WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to tackle global warming, the nation’s energy producers, once united, are battling one another over policy decisions worth hundreds of billions of dollars in coming decades.
Producers of natural gas are battling their erstwhile allies, the oil companies. Electrical utilities are fighting among themselves over the use of coal versus wind power or other renewable energy. Coal companies are battling natural gas firms over which should be used to produce electricity. And the renewable power industry is elbowing for advantage against all of them.
Some supporters of global warming legislation believe that the division in the once-monolithic oil and gas industry, as well as other splits among energy producers, could improve the prospects for the legislation.
“It’s much harder to pass clean-energy legislation when big oil and other energy interests are united in their opposition,” said Daniel J. Weiss, climate policy director at the liberal Center for American Progress. “The companies that recognize the economic benefits in the bill can help bring along their political supporters.”
The American Petroleum Institute trade group, dominated by major oil companies, opposes the legislation, saying it would discourage domestic exploration and lead to higher oil prices. But some natural gas companies, though longtime members of the institute, have formed a separate lobby and are working actively with the bill’s sponsors to cut a better deal for their product.
The proposal moving through Congress would cap the emissions of greenhouse gases each year and allow companies to buy and sell permits to pollute. That approach, known as cap and trade, is meant to guarantee that emissions will decline, while providing market incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon technologies.