Monday, November 27, 2006

Energy Firms Pushing for Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Before I get started tonight, I wanted to thank the many of you who sent kind words via comments or email -- they meant a lot. We did have a death in the family this weekend, and are dealing with the aftermath (mostly emotional) at this point. Thank you for your thoughts.

Corporate leaders are talking to Congress, and once again asking for federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The players have changed on the political front, but the corporate front remains pretty consistent: energy firms are among the loudest asking for regulation sooner than later, and for a federal standard rather than a patchwork of state and local initiatives. According to the Washington Post:
While the political debate over global warming continues, top executives at many of the nation's largest energy companies have accepted the scientific consensus about climate change and see federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable.

The Democratic takeover of Congress makes it more likely that the federal government will attempt to regulate emissions. The companies have been hiring new lobbyists who they hope can help fashion a national approach that would avert a patchwork of state plans now in the works. They are also working to change some company practices in anticipation of the regulation.

"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"

Hofmeister and other top energy company leaders, such as Duke Energy Corp.'s chief executive, James E. Rogers, back a proposal that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and allow firms to trade their quotas.

Paul M. Anderson, Duke Energy's chairman and a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, favors a tax on emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. His firm is the nation's third-largest burner of coal.
Disclaimer: Shell is paying for my transportation to and lodging at the LA Auto Show this week.

Of course, this is hardly a political slam dunk; rather, this issue, as much as any, will test the new Democratic majority's ability to build consensus with moderate Republicans in order to create a veto-proof majority on regulation. Even with oil and utility companies leading the charge, I still don't see the James Inhofes of the world changing their position. We still may not see this reality until we've got a new president in office.

More interesting, in my mind, is the corporate clamor for regulation. Sure, they see the writing on the wall, and can work better with a single federal standard than a variety of regulations in different jurisdictions. They also stand to make a lot of money, as many of these companies have also invested in renewable technologies. But they have changed their tune in terms of the economic effects: essentially, they're saying that we can address climate change without wrecking the economy. In fact, the post notes that climate change is already creating jobs in corporate offices, as companies like those mentioned above are hiring staffers to work specifically on climate-related issues. Shoot, even Exxon-Mobil is considering cutting off funds to the denial groups... that's huge... What we're seeing (I think) is a tipping point in the industrial community -- they're finally recognizing that economic growth and environmental health aren't conflicting goals, or even mutually exclusive. It will mean big changes for them, but there's no reason those changes have to put them out of business, or result in other economic calamities like mass lay-offs.

I've always kept a critical eye on corporate America, but the optimist in me is really liking what it hears... these folks are recognizing that addressing the climate crisis creates tremendous opportunity. If they get it, and make this challenge a core part of there business, then the political will be there...

Via The Daily Grist

Photo credit: Photographer Warren Gretz and NREL/DOE

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