Understanding the Motives of Pressure Groups to Influence Climate Change Legislation

To better understand the debate surrounding the Boxer-Kerry and Waxman-Markey bills, it is important to understand the motives behind tactics employed by interest groups invested in the bill. So to do this, I offer a brief explanation as to why pressure groups act in this way and what can be expected as a result of this type of behavior.

Interest groups, who are either for and against the bill, have thus far tried a variety of tactics in winning over members of Congress. Specific tactics range from outright fraud—a recent example is a forged letter put together by a coal-grassroots coalition —as a means to to discourage moderate Democrats from voting for the Waxman-Markey bill—to fear—examples include groups focusing on arguments about how this legislation will raise energy costs , how it is a threat to our national security, and/or that it does not go far enough in dealing with global warming —in order to dissuade members of Congress from voting for the bill.

One explanation for this type of behavior is that interest groups invested in climate change legislation are following a basic strategy of rent-seeking. In other words, pressure groups seek government to either bestow on to them some benefit, or protect their existing benefits, as a result of the bill. Such benefits typically take the form of government subsidies, the granting of permits to emit carbons, or more generally some type of transfer of public assets to private interests. In effect, pressure groups are seeking a monopoly over the rights granted by government in the regulation of carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, the likely outcome of this type of behavior results in a distortion of the legislation that is more focused on meeting the needs of specific interests ,which more times than not, is at our expense.

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