Commentary: White House Deal With Carlyle Group Confuses Obama’s Commitment to Fighting Climate Change

Source: By Paul Alexander, Roll Call • Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Monday, under orders from President Barack Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines targeting plants that burn coal to produce electricity. The proposal is meant to reduce carbon emissions — the main cause of climate change — over the next two decades.

Critics have called Obama’s plan a “war on coal.” Still, the president is adamant. “[T]here are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe. None,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense.”

At present, the EPA is also proposing, again under orders from the Obama administration, a reduction in renewable fuel mandates. Passed by Congress in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum portion of renewable fuel. The plan called for incremental increases in biofuel use until it reached 36 billion gallons by 2022. But in November, the Obama administration announced it would lower renewable fuel mandates for 2014 — the first time that has happened since the law was updated in 2007. The revised, lower numbers will be finalized this month.

In January, a bipartisan group of 30 senators, led by Al Franken of Minnesota, wrote a letter to the EPA demanding no reduction in RFS mandates, but it was ignored. Therefore, the Obama administration plans both to impose harsh regulations on power plants and to lower RFS mandates — at the same time no less — creating an appearance of bureaucratic schizophrenia, if not something worse.

Who could be responsible for such a conundrum? Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., it turns out. According to a Reuters article published in mid-May, the events that lead to the RFS mandates reduction began when the Carlyle Group, the powerful Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm, became concerned about the profitability of two oil refineries it owns in Philadelphia. Lower RFS mandates would help Carlyle’s bottom line.

So Carlyle approached Congressman Robert A. Brady, a Democrat, who represents the district in which the refineries are located. On behalf of Carlyle, Brady met with Biden. “I talked to the vice president,” Brady was quoted by Reuters, “and I told him what the issue was, and he said, ‘We’ve got to try to fix that.’” Biden did whatever he did — actions that so far remain unreported. “And we fixed it,” Brady said.

Getting a politician to take action that is beneficial to Carlyle is nothing new for the company. After all, Carlyle has a history of affiliating with politicians of the highest rank after they leave office. Besides George Bush, the former president, and John Major, the former British prime minister, Carlyle has employed, among others, Frank Carlucci, the former secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan; James A. Baker III, the former secretary of State under Bush; Richard Darman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under Bush; and Arthur Levitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. All conservatives.