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After Gore, Industry Preps for Global Warming Fight

Former Vice President Al Gore might get all of Congress’ attention today on climate change, but industry groups are working quietly to make sure that global warming legislation does not hurt their bottom lines.

“There’s nobody can compete with Al,” said former Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), a lobbyist whose clients include the American Petroleum Institute and agriculture groups. “It’s going to be his day.”

But, he said, the oil industry plans to stay engaged in the debate, especially after the Gore excitement fades. “The oil and gas industry and agriculture industry are going to continue to be players,” he said.

The Business Roundtable convened its members — CEOs from the biggest U.S. companies — on Tuesday night for a private meeting on global climate policy. “They will be having an ongoing dialogue on climate change to determine whether they as business leaders believe the science is real and if so, what will we do about it,” said Tita Freeman, a spokeswoman for the group.

And Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said the IPAA started sending out new fact sheets this week to Congressional offices to lay out its position on climate change issues.

“Events on the Hill like those happening this week do focus the Congress’ attention on the issue, and we have to make sure we’re part of that game,” Eshelman said. “We represent companies that drill for natural gas and companies that drill for oil. Natural gas is seen as part of the solution, so that’s a very important part of offense that we can play. We’ve also got to make sure we don’t do anything that would hurt our oil production.”

The George C. Marshall Institute, a conservative think tank, is one of the few groups that isn’t shying away from holding a competing event on Capitol Hill today.

This afternoon the Marshall Institute is hoping to lure Congressional staff to a briefing in the Longworth House Office Building by Tim Ball, a climatologist from the University of Winnipeg who is a skeptic of many of the climate projections of other scientists.

“He’s going to discuss the research tools being used to develop the apocalyptic models,” said Jeff Kueter, the institute’s president. “What Tim will do is to try to tell people how those models actually work, so that when policy folks review them, they have a better understanding of the science.”

Kueter added: “There’s all this press attention on climate change this week, so we’re trying to get some of these ideas injected into the public discourse while there’s a lot of attention on it.”

Many groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council and the American Forest and Paper Association — have submitted responses to questions from Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who chairs the subcommittee on energy and air quality. Gore is testifying this morning before Dingell’s committee and before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this afternoon.

On Tuesday, Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) and former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) sent a letter to more than 20 trade associations requesting them to weigh in on the climate change debate.

“As the Committee on Energy and Commerce debates the merits of regulating greenhouse gas emissions, we need to understand the implications for those who generate and consume energy,” the letter said. “We also invite your broader ideas and perspectives on what Congress should pursue in this area and what pitfalls Congress should avoid.”

Some business groups that are concerned about global warming legislation say they will rely on allies such as Barton and Hastert to challenge Gore. Barton and Hastert on Tuesday also said they had sent a letter to Gore asking him about an “overrepresentation” of facts in his presentations on global warming.

But some lobbyists for companies with a stake in the debate say they do not want to give the issue any higher profile than it already has, and they also don’t want to take an antagonistic posture.

“We’re all working with Dingell and Boucher to try to figure out if there is something we can do that we can all live with and that can get 218 votes,” said one Democratic lobbyist with clients involved in the debate.

The Chamber of Commerce’s Eric Wohlschlegel said, “We’re definitely making some noise on several different fronts.” In response to Dingell’s question about which issues should be addressed in the committee’s legislation, the chamber put the “preservation of American jobs and the competitiveness of U.S. industry” at the top. The group also has started an energy institute headed by Gen. James Jones, a former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe.

Juanita Duggan, president of the forest and paper group, said she plans to send her group’s answers to Dingell’s questions to “everybody on any committee that has anything to do with climate change.”

Frank Maisano, an energy industry lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani, agreed that for businesses with a stake in the debate, it’s virtually impossible to upstage Gore in terms of media attention.

“All this attention and Al Gore winning an Oscar, all these things don’t lend themselves to substance,” he said. “I think the debate is much larger and needs to take on a much larger tone. The important conversation is about what do we do, how much does it cost, who does it impact and is it going to work.”

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