Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wanted: Business Leadership

The Climate is Changing—Are Our Leaders?

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers
Duke Energy has had a dubious history on the environment, on labor relations and on civil rights.

In recent years, however, there have been signs of better corporate citizenship. Duke was a founding member of the US Climate Action Partnership. It quit its membership in the National Association of Manufacturers in large part because of that organization's refusal to be serious about the impacts of climate change. More recently, CEO Jim Rogers has resigned his position on the board of the US Chamber of Commerce.

A recent interview with Rogers in suggests he is an executive who dispassionately addresses threats and opportunities to his business, avoiding the robotic Kool-Aid swilling of too many of his peers and their trade and lobbying organizations. A sampling:

In the late '90s, we became aware of 'global warming'. We recognized our huge risk, precisely because we're such a large emitter of CO2. We recognized a need to understand the issue, get ahead of it, and help shape a solution. In 2004, we started to build a coalition of stakeholders to collaborate and proactively work on the challenge.


We foresee a carbon-constrained future, and we want to make sure that we're one of the lowest cost energy suppliers in that new world. The sooner we get started, the better. The more we can smooth out cost increases, the better.
Rogers understands the value of consistent, strong government policy, and how appropriate policy can provide the framework for business prosperity:
When I was chairman of Edison Electric Institute, a leading industry association, I worked hard to have my fellow CEO's recognize the imperative to seek carbon regulation instead of voluntary measures. We needed the surety of a coherent and consistent policy to manage our capital-intensive business.
He regrets the partisanship that has stymied concerted action to address the problem and which is sowing uncertainty that affects his business.

Republicans have demonized cap-and-trade -- a system that they heralded as the free market answer to our environmental challenges when Bush passed the Clean Air Act in the 1990s.
We need more voices like Rogers speaking out, representing the true interests of business and pressing for reform of hidebound, obstructionist and increasingly partisan groups like the US Chamber of Commerce. Our business community in the United States must help lead the revitalization of American competitiveness and be a constructive partner in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and the new energy economy. Their failure to do so, and to instead delay, hurts us all. As Rogers says, "delay is not a friend when addressing problems."

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