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Polluting industries as climate protagonists: cap and trade and the problem of business preferences

  • Jacob M. Grumbach

In the US, the failure of climate legislation and the implementation of EPA rules are the subject of intense scholarly and public debate. However, the debate has not investigated – and at times has further obfuscated – the preferences and expected tactics of industry stakeholders. Scholars of management and regulation argue that firms’ profit motives can be aligned with socially beneficial outcomes, but they assume that firms prefer market-based regulation over the status quo. Correspondingly, corporate stakeholders have been portrayed as protagonists in campaigns for climate legislation. In a case study of the cap and trade fight during 2009 and 2010, I find that industry stakeholders primarily mobilized to maintain the status quo, but simultaneously joined the cap and trade coalition in order to favorably shape potentially inevitable climate legislation. The case underlines the importance of deeper investigation of business preferences and provides evidence for theories that prioritize power resources and the structural power of business.

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* Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, e-mail:
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