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ACCCE Leader Pleas for Carbon Price

September 24th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Yesterday, during a panel on Assuring Access to Clean and Competitive Energy in the Council on CompetitivenessNational Energy Summit, Arch Coal President and ACCCE Vice President Steven Leer made a strong appeal for government policy to put a price on carbon.

I think a price on carbon is necessary.

Sigh …

As with most of the coal industry’s truthiness-laden engagement in energy discussions, including ACCCE’s often shady practices (and misdirection targeted at the Senate), Leer’s direct statement that “a price on carbon is necessary” was sandwiched with qualifiers and misdirections.

I think a price on carbon is necessary but it has to be kept in a framework that doesn’t destroy the economy.

While there are certainly “frameworks” that “could destroy the economy”, such as an overnight introduction of a $20 per gallon tax on gasoline and a $500 per ton tax on carbon emissions, noone seriously engaged in the policy discussion is suggesting anything even an order of magnitude smaller than these sorts of targets. Leer’s comments, throughout, build on and spread the false frame that tackling climate change risks destroying the economy when, clearly if one actually has a foot in the real world of scientific analysis, unchecked catastrophic climate change creates the greatest risks and, especially if one takes a total system analysis of the costs and benefits of moving (rapidly) toward a clean and efficient energy system (including typically excluded costs like health care, biodiversity, ocean acidification, etc — even without considering climate change) shows a net positive outcome for action on climate change. Thus, action will help insure against the massive risks of catastrophic climate change even while that action lays the groundwork for a stronger economy — even without considering those avoided costs.

Leer also argued, with a false flag, for a “price collar” for any carbon price arguing that such a collar would provide a protection against global energy spikes such as was seen with oil heading above $140 barrel in 2008.  The “collar” is, traditionally, associated with the costs of carbon ton (limiting the upper bounds of costs and, hopefully, setting minimums as well to enable more assured planning and limiting short-term economic disruptions) rather than linking to overall energy market pricing.

Leer asserted, in a very traditional (and deceptive) path, that coal use and growth of coal use is inevitable, stating that “in the past 7-8 years, coal is the fastest growing fossil fuel.”  Leer didn’t choose to mention the uncomfortable point that coal use for electrical power generation has fallen in the United States: both as a percentage of total production and in absolute terms.  Hmmm … This fall, combined with the strengthening growth of renewable power and the potentials for nuclear power and the realities of energy efficiency, create a window (a real-world window) on the potential for phasing out coal from the US (and global) electrical system. The drive (demand) for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) might become obsolete with real-world developments making clear the viability of weaning ourselves from coal.

Not during the session, a fellow blogger asked Leer about Duke Energy and Alstom  leaving ACCCE

“Well, when you look at any coalition, coalitions or associations by their very nature have to go to the lowest common denominator.  Now ACCCE’s position is that they want responsible carbon and climate legislation…They were not against the Waxman-Markey bill, they wanted to force it to change.  Within any coalition you reach points where sometimes a member says ‘well, I want to go a different direction,’ or ‘I don’t like the direction the coalition is going’ and they always have that right.”

Well, “lowest common denominator” within ACCCE seems to be suffering from anti-science syndrome, fails to believe that Americans can innovate and rise to challenge, and fails to see opportunity amid our energy and climate challenges.

Recognizing that Alstom recently left ACCCE due to “because of questions that have been raised about ACCCE’s support for climate legislation,” it is interesting that Peirre Gauthier, ALSTOM’s CEO also appeared at the National Energy Summit on the The Business Case for Pursuing Sustainability Strategies panel. From Gauthier’s comments, first when questioned about Copenhagen:

If you believe in what the scientific community is telling us, and we do, then failure is not an option

Alston recognizes this and recognizes we must do more. We will be getting involved very deeply in Copenhagen so there’s some sort of an agreement.

The worst thing that can happen is nothing.

Gauthier also spoke to Corporate opportunity and responsibility working with governments.

When you’re a large employer, you have access, and while you need to use that access responsibly, it gives you opportunity.

There’s a big need for education. Knowledge is important. WE need to educate our political leaders about the science, on the science and the possibilities and correct information that is not correct and being carried around. We have a very srtong role to play in making sure our elected officials understand the issue and what we can do about it.

Looking at those words, it is not hard to see why Alstom would leave ACCCE.

After the session, two questions to Gauthier. The first was what he meant by Alstom in Copenhagen and Gauthier chose not to provide details, but stated that Alstom would be there throughout the process, emphasizing that Alstom “will have a strong presence in Copenhagen.”

The second question, “any comment as to why Alstom left ACCCE?”

We simply didn’t agree with their position, which was a negative position.

We’ve adopted the US CAP position, which we see as a positive position.

We couldn’t, could we, remain members of two organizations with such different messages?

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Tags: business practice · carbon dioxide · climate change · climate legislation · Energy · environmental

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nike Just Can’t Seem to Do It // Sep 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    […] When it comes to ACCCE, Duke Energy and Alstom Just Did It. […]

  • 2 Nike leaves Chamber of Commerce Board! « The Dernogalizer // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:24 am

    […] to represent their views on climate legislation. As a result, Excelon, PNM Resources, PG & E, Duke Energy and Alstom, and Johnson&Johnson have left the Chamber this past month. But one of the strongest advocates […]

  • 3 Nike Leaves Chamber of Commerce Board! | CCAN Blog // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:29 am

    […] to represent their views on climate legislation. As a result, Excelon, PNM Resources, PG & E, Duke Energy and Alstom, and Johnson&Johnson have left the Chamber this past month. But one of the strongest advocates […]

  • 4 Nike Leaves Chamber of Commerce Board! « It’s Getting Hot In Here // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:35 am

    […] to represent their views on climate legislation. As a result, Excelon, PNM Resources, PG & E, Duke Energy and Alstom, and Johnson&Johnson have left the Chamber this past month. But one of the strongest advocates […]