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29/01/2007 | The business of climate change - Why some firms want caps on emissions

The Economist Staff

FOR a country that is often cast as evil incarnate when it comes to the environment, America has amassed an impressive array of green credentials of late. Even the National Football League plans to offset the greenhouse gases generated by this year’s Super Bowl in February.

 

The day before George Bush was due to use the state-of-the-union message to unveil his latest environmental measures, some of America’s biggest firms made their move. On Monday January 22nd, ten big corporations, including General Electric, Alcoa, DuPont and Duke Energy, in cahoots with leading environmental groups, called for measures to combat global warming.

America produces a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, the main causes of global warming. America refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol and so far efforts to regulate emissions have been piecemeal and usually at state level. The US Climate Action Partnership is seeking to change this. It wants a mandatory nationwide cap on emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and reductions by as much as 30% from today’s levels, within the next 15 years. It also calls for a carbon-trading system and strongly discourages the building of coal-fired power stations, unless technology allows them to operate more cleanly. The latter belch out carbon dioxide at a significantly quicker pace than other electricity-generating plants.

The new formal rules would impose something of a burden on their proponents (though perhaps other sorts of business might suffer more). But there seem to be strong reasons why American firms would want to act now. In part it is becoming clear that mandatory federal controls over carbon emissions are on the cards anyway. Leading politicians have become more receptive to proposals to mitigate climate change in the past few years.

California, so often at the forefront of green thinking (and action) in America, last year introduced legislation to cut greenhouse gases by a quarter in the state by 2020. Seven north-eastern states have joined together to force power generators to reduce emissions too. In a case currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, a dozen states (including California and those in the north-east) are suing the federal government to force it to curb carbon-dioxide emissions, using laws drafted to regulate pollution from vehicles. And the pressure from the states is being supplemented in Washington, DC.

Since the Democrats captured both houses of Congress in November, a welter of federal environmental bills have been proposed. Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, wants a special committee to produce laws to help the diversification of energy supplies and cut greenhouse gases. Barbara Boxer, leader of the Senate’s environment and public works committee, has organised a hearing on January 30th when senators will be encouraged to introduce their own legislation to combat global warming. She considers mandatory caps essential and has given warning to Mr Bush that the bipartisan support likely for such bills will make it tricky for him to use a veto.

The flurry of legislative activity has spurred the companies to act, as mandatory caps seem to become inevitable. A poll last year suggested that more than four-fifths of the electric power industry’s top managers expected binding carbon-emissions mandates to be in place within a decade. The goal of the firms, therefore, is to influence legislators and avoid laws that are too burdensome or costly. As important, firms would prefer to see a consistent national system, without the uncertainty of environmental rules that change between states. Getting a predictable system in place early would also allow firms to make informed decisions over long-term projects, for example in building factories and power plants.

The firms may have also made a canny political move. Although Mr Bush promptly rejected the proposals in favour of his own plans to foster alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels, many other leading politicians—including several contenders for next year’s presidential election—favour mandatory caps.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 



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17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House