Saudi Arabia Learns Hubris from Big Coal

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

All of the evidence says that global warming is accelerating, and that the damage is likely to be worse than predicted even a few years ago.

There are two critical sets of negotiations going on, with success requiring breakthroughs in both - one is in Washington, D.C., where the polluters lobby which brought us to the brink of irreversible damage is fighting to block any legislation, or, failing that, to extract shockingly large bribes from the public. The other is international, with much focus on updating the Kyoto Treaty in a round scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

Last week, the AP reported that Saudi Arabia has been quietly lobbying on the international front to gain financial compensation if any treaty passes that reduces world dependence on oil. Joe Romm over at Climate Progress dives into this act of audacity and appropriately criticizes it in every possible dimension. This seems akin to the violent husband forcing his victim to pay his fines or he won't stop the abuse.

But hasn't the same thing already happened in Washington, D.C., where the coal industry, the single most important contributor to global warming, managed to hijack the Waxman-Markey legislation and make it a vehicle for subsidizing the coal industry to the tune of tens of billions of dollars? They put a fine patina over this bribery by pointing to imaginary "clean coal," job protection for hard working miners, and regional differences in the economy. They control sufficient members of the House so that it was seemingly quite easy to insert the language they needed.

Could someone explain to me how this is any different than the less visible but obviously nauseating lobbying of Saudi Arabia?

The coal industry for a century has extracted profits while leaving behind ravaged mountain tops, dirty air, filled in streams, and damaged mine worker lungs. They have ferociously opposed every attempt to limit the damage. And now they want compensation, and in the upside-down world of Washington politics, everybody assumes they will get it. It would be far less expensive to endow permanent employment at good wages doing useful work for every single coal miner than to subsidize the companies themselves.

The hubris of both Saudi Arabia and Big Coal is obscene. They have made more than enough money and caused far too much damage. They should be kicked out of any negotiations over global warming.