Beyond Belief

The global warming debate reheated this week when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., announced a legislative proposal for nationwide limits on emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Essentially a domestic Kyoto protocol -- the international treaty already rejected by the Senate and Bush administration -- the bill would require that major sources of greenhouse gases limit emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and to 1990 levels by 2016.

The bill will probably go no further than Sen. McCain's committee.

In the midst of robust scientific dispute over global warming, the U.S. experienced tremendous energy-dependent economic growth since 1990. The McCain-Lieberman effort to rollback energy use would curtail economic growth -- not a winning political strategy during tough economic times.

The senators developed the bill with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change -- a project of the left-leaning Pew Charitable Trusts -- and some of the Pew Center's corporate members.

Although the Pew Center's members like BP, Shell and Dupont are more typically targets of the Pew Charitable Trusts' extreme green grantees -- including Friends of the Earth, National Environmental Trust and the World Wildlife Fund -- the companies hope to appease their assailants and improve their public images by prostrating themselves before Pew's temple of global warming.

BP's "Beyond Petroleum" public relations campaign is a particularly egregious corporate effort to get on the politically correct side of the global warming controversy.

The "Beyond Petroleum" slogan is supposed to convey BP's commitment to developing renewable energy -- seemingly a quixotic endeavor for the world's second-largest oil company.

BP invested more than $200 million over the past six years to develop solar and wind power. The company so far produces about 77 million watts of solar and wind power and hopes to develop these renewable energies into a billion-dollar business by 2007.

But this is a long way from going Beyond Petroleum.

BP spent $8.5 billion in 2001 exploring for, and producing the alleged global warming culprits, oil and gas, resulting in over $13 billion in revenue. Its six-year solar and wind investment is a mere 1.3 percent of what BP plans to spend drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico over the next 15 years.

The 77 million watts of power produced by BP's renewables would hardly keep Boise, Idaho's lights lit for a year. BP's annual oil and gas production, in contrast, could satisfy all of the U.S.' needs for six months.

Coal, gas and oil produce 85 percent of the world's 12-trillion-watt power needs. Wind and solar power generate much less than 1 percent. Getting Beyond Petroleum will be impossible as worldwide energy demand is expected to triple by 2050.

BP regional president Bob Malone admitted to Fortune last fall that BP won't get Beyond Petroleum for at least a couple decades. Even global warming enthusiasts are skeptical of that timeframe.

Image, apparently, is more important to BP than progress.

The Beyond Petroleum farce costs BP about $100 million per year -- three times what the company is actually spending on solar and wind power development. According to the activist shareholder group SANE BP, BP spent more money on its new sunburst logo than it did on renewable energy during all of 2000.

BP's help with the McCain-Lieberman legislation exposes another less-than-environmental motivation -- profit.

Emissions caps would increase energy costs to the public. That would likely mean higher profits to energy providers like BP.

McCain-Lieberman would also establish a dubious trading system allowing businesses with "excessive" greenhouse gas emissions to buy credits from businesses that have reduced emission beyond set targets or countries that forego economic development.

Credits initially valued -- by the government, no less -- at perhaps a few cents per ton of emissions might trade for $10, $100 or more under fully implemented emissions caps. BP and others are planning to create, run and dominate such emissions trading.

Rather than "free-market environmentalism," as its supporters like to call it, cap-and-trade is more likely to be a murky, Enron-ish scheme benefiting a few insiders at public expense.

But I suppose trading hot air would be Beyond Petroleum.

The grand irony in the McCain-Lieberman announcement is that it comes in a week that began with a surprise, school-closing snowfall in Washington, D.C.

Meteorologists completely missed forecasting this significant weather system. But global warming enthusiasts would have us believe they can make infinitely more difficult predictions of slight temperature changes 50 to 100 years in the future.

By promoting global warming schemes and scams, Sens. McCain and Lieberman, and BP get to bask in accolades for being "socially responsible" citizens -- evidence of just how badly PT Barnum underestimated the number of suckers born every minute.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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