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Highlights From “Unfinished Business” Report on Energy and Climate

Thomas Schueneman | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Business RountableAt a press briefing this morning, the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from leading U.S. companies, discussed key points from their just-released report entitled Unfinished Business: The Missing Elements of a Sustainable Energy and Climate Policy (pdf).

Building on the organization’s previous reports, More Diverse, More Domestic, More Efficient (pdf) and The Balancing Act (pdf), John Castellani, Business Roundtable president,  and Mike Morris, Business Roundtable’s chairman of the Sustainable Growth Initiative and president and CEO of American Electric Power Company, laid out a broad framework they feel Congress needs to address to pave the way toward a sustainable new energy economy.

Five key strategies

The Roundtable is the “first broad-based business organization to recognize climate change,” said Morris, stressing that the organization supports Congress for its efforts promoting energy efficiency and renewables. Morris specifically cited the Kerry/Graham joint op-ed in the New York Times last week as a solid sign that climate and energy legislation can (and should) move forward .

But Morris warned of trying to exchange “one unsustainable path for another,” saying that all energy resources must be on the table as “renewables alone will and can not replace fossil fuels in the short term.”  Morris laid out five key strategies to meet the goals the Roundtable sees as vital in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

  1. Enhance energy efficiency
    By far, Morris said, increasing energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings and industry is a “cheap and immediate” first step in reducing emissions and energy consumption.
  2. Expand and modernize the electrical distribution grid
    “There has been a lot of talk about it,” said Morris, “Now it’s time to do it.” Building a stable, reliable smart grid lays the foundation to grow the country’s renewable energy potential.
  3. Clean(er) coal
    Would that we could power our homes, businesses, and industry now or in the near (0r mid-term) future without coal – but we simply can’t. Therefore, the Roundtable calls for “robust R&D investments, cost-sharing, regulatory reform, and incentives for the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
  4. Nuclear power
    Nuclear power represents the only existing, scalable, baseload generation technology, according to the Rountable. “We need to reestablish the nuclear infrastructure, which has been largely abandoned in this country,” Morris said.
  5. Domestic fossil energy
    Access should be provided for oil and gas exploration in the U.S. to “enhance domestic energy security as alternative technologies mature.”

“This is a defining moment for business,” Morris said. The science is clear and “points us in the direction” we must follow. While he does not believe a final climate treaty will be forthcoming at the upcoming COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen, Morris sees the need for the U.S. to take a global leadership role right now to insure a sustainable future. Based on the passage of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, the nascent Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate, and the juxtaposition of the current administration from the last, Morris and Castellani see the beginnings of that strong global leadership starting to take shape.

But as the report says, there is still unfinished business to attend to.

“These are the policies we must pursue to make our nation’s transition to a low-carbon economy as sustainable as possible,” said Castellani in a press release. “President Obama and Congress have the opportunity today to build a lasting solution for the future by enacting legislation that will transform the way we use established American energy sources even as we explore new ones. By doing so, we can accelerate progress towards our climate goals, while supporting the economy during this time of transition. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to implement these missing elements of an effective, sustainable energy policy.”


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