Climate: Power Companies Quit U.S Chamber of Commerce

Sep 25, 2009 6:25pm

Electric companies, many of them with large investments in power plants that burn coal, oil or natural gas, might seem resistant at first glance to government mandates to control greenhouse gas emissions.  But several have now been very public about splitting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has lobbied strongly, in its words, to "ensure that any climate change policies do not place unreasonable burdens on businesses and the economy."

If you ask at Pacific Gas & Electric, the giant utility in Northern California, such language masks a much more "extreme position" taken by the Chamber, which is a force to be reckoned with in Washington.  (Take a look HERE at an L.A. Times story.)  On Tuesday, PG&E's Chairman and CEO, Peter Darbee, went public with a letter saying he would not renew the company's membership in the lobby group:

"We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another."

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) joined in today.  Two other major utilities, Duke Energy in the midwest and south, and Alstom Power (a French-based multinational), had already parted ways with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group that, like the Chamber of Commerce, disputes the Obama administration's arguments on greenhouse gases.There's more HERE from the AP.At the Chamber, J.P. Fielder responded with a statement that said, in part, "we believe that climate change legislation should meet these six requirements:
•    Balance environmental objectives with the need for economic growth and job creation;
•    Promote technology development and deployment;
•    Reduce barriers to the development of climate-friendly energy sources;
•    Promote energy efficiency; and
•    Implement appropriate steps to address the international nature of global emissions."On the phone he added, “We worry that there’s a misconception of where we are and how proactive we’ve been on climate change.  We support nuclear power.  We support the stimulus package, which includes $60 billion for environment and renewable energy.  We oppose Waxman-Markey, obviously.” 

Waxman-Markey is the bill, narrowly passed by the House earlier this year, that would mandate a so-called cap-and-trade system for greenhouse reductions.  Cap-and-trade would gradually lower the amounts companies can emit, but lets the companies bargain among themselves to reduce the cost of compliance.PG&E and PNM are, among other things, members of USCAP, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of major companies, partnering with environmental groups, to call for federally mandated greenhouse limits.  Why would they call for more regulation?  They say it's not just do-gooder altruism, though they would doubtless like to be seen as good guys.  Some USCAP members stand to profit by making compact-florescent light bulbs or generating electricity from nuclear, wind, hydro and solar power.

Beyond that, as a Washington lawyer once told me, "The only thing worse than government regulation is uncertainty about government regulation."

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