McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!

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"McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!"

More than perhaps any other company, McKinsey has documented how an aggressive energy efficiency strategy sharply lowers the cost of climate action (see “McKinsey 2008 Research in Review: Stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero“).

Today they released their most comprehensive analysis to date of this country’s energy efficiency opportunity, “Unlocking energy efficiency in the U.S. economy.”  Bottom line:  If this country get serious about energy efficiency — for instance, by passing a climate and clean energy bill like Waxman-Markey — then we can sharply reduce existing emissions at a large net savings to the public and U.S. businesses.  McKinsey has a new cost-curve just of efficiency measures (click to enlarge):

McKinsey U.S. big

The width of each column on the chart represents the amount of efficiency potential (in trillion BTUs) found in that group of measures….  The height of each bar corresponds to the average annualized cost (in dollars per million BTU of potential).

For those expecting to seeing efficiency below the line (i.e. negative cost), McKinsey has added a dashed line that represents the average cost of a new power plant.  McKinsey said at the press conference today that all the measures above have a positive net present value.

McKinsey explains that these measures, if fully enacted over the next decade, would save a remarkable 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, which is 17% of U.S. CO2e emissions in 2005.  In other words, the entire 2020 target in the Waxman-Markey climate bill could be met with energy efficiency at a net savings to U.S. consumers and businesses of $700 billion.

And what is even more stunning about this analysis is that it didn’t even look at the transportation sector, where we know huge savings opportunities are possible (see “U.S. can cut half its transportation emissions by 2050“).

McKinsey explains “The central conclusion of our work”:

Energy efficiency offers a vast, low-cost energy resource for the U.S. economy – but only if the nation can craft a comprehensive and innovative approach to unlock it. Significant and persistent barriers will need to be addressed at multiple levels to stimulate demand for energy efficiency and manage its delivery across more than 100 million buildings and literally billions of devices. If executed at scale, a holistic approach would yield gross energy savings worth more than $1.2 trillion, well above the $520 billion needed through 2020 for upfront investment in efficiency measures (not including program costs). Such a program is estimated to reduce end-use energy consumption in 2020 by 9.1 quadrillion BTUs, roughly 23 percent of projected demand, potentially abating up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually.

The United States is only beginning to tap the efficiency opportunity.  McKinsey has a separate, much shorter report released this month on the stimulus, “Energy: Investing in efficiency,” which finds, “nearly $100 billion in new spending on energy-related projects will have a huge impact.”

Whereas McKinsey thinks we could save 9.1 quads after a decade of serious investment, an analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) says the Waxman-Markey bill will “only” achieve that some time in the mid-2020s (see “The triumph of energy efficiency: Waxman-Markey could save $3,900 per household and create 650,000 jobs by 2030“).

The new McKinsey report has an excellent discussion of the barriers to efficiency and how to address them, which they summarize in this figure:

McKinsey barriers

The good news is that the climate and clean energy bill — together with the stimulus and Obama’s budgets — would address many of those barriers with strong building and appliance efficiency standards, a large increase in R&D for efficiency technologies, major investments in energy efficiency by states and utilities, and, of course, a price on carbon.  I would add that the key to breaking down the remaining barriers is to two terms of an Obama administration led by efficiency advocates like energy secretary Steven Chu and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair, Jon Wellinghoff — see FERC chair on new nuclear and coal plants: “We may not need any, ever.”

I am especially pleased that the report analyzed combined heat and power since it is a core, but neglected climate solution.  I will discuss what they say about CHP — and what needs to be done to break down the barriers to more CHP — in a later post.

Kudos to McKinsey for another first-rate piece of work.

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22 Responses to McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!

