Private sector begging Congress for leadership on bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill

Companies will continue punting on major infrastructure investments and the jobs they create as long as Congress dawdles

Sean Pool is a Special Assistant for Energy Policy at American Progress.

Businesses leaders are rallying around bipartisan climate action.  One reason is that the cloud of uncertainty hovering over clean energy legislation is holding up billions of dollars of private investment that could be creating jobs and spurring technological innovation today.

Peter Darbee, CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric (one of the country’s biggest gas and electric utilities), explained in an op-ed yesterday that as companies wait to see what Congress will do, they are holding off on putting needed capital into infrastructure, manufacturing, and R&D facilities “”investments that would amount to another (privately funded) stimulus package:

This kind of private-sector activity would be the best kind of near-term stimulus for our economy “” and the smartest long-term way to ensure that America remains competitive in global clean energy markets and secure against growing dependence on foreign energy sources….

Consider the potential capital spending that could be unleashed by the nation’s utility companies. Projections show that the industry needs to make outlays as high as $2 trillion over the next 20 years to modernize the nation’s electrical infrastructure.

Currently, though, the unanswered questions looming around energy and climate change policy are making it impossible, or at least unwise, to guess which clean energy and infrastructure choices will be the right ones. With billions of dollars at stake, many utilities are holding off as long as possible before committing themselves to massive, long-term investments. Many of the nation’s large manufacturers find themselves facing similar disincentives to build new facilities and fund research and development.

Darbee is just one of many major energy CEO’s to clearly articulate the fact that the status quo is killing jobs, and clean energy legislation provides an incredible opportunity to spur economic growth and job creation. A far cry from the anti-environment business lobby of the 1970s and ’80s, Darbee and his colleagues in the business community are now literally begging congress to take action.

Here are a few other prime examples:

  • 200 business leaders from Ohio, South Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas, and 16 other states descended on Washington on February 3rd  to advocate for congressional leadership on clean energy as a part of the We Can Lead partnership. Their message:

“America’s business leaders are prepared to unleash a new industrial revolution in clean energy that will create permanent jobs right here at home,” said Brian Micciche, President of Pennsylvania-based, Komax Solar, Inc. “American businesses are ready to lead. We need the U.S. Senate to act.”

  • In January, more than 80 CEO’s from leading US businesses including Exelon, Virgin America, NRG Energy, eBay and PG&E sent a joint letter to the President and Congress calling on them to enact strong climate legislation or risk falling even further behind in the global race for clean energy:

We need strong policies and clear market signals that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate. With certainty, clear rules of the road, and a level playing field, US businesses will deploy capital, plan, build, innovate and compete successfully in the global marketplace.

The letter was organized by Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition of large and small businesses advocating for clean energy legislation in the US.

  • Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) is yet another group of 46 mostly fortune 500 companies with combined revenues of over $2 trillion and over 4 million employees, including Boeing, BP, Bank of America, Duke Energy, PG&E, GE, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Toyota and others, who have come together to advocate for a market price for carbon. Their message is crystal clear:

We accept the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that the impacts are already being felt. Delaying action will increase both the risks and the costs.

  • United States Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), a 31-member alliance between traditional environmental non-profits such as Environmental Defense and World Resources Institute, and heavy-hitting companies within the insurance, mining, chemicals, automobile and energy sectors (including Johnson and Johnson, Ford Motors,  Caterpillar, NRG Energy, the Dow Chemical Company and others), launched a a multimillion dollar campaign last month supporting clean energy. Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy spoke on behalf of the coalition:

Our country’s economic future depends on American leadership on energy and climate policy.

Last year, US-CAP issued a Blueprint for Legislative Action that calls for a market price for carbon and incentives for clean energy and energy efficiency.

  • American Business for Clean Energy (ABCE) is an initiative of 2,244 (and counting) small and large corporations  from all sectors of the economy who wish to register their support for clean energy and climate legislation.  The main goal of the group is act as an umbrella for the plethora of other pro-clean energy business groups that are already actively engaging in the debate.

How can climate-denial and pro-polluter groups continue to promote the delusion that clean-energy legislation will be bad for business, while the business community itself is shouting the opposite from the rooftops in a really unprecedented way? I can’t think of too many other times when major coalitions of fortune 500 companies and investors with trillions of dollars on the line and millions of employees all came together to beg congress to pass new regulations.

To be seeing this level of engagement from our nation’s largest industrial giants and utilities, –PG&E, NRG Energy, Ford, GE, Chrysler, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, BP, the list goes on– as well as its small businesses, means there really must be an economic opportunity to be had with clean energy. It is clear that companies large and small are itching to start creating jobs by pumping private sector capital into profitable clean energy investments. The question is whether Congress will give them the opportunity.

As Darby put it in the closing of his article:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) got it right when they wrote in a recent op-ed that on energy and climate issues, “industry needs the certainty that comes with congressional action.” Along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), they are seeking a solution that can bring together a critical mass of support on this issue.

Americans concerned about our economy and our nation’s future should be rooting for them to succeed.

3 Responses to Private sector begging Congress for leadership on bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill

  1. They should not be rooting them for success but put substantial grassroots pressure on conservative Senators. There is very little GRASSROOTS, citizen’s pressure, on Congress. Partially because environmental groups are not energizing their vast membership to effective political action. They claim millions of memebers, where are they? Why they are not politically active? It is a political struggle more than anything else.

    Many Environmental organizations have budgets in the ballpark of $50M to $100 millions. They are not focusing their resources where they can make the most impact on the political gridlock. Much of these huge funds go to support their own staff, some to do direct lobbying, that is, telling member of Congress the facts on global warming. But this information has almost zero impact on the Congressional votes.
    Senators and House members respond mostly to money for reelection coming from industry lobbyists, and on the other side, to large, and effective public pressure. Facts, information do not make much impact to these opposers of GW.

    I have directed effective lobbying on swing Congressional members in several states in the past. (See today’s’ comments about that experience).
    I believe it is critically important to change tactics. Time to educate massive amount of environmentalists on the critical importance of public pressure and their need to participate in it. Mass mailing of emails are disregarded. However, telegrams, phone calls, individual letters, coupled by individual emails, NOT MASS emails, could make impacts on swing Congress members.

  2. mark says:

    very interesting post thankyou.

  3. James Newberry says:

    Here are some plan suggestions:
    1) $10 per ton CO2, equivalent starting 2011, ramping up by that amount per year to $100 in 2011 and continuing.
    2) Ten year phase-out of all direct and indirect subsidies for the four mined materials used for power: Coal, Petroleum, Natural Gas and Uranium, encouraging no new build.
    3) Ten year expiration of nuclear insurance indemnification (thereby exposing atomic fission to free-market risk assessment, as based on American ideals).
    4) End all subsidies for corn ethanol.
    5) Change “housing starts” economic GDP metrics to cover existing lots or structure re-use only.
    6) Invert 80/20 (road to transit) spending in Transportation Bill. Use Smart Development strategies for urban and interstate rail transport.
    7) Bring 90% of military forces home.
    8) End agribusiness subsidies and divert to organic family farms for five to ten percent farm employment of population
    9) Finance rebuild of all existing buildings for net-zero energy goal.
    10 Create Second American Revolution for Interdependence. Eliminate paid lobbying and eliminate hundreds of billions of annual spending for corporate pork, subsidies and warmongering that has created the national insecurity petropoisoned state.

    Only some that come to mind.