levels within 15 years of enactment
Read the full recommendations on the group's Web site.


In April, more than two dozen companies and interested groups submitted to a Senate committee their recommendations regarding a potential emissions cap. Review the executive summaries of their presentations and see full details at the Senate's Web site for the conference.Another possibility would be to reduce the rate of growth in fossil-fuel consumption by supplementing the fuel mix with alternatives, from nuclear power to crops to the wind and the sun.

Outside the U.S., many countries already have modest experience in emissions caps, thanks to the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty, which hasn't been ratified by the U.S., requires ratifying nations collectively to cut their emissions 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.

Several Northeast states and California already have announced plans to impose emission caps of their own. And a handful of proposed federal caps are under consideration in Congress. The least stringent is one from senators led by Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat. By 2030, it would raise gasoline prices 12 cents per gallon, according to a study issued this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and slow the rate at which U.S. coal consumption increases.

The federal proposals differ in the structural details of the "cap and trade" system they would set up to regulate CO2 emissions. Under such a system, the government would set a ceiling on how much CO2 the U.S. economy -- or whichever sectors lawmakers pick -- could emit each year. It would ink a corresponding number of pollution permits, each entitling the bearer to emit one ton of the gas.

Then, based on complex allocation rules it devises, the government would divide up the permits among companies. Those companies could buy and sell permits among themselves on a greenhouse-gas market like a Kyoto-related one already under way outside the U.S. Companies that decide it's too expensive to cut their own emissions enough to comply with their government cap would go to the market and buy extra emission permits from companies that ended up with more than they needed. The theory behind the market is to create an economy of scale that reduces everyone's cost.

Other regulatory structures are possible, including a straight tax on CO2 emissions. Politically, a cap-and-trade system is more popular than a tax. Environmentalists like the severity of an absolute ceiling on the amount of CO2 companies can emit. Industry likes the flexibility of a market in which permits to pollute can be bought and sold.

And cap-and-trade systems already are in use. The U.S. has had one for more than a decade to curb the pollution that causes acid rain, a regulation widely viewed as successful.

Still, Steven Rowlan, director of environmental affairs for Nucor Corp., one of the biggest U.S. steelmakers, warns U.S. industry is in for a shock if Washington follows Europe and imposes a global-warming cap. The U.S. steel industry already has gotten more energy-efficient in recent years, he says, so it would be unfair to require it to make further emission cuts while its competitors in the developing world, where emissions are rising fastest, remain free from a cap. The steelmaking process itself emits large amounts of CO2.

A smarter tactic, he says, would be for the U.S. to slap trade restrictions on developing-world steelmakers requiring them to meet minimum environmental standards as a condition for exporting their products to the U.S.

"The biggest hammer that the United States has is its market," Mr. Rowlan says. "And that, more than anything we do domestically, will have the greatest impact on greenhouse gases." Nucor, based in Charlotte, N.C., is considering running ads to drive this point home.

DuPont, on the other hand, is actively promoting an emissions cap. It thinks a cap would help its business. DuPont makes materials used in such devices as solar cells, wind turbines, fuel cells, and lightweight automobiles -- all of which are likely to be in higher demand in an economy in which CO2 emissions carry a cost.

"We think there is a lot of market opportunity," says Linda Fisher, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who's now DuPont's chief sustainability officer.

But DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., doesn't want just any cap. For one thing, it wants a cap that covers all sectors of the economy -- not one that's limited to utilities, as are some proposals pending in Washington. The more industries covered by a cap, the more potential customers for DuPont's environmental products.

DuPont also wants a cap to award companies credit for past emission cuts they've made. DuPont already has invested to significantly cut its emissions.

Utilities, for their part, are split on whether they want a cap -- and, if so, what kind. Where a utility stands on this issue depends largely on where in the country it sits.

Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, is the country's third-largest burner of coal, though it also has significant nuclear assets. It's pushing for permits to be distributed based on the amount of CO2 a utility has emitted in the past -- a system that would protect big coal burners such as itself.