  1. Another key aspect of delivering these benefits, which is not mentioned in the post and may or may not appear in the McKinsey work but which we and our affiliates are aggressively promoting, is the use of carbon revenues as a funding source for efficiency retrofits of existing building stock. The real value of a carbon price is not in the price signal per se (unless the price signal were to be many times higher than is anticipated in any realistic projection), but rather it is in what you do with the revenues it raises. This is being demonstrated now in the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast and MidAtlantic. These ten states have voluntarily committed to investing over 70% of revenues directly into high-impact GHG reducing measures, primarily programs to retrofit existing building stock with aggressive efficiency measures. Studies have shown that for a given carbon price, sustained reductions of consumption are 7-8 times greater when carbon revenues are deployed in this fashion than when carbon revenues are treated as just another stream of tax revenue. There is no better way to permanently reduce the impact on consumers of a carbon price than to insulate them, literally and figuratively, from the future impacts of volatile and rising energy prices.

  2. ecostew says:

    ONTACT:
    Brendan Gilfillan
    gilfillan.brendan@epa.gov
    202-564-2081
    202-564-4355

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    July 29, 2009

    EPA Statement on McKinsey & Company’s New Report, “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy”

    WASHINGTON – McKinsey & Company has released a new report today outlining opportunities for consumers, businesses and other institutions to save nearly $1.3 trillion in energy costs by 2020. According to the report, America could reduce its non-transportation energy usage by 23 percent by 2020 by investing in energy efficiencies.

    EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson released the following statement in reaction to the report:

    “The energy that most effectively cuts costs, protects us from climate change, and reduces our dependence of foreign oil is the energy that’s never used in the first place. According to McKinsey’s report, energy efficiency improvements alone can reduce consumption more than 20 percent by 2020 and prevent up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually, helping America lead the way in averting the worst effects of climate change. The McKinsey report reveals new possibilities for energy efficiency, and will be instrumental in engaging consumers, businesses and everyone else to cut energy consumption, reduce harmful emissions, and save money on electricity. EPA will continue pioneering energy efficiency through programs like Energy Star, partnership with the Department of Energy in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, and engagement in state and local climate and energy programs.”

    R214

  3. cougar_w says:

    When I read where someone is claiming that efficiency improvements will save the day, I translate that as a pledge to maintain BAU. It’s the “buy a new Prius, save the world” method.

    [JR: Since no one here has ever claimed anything like that, I’m not certain what the point of this comment is. Seriously. Do you read this blog? Even the featured posts on the sidebar would be enough. I’m snipping the rest of this. Try again without the straw man attack.]

  4. Ken Johnson says:

    The McKinsey chart suggests an efficient approach to exploiting the untapped potential of efficiency: Partition the economy into industry sectors (lighting, refrigerators, etc.) and develop sector-specific standards or regulatory incentives to motivate at least breakeven investments in efficiency technology for each sector. This was the legislative policy of California’s Pavley law, for example, which applied to a specific industry sector (passenger vehicles) and required “regulations that achieve the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles” (with “cost-effective” meaning “Economical to an owner or operator of a vehicle, taking into account the full life-cycle costs of a vehicle”).

    The Pavley standards are expected to generate lifecycle net savings of $361 per metric ton CO2 ($361/MT); and California has plans for more stringent regulations (“Pavley 2″) that would yield projected incremental savings of $262/MT. This suggests that a regulatory incentive of up to $262/MT for reducing passenger vehicle emissions via efficiency improvements (e.g. hybrids) would have zero marginal net cost (and negative average net cost).

    The problem with Waxman-Markey is that it combines all capped sectors under the umbrella of an economy-wide trading system, not for the purpose of achieving “the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” but for the purpose of achieving maximum cost reductions. To the extent that emission-reduction technologies are exploited, they would result in surplus emission credits that would nullify any environmental benefits. The only benefit would be reduced emission prices. (This characteristic of cap-and-trade to motivate maximum emissions up to the cap limit has been described as the “waterbed” effect.)

