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April 06, 2006

Energy Execs To Senate: Cap Us! Activism  Energy  Environment  Politics

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, executives representing a number of major energy companies actually requested federal legislation that would place caps on carbon emissions. Why? They're afraid of local and regional regulations that are gaining momentum. Grist:

Tuesday saw a tectonic shift in the climate-change debate during an all-day Senate conference on global-warming policy. A group of high-powered energy and utility executives for the first time issued this directive to Washington: Bring on the carbon caps!

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard statements from leaders representing eight big energy companies, including General Electric, Shell, and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Six of the eight said they would either welcome or accept mandatory caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Wal-Mart too spoke in favor of carbon caps. The two outliers from the energy sector, Southern Company and American Electric Power, delivered pro forma bids for a voluntary rather than mandatory program, but they, too, broke with tradition by implicitly acknowledging that regulations may be coming, and offering detailed advice on how they should be designed.

Many industry players are increasingly concerned about the inconsistent patchwork of climate regulations that are being proposed and adopted throughout the U.S., from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that seven Northeastern states put forward in December to plans for greenhouse-gas caps unveiled in California this week. Worried companies say federal regulations would bring stability and sureness to the market. [...]

Senate hearings rarely manage to draw a crowd of 60, but for this one some 300 members of Congress, lobbyists, and advocates crammed themselves into the hearing room...and more watched via a live webcast.

"It's the most widely attended hearing that I've ever been to for this committee," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), "and that shows the gravity of this issue."

Said John Stanton, a vice president of National Environmental Trust, "I began the morning far more cynical than I felt at the end of the day." The conference was "remarkably devoid of the climate-skeptic malarkey that usually derails the debate at these sorts of events," he said. "You actually had real experts making real progress — hashing out the nitty-gritty of exactly how this emissions-trading system could be implemented."

Of course, there are still plenty of energy companies that oppose caps, and the conference didn't hear from anyone in the auto industry, a major contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions and a major opponent of moves to curb them. [Emphasis added]

Take note: local and regional activism matters! Getting local/regional regulations enacted forces the feds to act on the national level. That's the good news. The bad news is that federal legislation may turn out to be a watered-down version of what local/regional activists accomplished. Still, it's good to see the beginnings of movement on this front.

Posted by Jonathan at April 6, 2006 03:00 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb