CEOs Urge Bush to Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

On the eve of the State of the Union address, the chief executives of 10 major corporations urged President Bush to embrace mandatory ceilings on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in order to stem climate change.

But yesterday White House spokesman Tony Snow said that binding caps on carbon dioxide emissions would not be part of the president's proposals tonight. And a member of the corporate delegation said that last week the White House canceled a meeting with the executives that had been scheduled for yesterday morning.

"The President has always believed, when it comes to climate change, that the best way to achieve reductions is through innovation," Snow said, "and to figure out ways to come up with energy sources that are going to meet our economy's constant demand for energy, and at the same time, do it in a way that's going to be friendly for the environment."

There has been widespread speculation about what Bush might say about climate change tonight. Several legislative proposals have emerged in Congress with different ways for addressing climate change.

Major corporate leaders have been changing their position on climate change for the past year or two, and many of them are convinced that some form of regulation of or tax on carbon emissions is inevitable. With many states talking about coming up with their own laws, corporate leaders have started to urge the federal government to establish a nationwide standard.

"We can and must take prompt action to establish a coordinated, economy-wide market-driven approach to climate protection," the executives said in a letter to Bush. In an interview later, Jeffry E. Sterba, chairman of PNM Resources, a New Mexico utility, said that it was better to act now than to be forced to act in a "precipitous way" later.

The executives support a system that would create a cap on emissions, give allocations to companies based on past emissions and allow firms to trade allocations to meet gradually declining emission targets. The system, similar to one being used in Europe, would have far-reaching implications for utility rates, power plant construction, energy efficiency and American automobiles.

The executives' plan would slow the growth in greenhouse gases over the next five years, then reverse that growth and cut annual emissions by 70 percent to 90 percent of today's levels in 15 years.

Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of General Electric, pointing to initiatives in California and a group of Northeastern states, said "this is happening already." In addition to Immelt and Sterba, the group included the chief executives of Lehman Brothers Holdings, PG&E, Alcoa, Caterpillar, BP America, Duke Energy, DuPont and FPL Group.

Snow said that he thought Bush's proposals "address in a comprehensive and realistic way concerns about greenhouse emissions, and also their primary sources."


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