    However, unlike the U.S. acid rain program and the EU ETS, Waxman-Markey imposes a floor price on allowance sales ($10/MT in 2012, increasing at a 5 percent real annual rate), which would prevent a total free-fall of emission prices resulting from efficiency technologies. If prices fall to the floor level, then the trading system would effectively revert to a fixed-price sale of allowances. A $10/MT emission price may seem insignificant, but could actually result in a very substantial decarbonization incentive if the allowance sales revenue is applied to subsidize low-carbon technologies in regulated industries. For example, if the electricity sector comprised 10 percent new renewables, then a $10/MT carbon fee, with all revenue applied to subsidize new renewables, could give new renewables a $100/MT price advantage over fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Waxman-Markey does not use revenue in that manner, but there might be opportunity for improvement in the Senate.

    Another way that the legislation could be improved in the Senate would be to give EPA authority to establish allowance set-asides for complementary GHG-reduction programs, such as California’s Pavley 2 standards, that go beyond federal mandates and result in quantifiable surplus allowances. Without such a provision, the federal trading system might perversely kill regulatory innovation at the state and local level.

  5. Karl says:

    Right on Michael. The carbon price will do little for nearly 20 years except ensure long term planning is better. And even most of the revenues will be recycled. Some for needs like consumer protection so it doesn’t hurt the poor in America, some for giveaways to win votes. So only a small slice of the revenues are going to be going for good stuff. But even that small bit is a lot of money. It’s probably going to generate 80-100 billion a year. If 10-25 percent is being used for clean energy investments and international assistance your talking 10-25 billion new dollars a year being invested. And many of them have multiplying effects, Detroit will get money to make PHEV/EV’s which will mean they’ll also invest more of their money in PHEV/EV’s just for a example. The CEDA will (designed right) give the spark that generates lots more private investment in cleantech.

    As a clarification for those of us who don’t have the time to read all the fine print. Is that 520 billion number government investment or total private/public investment? If it’s government it seems unlike we could spend 50 billion a year for a decade (although we should be doing much more than that) but it seems plausible that enough government spending to spark the rest of the money from the private sector could get passed.

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    An Opinion

    I haven’t read the recent McKinsey report yet, although I read the earlier one several times. I normally admire McKinsey’s work, and I was once a McKinsey consultant (Associate and Engagement Manager) myself.

    And, of course, I think that efficiency improvements are a key part of the solution.

    That said, without taking away from my respect (usually) for McKinsey, and without pretending to have read the recent report, I’d just like to add a point that I think is very important.

    Given the situation, and given the stakes, and given the talent within McKinsey, and McKinsey’s long history in the business community, it’s my view that McKinsey should go much farther to help ensure that we (humans) act responsibly, promptly, ethically, clearly, effectively, and so forth to face and address the global warming and energy problems.

    With awareness and talent and so forth, come responsibility.

    It’s well and good to identify the fact that much can be gained via efficiency improvements. That’s an important point, and helpful.

    But, where is McKinsey’s work, and explicit public statements, about the need to promptly transition from CO2-emitting energy sources (oil, coal) to non-CO2-emitting sources? For example, one can readily read the IPCC reports and (as example) the Position Statement on Global Climate Change by the American Chemical Society. I suspect that McKinsey genuinely agrees with, and defers to, the scientific assessments of the vast majority of the world’s scientists: We DO have a real and troublesome problem. And the clock is ticking. So, . . .

    Given that, are McKinsey’s work, public statements, and responsibilities to humankind limited to the identification of the fact that efficiency improvements can be cost-neutral? Is this point, albeit an important one, the “be all and end all” of the matter to McKinsey? I think (and hope) not.

    I still have my book, by Marvin Bower. To me, McKinsey is, or at least was, and should be, about more than just business profits. So, I am hoping that McKinsey does whatever it takes to help society achieve responsible and effective solutions to the problem, going well beyond the “slice” that involves efficiency improvements. Why, I ask, is 450 ppm “good enough”?

    Although I don’t have my book of Emerson’s Essays in front of me right now, Emerson wrote something like this: “Your goodness must have some edge to it; else it is none.” And, in situations like this, I’d agree.

    With hope,

    Jeff Huggins
    Chevron Research Company, 1981-84
    Harvard Business School, class of 1986, Baker Scholar
    McKinsey and Company, 1986-90
    Concerned parent and citizen

  7. Mike D says:

    Cougar: don’t forget that even if we managed to beat the emissions target purely thru efficiency (we won’t), there is still a renewable energy mandate and new fuel economy standards for vehicles that must be met on top of that. So other solutions will not be neglected. If industry takes the efficiency method to heart AND we meet the renewable energy mandate AND we meet the new CAFE standards, we could go far beyond the targets in Waxman-Markey.

  8. Jay Turner says:

    In order for a major efficiency push to get off the ground, we have to find a way to recruit the cooperation of the energy interests that would normally fight tooth and nail against any change that threatens their quarterly profits. Electric utilities need to be rewarded for promoting efficiency (rate decoupling), fossil fuel companies need to be enticed into diversifying into renewable energy, and the local politics in coal and oil industry-dependent areas needs to be turned on to green jobs and renewable energy. There are so many vested interests and so many barriers to progress.

  9. Robert Brulle says:

    The problem is political, not technological. The interests that will lose the most (coal industry, oil industry, suburban land developers) have long term investments that they will fight like hell to protect. So the real question is not whether we can do this (we can), but can we muster up enough political power to overcome the vested narrow interests that oppose the climate change bill.

    Robert Brulle PhD
    Drexel University

  10. Chris Winter says:

    I wonder if anyone has applied this sort of analysis to China. I recognize getting the data needed would b hard in the U.S. But permit me a bit of pipe-dreaming: If China applied such measures to all its power plants (and power consumers), I think it would have to enable a substantial reduction in the number of coal-fired plants needed.

  11. Roger says:

    There is a wealth of intelligent commentary on CP (most of the time).

    I hope that someone in the White House makes a practice of reading it!
    Battleship Earth is heading for trouble, most of the passengers are asleep, confused, or preoccupied–so who’s at the helm of this baby?

    Look, for example, at the comments by Jeff, Jay and Robert above.

    As I read them, Jeff says we’re at a point where even big, respectable professional firms need to take a stand, and to encourage quick action.

    Jay implies that we need to find better ways to motivate companies to do the right things: naked profits won’t preserve a livable climate.

    And Robert really hits the nail on the head when he points out the fact that narrow-but-powerful vested interests are having their way with us.

    If Obama isn’t getting these inputs, and preparing a very carefully-worded “State of the Climate” talk to address our most serious problem, and incorporate some CP wisdom, then he’s mission the boat, big time!

    In fact, my advice to those who care about our future would be: Let’s all focus on asking ONE man to do ONE thing to preserve our ONE home planet. Namely, ask Obama to go on national, prime-time TV to lay it all out! We need a beacon of leadership in a sea of misinformation.

    We’re adults: climate change is not only real, it is serious, and it needs to be dealt with aggressively NOW! America needs to lead.

    Certainly our nation’s best speech writers can come up with balanced wording that will end some of the rampant confusion, explain what must be done, motivate citizens to support laws that enable a livable future, and avoid scaring us to death! (I’ll help, if help is needed.)

    It’s such a shame to risk setting back some 200,000 years of human evolution just because we’ve never all faced this situation before, and lack the experience and leadership needed to save us from ourselves.

  12. Jim Beacon says:

    I guess it takes a big research organization and a weighty report to tell people what they already know in their hearts:

    As individuals and organizations we Americans waste a whole lot of energy in a whole lot of different ways and if we had behaved responsibly and stopped doing it 40 years ago when we realized what a problem we were starting to create, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now. Duh.

    Most Americans could easily cut back their personal consumption of electricity and gasoline by 15% without seriously affecting their lifestyles. It just requires some thought, a little effort, and maybe spending a few bucks. But if everyone did it, the U.S. could meet the Waxman-Markey target for CO2 reduction for 2020 without having to do much of anything else.

    But we all want to have our cake, eat it too, and let someone or something else take care of getting the CO2 out of the cake. As a culture we are like spoiled children who refuse to clean up our room and do our homework.

  13. Speedy says:

    What’s a BTU? Does it bite?

  14. pete best says:

    Whatever happens CO2 wise, the three peaks of fossil fuel will make us go on an efficiency drive for renewables cannot replace fossil fuels. We use 72 billion tonnes of oil equivilent of it and that is quadrillions of KWh globally. Efficiency is the goal to go for.

  15. Jörg Haas says:

    @ Chris: Regarding China, look at the McKinsey website or directly at http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/china_green_revolution.pdf

  16. Mike#22 says:

    Michael wrote: “The real value of a carbon price is not in the price signal per se (unless the price signal were to be many times higher than is anticipated in any realistic projection), but rather it is in what you do with the revenues it raises”

    Recent history supports this. Rises in energy costs do not translate into efficiency efficiently. In the corporate world, unless there is an advocate and a culture of innovation, efficiency will not make it onto the priority list. Heavy industry often does better, but there the engineers are listened to.

    Most consumers with disposable income will not consider the 7 year payback on the higher efficiency choice, whether it is a car, a house, or an appliance.

    Absent some regulation like Energy Star or CAFE to create movement towards efficiency, the gains so far have been unimpressive.

    This is where the carbon tax and dividend concepts fails. Tax fossil fuels at their point of origin, and return those funds to Americans–what are they likely to do? I expect they will keep doing what they have always done, and mostly ignore efficiency and favor other qualities in the products they buy. Make fuel expensive, and put that money in people’s pockets, and they will just pay the higher price.

    I very much appreciate what inspires the carbon tax advocates, but they need to take a closer look at, for example, the number of Escalades, Suburbans, and Hummers out there with just one occupant.

    So I echo Michael’s thoughts–we absolutely must direct revenues raised from (call it what you will) sale of allocations to the priorities identified by McKinsey & Co. We need some new laws.

  17. Chris Winter says:

    Jörg Haas wrote: “Regarding China, look at the McKinsey website or directly at […]”

    Outstanding! Thank you.

  18. Jeff Huggins says:

    Logic of “The Company”

    While we’re talking about McKinsey and, more broadly, companies, I thought I’d share a few thoughts that might be helpful.

    These days, when some very large companies seem to be fighting against Wise Reform X or Necessary Change Z, all in the interest of protecting what they see as their own profit maximization—and at all costs and without much consideration for the broader public wellbeing—it’s very interesting to note the typical responses of many members of the public, many business leaders, many in the media, and many politicians:

    Some just shrug their shoulders and say, “that’s what should be expected”, then seem to resign themselves to that “reality”. They may have the debate at the level of arguments such as “but the public wants a public option” or “but gasoline generates CO2”, but they nevertheless accept as given that it makes sense for a company to fight “to the death” for its own profits, at all costs.

    Others actually believe that a company (its Board, etc.) is OBLIGATED to fight, fight, fight for its own profit maximization and its own status quo—i.e., for continuing to do precisely what it does—even if its precise way of doing “what it does” is harmful to society in a larger sense. These people seem to think that the SOLE responsibility of Board members and companies is to maximize profit, regardless of other considerations.

    So, although we sometimes don’t like it, we nevertheless seem to accept the fact that the largest companies in one industry are trying to block and delay our ability to address the climate problem and to shift to healthier energy sources, and we also seem to accept the fact that the largest companies in another industry are trying to prevent health care reform and the mere availability of a “public option”, even with tens of millions of people uninsured and with most of the rest favoring such reforms. Many people see these situations as an acceptable “business as usual” or even believe that these companies are obligated to fight for these irresponsible positions.

    So now we get to the point that too many people seem to forget:

    We (the public, humans, America, etc.) didn’t accept, adopt, and permit the existence of the legal and organizational entity “corporation” because we felt that The Corporation should be King. Nor did we adopt and permit the “corporation” because we felt that owners should have unlimited rights to seek financial profits at all costs, regardless of the broader public good.

    Well then, WHY did we accept, adopt, and permit the existence of corporations? Why did we choose to have the corporate system in the first place, as it’s permitted and legally situated? What were the thinking, rationale, and justification behind this choice?

