Corporate America and investors pushing energy policy
Less than one week after AMD, Applied Materials, Google, Cisco, Intel, Autodesk, Sun, HP, Yahoo, EMC and IBM joined forces with TechNet, the technology industry’s lobbying arm, to push for the U.S. to double federal funding for green energy, a similar call has been issued by more than 50 U.S. investors.
BusinessWeek’s Moira Herbst reported this morning that funds with $4 trillion under management want Washington to put mandatory limits on carbon emissions. Heavyweights like Merrill Lynch and CalPERS are quoted in the article pushing the message that U.S. companies need clear, consistent regulation and federal standards to help them address climate issues. Highlights:
While it doesn’t advocate a specific bill or policy proposal, it calls for the U.S. to “achieve sizable, sensible long-term reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”—that is, the 60% to 90% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050 that leading scientists recommend. The statement lays out three general policy proposals: 1) a realignment of energy policies to spur the growth of clean technologies, 2) directions from the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) specifying what companies should disclose to investors on climate change in their financial reporting, and 3) a mandatory market-based solution, such as what has come to be known as “cap-and-trade.”
A note of skepticism is in order. Investors and companies may be acting now because a business-friendly President is in the White House—and they could face tougher mandates if they wait until after the 2008 Presidential election. “It’s a timing issue,” says Peter Frumhoff, director of science policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group. “The Bush Administration is more favorable to some businesses, and what would happen beyond 2008 is unclear. Everyone realizes there will be federal policy in the next three to four years, so now is the time to help shape it.”
…still, investors are sending Washington a clear message: They expect the country’s elected politicians to step up and provide clear guidance on such an important issue.
“Global warming presents enormous risks and opportunities for U.S. businesses and investors,” says Buenrostro of CalPERS. “To tap American ingenuity and drive business to a leadership position in the low-carbon future, we need regulations to enable the markets to deploy capital and spur innovation.”
Enough said. The big companies are in. The big investors are engaged. Regardless of how things turn out, these next few years are going to be quite a ride.