ConocoPhillips CEO: The U.S. needs carbon regulations

In a speech to his colleagues, Jim Mulva argues that incumbent energy companies ignore carbon regulations at their peril.

The CEO of ConocoPhillips, Jim Mulva, on Tuesday made a pitch for regulations to restrict carbon emissions. His comments came at CERAWeek, a confab of the energy industry's giants.

In his speech, Mulva argued that the incumbent energy companies need to be involved in the creation of rules that favor low-carbon technologies.

Like its competitors BP and Royal Dutch Shell , ConocoPhillips is developing some alternative-fuel technologies such as synthetic natural gas made from coal, which Mulva said is cleaner.

He said right now the U.S. is lagging other countries in establishing regulatory frameworks, a dynamic that "risks a further loss of geopolitical influence."

ConocoPhillips is certainly not the first oil company or electricity utility to call for carbon regulations. For example, the consortium of businesses called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership was founded last year by General Electric, Duke Energy, and companies from other industries.

Still, it's significant that Mulva decided to deliver this message to his colleagues on the first day of CERAWeek, a conference put on by energy consulting firm Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Another speaker was Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore for work on climate change.

Reuters reported that Pachauri joked he felt like "he was walking into a lion's den" when attending CERAWeek.

ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva ConocoPhillips

There are currently seven climate change bills in various stages of development in Washington, D.C., according to Earth2Tech, which lays out the differences.

Although many people believe that a tax on greenhouse gas emissions is the simplest structure, more likely is a federal "cap and trade" system, which has successfully been used for other harmful gases and is being pursued in regional regimes.

Polluters would be given an emissions allowance, or cap. If they fall under that threshold, they can sell those allowances to participants.

ConocoPhillips' Mulva said the government should set a "value on carbon avoidance" and gradually implement regulations as low-carbon energy and carbon storage technologies mature.

He also said that most consumers don't realize that conversion to different energy technologies will take years.

"We need to realistically educate the public on a simple fact--that it will take many years to develop alternative sources at the scale required for sustainable economics," he said.

 

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