    Although I’m not an academic business historian, I believe the answer is something like this: We adopted our system, permitted corporate entities, and adopted our form of “doing things” on the basis and historic belief that doing so would be the best way of achieving societal advancement, the common good, and good, useful, and beneficial things.

    In other words, we didn’t crown corporations King. We didn’t decide that owners should seek financial profits at all costs, regardless of other responsibilities and considerations. What we did was this: We permitted and established “corporations” on the belief that doing so would serve the public good, human advancement, and closely related matters.

    So, at this point in history (and yes, it’s a pivotal one!), we see a striking paradox: Some of our very largest and most prominent companies have taken on “lives of their own” and are (very obviously) fighting hard to prevent changes and reforms that would be in the public’s best interests and, indeed, in the nation’s best interests and in the world’s best interests. They are doing this even though their very existence (i.e., that of the corporate form and entity) was, and is, based ultimately on the notion that having corporations would be a GOOD thing for society at large.

    Put another way, what some of these corporations are doing, at this point, on these matters that are so pivotal to public wellbeing, contradicts the very reason that we allow and formalize “the corporation” in the first place. They are blatantly contradicting the very idea that permits their existence.

    (Indeed, continuation of that sort of behavior would be the best evidence and proof that those particular corporations should be broken up.)

    In my view, people need to understand this bizarre (and harmful) situation. We shouldn’t merely accept such behavior as being “expected” and reluctantly and passively live with it. And, we certainly shouldn’t see such behavior as representing what corporations should do or are obligated to do. Far from it! Instead, we should ask crystal clear questions about these matters to the Board members (of those companies) and to the largest investors in those companies, and we should persistently stick with those questions until we get clear answers and responsible behavior. And/or, we should energetically pass laws to effectively achieve corporate behavior that is fully responsible towards the public good, if those companies can’t seem to be able to respect their responsibilities voluntarily.

    To business historians and experts on the genuine and full responsibilities of corporations and their Board members: Please correct me if I’m wrong. Again, I don’t think we permitted corporations to make them King, nor do I think we permitted corporations based on the argument that owners should seek to maximize financial profits at all costs, regardless of other responsibilities to society and to humankind.

    Be Well,

    Jeff Huggins
    Harvard Business School, class of 1986, Baker Scholar
    McKinsey and Company, 1986-1990
    Concerned parent and citizen
    Enough is enough!

  19. Jeff Huggins: Corporate charters can be revoked. Corporations need not be recognized as legal persons. Yes, the law needs to be changed. Suggestions?

  20. If the 2020 goal can be met that easily, it is proof that Waxman-Markey is too easy.

    [JR: Duh.]

  21. Roger says:

    I agree with Jeff, above–and not just because I got my MBA in Boston.

    Corporations have ‘worked’ reasonably well for us, with some government controls now and then, for quite some time. Now, however, with today’s combination of business ethics and societal circumstances, we seem to have some modern day corporate Frankensteins in our midst. They’re out of bounds, and it’s high time we help them rethink their priorities.

    Many people confuse patriotism with allowing unmitigated capitalism.

  22. Jeff Huggins says:

    Suggestions?

    Thanks AM (#19) and Roger (#21).

    I can’t pass up AM’s question: “Any suggestions?” So, although this is getting outside of my own areas of focus, I’ll offer a few thoughts, some of which are reasonably grounded and others of which are speculative thoughts for consideration:

    First, whenever one encounters someone who “expects” that corporations will behave that way, and who passively accepts it, or who thinks that Board members and corporations actually have an obligation to consider shortsighted shareholder value as their sole aim, at all costs, no matter the consequences to the broader public and environment, then he/she should clarify (to such person) the points in my earlier comment. In other words, don’t let that sort of mistaken thinking go unaddressed.

