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President Obama might as well have yelled “Charge!” to the cavalry of climate change lobbyists when he released his budget plan — a plan that includes $646 billion in revenue through 2019 from the industries that emit greenhouse gases.

As the Center recently reported, the interests that seek to weigh in on climate policy have grown into a veritable army — an increase in lobbyists of more than 300 percent over the past five years. But they’d laid low for the first weeks of the new administration, trying to gauge whether the new team would delay grappling with global warming and focus on the nation’s economic woes instead. Now they have their answer: no way.

The administration’s budget plan put stark numbers on Obama’s campaign pledge to move forward with a market-based program to cap the nation’s fossil fuel emissions by putting a price on carbon dioxide. According to the president’s budget template (see page 115), some $78.7 billion in revenue would come in from the fossil fuel industry in 2012, phasing up to higher levels each year.

“We want to thank the administration for killing all industry support for cap-and-trade,” William Kovacs, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told The Washington Times after the budget was released. The Chamber, which has maintained that climate legislation would cripple the economy — and led opposition to last year’s bill — plans a new series of climate town hall meetings across the country to discuss the Obama plan, Politico reports.

Likely more troubling to the administration than the Chamber’s view is the fact that Duke Energy Chief Executive Jim Rogers has been criticizing the administration’s approach on climate change over the last two weeks. Rogers actually testified in favor of cap-and-trade legislation in January at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s first climate hearing. But Rogers argues that in the first phases of the program the carbon dioxide pollution permits should be allocated free of charge to the local electricity distribution companies, like Duke. Otherwise, its customers in the Midwest will end up with huge utility bill increases, while consumers in states without a lot of coal power — like California — won’t see any increase, Rogers said.

While the political battle gears up on Capitol Hill, others are itching to keep the debate over the science of climate change alive. Last year the Center took a close look at the Heartland Institute and its work as “the lead organizer of global warming skepticism.” And this week Heartland hosts its second huge climate change deniers’ conference in New York. Among those on the agenda are climate skeptics from the libertarian Cato Institute, which plans a roll-out of a new book poking holes in climate science.

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