James Rogers, Duke's chairman and chief executive, notes that Duke already is assuming in its investment decisions that it will have to pay for carbon emissions. So it has begun investing in new plants that will burn coal more cleanly than today's plants do. He argues any cap should ensure adequate permits to utilities making such investments. "It's going to take several decades to bring this on," he says of the technology. "We shouldn't have an economic scheme that puts an undue economic burden on regions of the country that are reliant on coal."

Given Duke's coal reliance, it might seem strange that Mr. Rogers has emerged in recent years as perhaps the U.S. utility industry's most outspoken proponent of a global-warming constraint. His position is a bit "awkward," he notes, because he also serves as chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, the electric industry's Washington trade group, which opposes any mandatory global-warming cap. He's set to speak on three panels discussing global warming this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr. Rogers, wearing his Duke hat, says he's just being realistic. He has concluded a cap is coming -- and that his shareholders are likely to do better if he can influence the details. "If you're not at the table when these negotiations are going on, you're going to be on the menu," he says. "This is about being at the table."

Fighting Duke and other coal-burners are utilities such as Entergy. Based in New Orleans, it uses a lot of natural gas and nuclear fuel. Unlike Duke, Entergy wants permits to be distributed based on a utility's total electricity output -- a system likely to give low-carbon generators such as itself excess permits they could sell.

Duke's Mr. Rogers says that would amount to a "windfall" for low-carbon utilities. "Even though they don't need allowances, they would get them, just because," he says.

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, left, and Jonathan Lash, president of World Resources Institute, at a news conference in Washington, D.C. yesterday.
Entergy's Mr. Dorsey says his company isn't asking for a windfall. The permits Entergy would get amount to "a revenue stream that we will need to build a new nuclear plant," he says. Still, he allows, "because of our natural gas and nuclear, we will fare better than most" under a carbon cap.

Auto companies also are jockeying to shape a potential carbon constraint to their advantage. They've been playing this sort of regulatory game for years.

They already face a kind of carbon limit in the federal government's longstanding fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, because vehicles that burn less gasoline emit less CO2. Those rules give auto makers extra credit for building versions of their conventional vehicles they've modified to run on either gasoline or ethanol. Very few of those vehicles actually wind up running on anything but gasoline. But the credits let the auto makers build more thirsty sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks -- the industry's bread and butter, particularly when oil was cheaper.

Auto officials who declined to be named said the industry probably will accept some toughening of the fuel-economy standards. But in return, it may seek bigger credits for selling vehicles that burn less oil, including those that can run on ethanol.

At the same time, auto makers want to ensure other industries get hit. In a speech last week in Detroit, Rick Wagoner, General Motors Corp.'s chairman and chief executive, said his company plans to build more ethanol-capable and electric-powered vehicles. But he also stressed "important roles for other industries, like oil and electric utilities, to name a few." He called for more tax credits and subsidies for alternative fuels.

The oil industry itself is mobilizing -- including Exxon Mobil Corp., the Irving, Texas, oil giant that in the past has been outspoken in its questioning of global-warming theories. Scientific questions remain, says Kenneth Cohen, Exxon's vice president for public affairs, but "we know enough now -- or society knows enough now -- that the risk is serious and action should be taken." Exxon isn't calling for an emission constraint, but it's starting to talk about how it wants one structured if one is imposed.

In November, Rex Tillerson, Exxon's chairman and chief executive, called in a speech for "steps now to reduce emissions in effective and meaningful ways." Then he listed two: boosting automotive fuel economy and cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Milton Stanley said...

Why won't most of the links work? The Environmental Defense link didn't go anywhere, and the Exxon PDF links are not links at all.

Jeff Burton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Burton said...

Quite damning, all that about Exxon. I wonder if you are as interested in where Global Climate Change alarmists get their funding?

dan said...

read tthis and weep


Milton Stanley said...

Dr. Witherington, I want to believe what you're saying, but your post has no reliability if all your hyperlinks are dead. Why does your post have dead links?