    Second, although I’m not an expert on the scope, actual wording, and so forth of the “corporations have rights of citizens” thing, I do think it should be carefully examined and questioned, in a larger context. My initial reaction is that it doesn’t make sense, and isn’t justified, to treat a corporate entity as a real person. The people within corporations are real people, of course, and should have all the rights (and responsibilities) of any other real person, but that doesn’t mean that a corporate entity should have rights as if it were a real person. In any case, I think that whole concept should be revisited.

    Third, on a related note, it might be a very good idea for someone in the House or Senate to introduce a simple bill that would do away with the notion of “corporation as citizen”, that is, do away with the rights that corporations enjoy solely because they have been considered to be like individual people. I don’t presume to know what the outcome of that should be (although I have a gut feel). But, the debate itself would help, and force, many people to realize some of the stuff that I mentioned in my earlier comment. In other words, the debate would help the public (in messy political fashion, to be sure) get closer to the bottom of the matter, and it would help more people understand that corporations DO have responsibilities that they should be living up to.

    Fourth, I think the whole topic and line-of-reasoning that I mentioned in my earlier comment should be covered in the media. People need to understand that the corporations that are doing things that are rather plainly contradictory to the broad public good, on a large scale, are contradicting and violating the very idea and assumption upon which the existence of corporations was based and permitted.

    Fifth, these realizations need to enter the debates on global warming, energy issues, and health care in valid, practical, and hard-hitting ways. For example, if a company argues against effective measures to address the climate change problem, it should be expected and required to base its “argument” on factors OTHER THAN its own profits or its own “rights” that come from being considered as a person. What I mean is this: It should have to base its case on the real factors, e.g., science, assessments of consequence, views on what would or wouldn’t be good for society, and so forth. I’m not suggesting, of course, that it must have “my” views on those matters: It can argue whatever view it likes, on those matters. But, the consideration of its own profits per se, or the appeal to some sort of corporate “right”, shouldn’t enter into the matter when the matter being discussed is, in essence, what’s good for the public at large, and what’s responsible. Put another way, there is NO corporate “right” to harm the public, whether doing so would be profitable or not.

    And, on the same matter, we see this: Of course, it is not illegal to do something that the law doesn’t prohibit. So, in its appearances before Congressional committees, or in its lobbying, a corporation can correctly claim to be acting within the law if it is, indeed, acting within the law. But, in terms of broader corporate responsibilities, and (also) when it comes to establishing future policy (future law), there are the broader considerations, i.e., the public good and related matters. SO, although it may be accurate for a company to say “I haven’t broken the existing law”, or to say “my future plans don’t involve breaking the existing law”, it wouldn’t be a valid or sound argument to say: “Such and such future legislation shouldn’t be passed MAINLY BECAUSE it would constrain my profit-making ability and would somehow violate my ‘rights’ as a corporation” – assuming here that the legislation would indeed be in the public good, and also assuming that the specific corporation isn’t being unfairly targeted by legislation that would apply to it but not to other companies doing the same sorts of things. Put another way, a company’s own profit-making prospects (following its present strategy) should not serve as the reason, or a reason, not to pass legislation that would be in the public’s best interests. Indeed, when companies are arguing “for” or “against” such legislation, they should be required to stick narrowly to the facts, and they should be required and expected to do so in genuine good faith, in keeping with the notion that the reason we have corporations in the first place has to do with the assumption and expectation that the existence of corporations will help lead to the public good.

    If a company argues against something (some new legislation, for example) that would clearly serve the public good, mainly motivated by its own profit interests, without having compelling fact-based reasons (in good faith) to argue that the new legislation would not actually serve the public good, then I think it’s fair and warranted to say, “shame on it!” In that case, it has put its own profits above the public good. Its leaders have abdicated their own responsibilities as humans. And, it has contradicted and violated the basis and assumptions upon which the existence of corporations was permitted and adopted in the first place. Indeed, to use a poetic and spiritual phrase, such a company is “selling its soul”.

    I think that any government representatives who don’t understand these things should be made aware of them. And again, if anything I’m saying here is incorrect, please correct me. As I mentioned, some of this goes beyond my own areas of focus.

    Cheers for now,

    Jeff