Conservatives Bicker over Global Warming: Businessmen Lead

It’s the strangest thing: conservatives, Republicans, and partisans on the right continue to squabble over global warming–is it real, should we act?–even as huge corporations call for exactly the sort of emissions-reductions measures that Al Gore and countless other Democrats want to see enacted.

The latest example is the third-largest American oil company, now known as ConocoPhillips, once known as Union 76. After years of doubting the science, this week they called in Washington for legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preferably a "cap-and-trade" program. CEO Jim Mulva told the Toronto Globe and Mail and other newspapers in a conference call that they want to be regulated:

"At our company, we believe that the science is quite compelling and that climate change is certainly attributed to human activity and to the substantial use of fossil fuels in terms of emissions. We believe quite strongly that now is the time we need a national, mandated framework to handle and deal with climate change."

The Wall Street Journal [$] cast a somewhat jaundiced eye on this conversion, noting:

Companies like ConocoPhillips that are endorsing a federal global-warming cap are doing so largely in the belief that they can shape it to minimize the cost to them. Many companies, eyeing the proliferation of differing global-warming rules in places such as California and the Northeast, are concluding that a single nationwide cap will be less onerous than a patchwork of state rules.

A U.S. policy, they figure, would be easier to integrate into global-warming regulations being implemented in other countries where U.S.-based multinationals like ConocoPhillips also do business.

That integration would make it easier for companies to satisfy any U.S. obligation by buying cheaper emission "credits" from the developing world, where the cost of projects to reduce or offset fossil-fuel emissions is lower. ConocoPhillips’s Mr. Mulva stressed that his company wants a U.S. cap to "have linkages" to policies in other countries.

Nonetheless, the fact that huge corporations are on board for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions cannot be stated too many times, in this reporter’s view. When George Will claims that those who would reduce emissions to preserve our climate are fuzzy in their thinking, he never mentions corporations like ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, Alcoa, Duke Energy, and the countless other corporations that are working with environmental groups to reduce emissions as part of USCAP.

Gee, I wonder why not? Could it be that it’s easier to incite right-wingers against Al Gore than against GE?

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