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It's a safe bet that most Americans' first exposure to the concept of carbon trading or cap-and-trade legislation came during the most recent presidential campaign when both candidates advocated the need to make protecting the environment a government mandate instead of the moral obligation it's always been. In the past few months President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that a comprehensive energy/environmental law, including cap-and-trade, is an absolute priority of his administration.
Simply put, the idea behind the cap-and-trade plan is this: The federal government would set limits or cap the amount of pollutant a business could create. If the business chose to emit levels exceeding the cap they would have to find a business not using its full allotment and purchase the surplus from them. Needless-to-say, for the concept to work there would need to be a highly centralized infrastructure to facilitate the transactions, matching buyers to sellers.
The CCX: A Dream Come True?
For people like Richard Sandor and former Vice-President Al Gore the focus on "green politics" represented the culmination of years of planning and a giant step towards a massive payday.
With a big helping hand from then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, Sandor's brainchild, The Chicago Climate Exchange, opened for business in 2003 billing itself as "North America's only cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases..." In other words, the facilitator for a scheme not quite hatched. Sandor, a long-time economist turned environmentalist shared his vision during a 1990 interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying, "Air and water are no longer the free goods that economics once assumed. They must be redefined as property rights so that they can be efficiently allocated." The statement didn't get a lot of attention back then but today seems prophetic. Sandor claims his idea of efficient allocation, also known as carbon trading, will develop into a $10 trillion industry.
Assembling the Team
During 2000 and 2001, the Joyce Foundation, a progressive trust with assets near $1 billion, known for funding groups like Center for American Progress and Tides Foundation, provided grants to CCX totaling $1.1 million. State Senator Obama served on the foundation's board of directors during that time and was instrumental in awarding the grants.
Shortly after the first grant was approved, the president of The Joyce Foundation, Paula DiPerna, left to join the executive team of CCX. Other notables with familiar names soon followed.
• Former Vice-President Al Gore became part-owner of CCX when his company, Generation Investment Management, made a sizeable investment. Gore brought with him his senior partner at GIM, David Blood, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, along with a company chalk full of former Goldman Sachs' executives
• Goldman Sachs itself soon joined the team buying a ten percent interest in CCX
• Maurice Strong, once linked to Tongsun Park, the central figure in the United Nation's oil-for-food scandal in 2005 and one of the architects of the Kyoto Protocol, joined the CCX board of directors
• Carlton Bartels was one of the first, and perhaps most important, additions to the CCX roster. As CEO of a company called CO2e, Bartels developed and delivered the actual guts of the exchange — a system for facilitating and managing the actual carbon trades
Just three weeks after filing for a patent for his carbon trade system, Bartels was killed during the attacks of 9/11. Bartels' death opened the door for a new partner to join CCX, easily the oddest fit of them all: Fannie Mae. In a move still unexplained, the quasi-governmental mortgage agency, led by CEO Franklin Raines, purchased the rights to the system from Bartel's widow. A patent on the invention was granted to Raines and Fannie Mae on November 7, 2006, ironically, the day after the Democrats regained control of Congress. According to Barbara Hollingsworth of the Washington Examiner, the patent covers both the "cap" and "trade" parts of Obama's top domestic energy initiative and gives Fannie Mae proprietary control over the automated trading system used by Sandor's CCX.
When asked about the patent recently Fannie Mae communications director Amy Bonitatibus told the Washington Examiner, "Fannie Mae earns no money on this patent. We can't conjecture as to the cap-and-trade legislation." A source close to Fannie Mae, however, says a plan is in place to funnel future earnings from the patent to a non-profit housing organization called Enterprise Community Partners. Ironically, Raines, who left Fannie Mae in 2004 amidst allegations that he inflated earnings reports in order to collect higher bonuses ($52 million in bonuses over 5-years; $90 million in total compensation), serves on the board of trustees at Enterprise. In a continuation of theme, Goldman Sachs also has a representative on the board in the person of Alicia Glen.
Off to See the Wizard
In December 2009 The Joyce Foundation awarded Raines and Enterprise a $200,000 grant to launch Emerald Cities Collaborative. According to its website, "The Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) is a start-up, national coalition of diverse groups that includes unions, labor groups, community organizations, social justice advocates, development intermediaries, research and technical assistance providers, socially responsible businesses, and elected officials."
Emerald Cities' goal is "the greening of our nation's central cities and the creation of a "new vital economic sector." The collaborative is headed up by Joel Rogers, widely recognized as the "man behind the curtain" of today's progressive political movement. Rogers founded the powerful Apollo Alliance, the group recognized as having shaped much of the Obama administration's stimulus bill. Former White House green jobs "czar," Van Jones, described Rogers influence this way: "The best thinking that he represents… is now represented in the White House."
Also represented on the Emerald Cities board of directors, Gerald Hudson, executive director of SEIU (also on the Apollo Alliance advisory board); Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All (created by Van Jones), and Doris Koo, CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, along with a collection of other union and community activist regulars.
The Bottom Line
The "environmental movement," once the bastion of peace loving hippies and Earth mothers, is potentially the booming business of the 21st century. Billions of dollars currently change hands each year in the name of the environment and, by all accounts, the surface is only scratched.
To date the missing piece of the puzzle has been a government mandate, something cap-and-trade legislation will remedy. Those already in the game stand to reap a fortune on the backs of average Americans who will see their energy bills "necessarily skyrocket," as President Obama explained, as businesses pass along the new cost of doing what they do in a "green America."
It's interesting to note that without the specter of a government mandate, the Chicago Climate Exchange would hold no value. Likewise Fannie Mae's patented trading system and Emerald Cities' prospects for "a new vital economic sector" would be nothing more than fool's gold.
Equally troubling is the blatant acknowledgement by those involved in this high stakes green rush that power and profit are the only real benefits to be had. The words of Joel Rogers: "I hope you all realized that you could eliminate every power plant in America today and you can stop every car in America. Take out the entire power generation sector and you still would not be anywhere near 80 percent below 1990 levels. You would be closer to around 60 percent... it would be around 68 percent and this is with bringing the economy to a complete halt… basically."
Crime Inc. – what do they know and when did they know it… and how much will it cost the American people?
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