HOUSTON — ConocoPhillips has joined several other major corporations urging Congress to require limits on greenhouse gases tied to global warming, the first major U.S. oil company to take such a stance.
The company said Wednesday it has joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an alliance of big business and environmental groups that in January sent a letter to President Bush stating that mandatory emissions caps are needed to reduce the flow of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.
And American International Group on Wednesday became the first insurer to join the business group. In a statement, Chief Executive Martin Sullivan said AIG "can help shape a broad-based cap-and-trade legislative proposal, bringing to this critical endeavor a unique business perspective on the business opportunities and risks that climate change poses for our industry."
Other companies that belong to the partnership include London-based oil major BP PLC and the U.S. industrial products and media conglomerate General Electric Co. (NBC/Universal, which is a partner in MSNBC.com, is owned by GE.)
Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips' chairman and chief executive, said that "we recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate."
Mulva said the company was allocating "significantly more resources" to help develop alternative and renewable sources of energy and was committed to reducing emissions at its own plants.
ConocoPhillips, the third largest U.S. oil company, has said it will spend $150 million this year on the research and development of new energy sources and technologies — a 50 percent increase in spending from 2006.
On Tuesday, the company said it would give Iowa State University $22.5 million over eight years to develop new biofuel technologies that reduce CO2 emissions.
Shift since January
Mulva said the company has followed the climate change debate for several years, though the call for mandatory limits on greenhouse gases is an abrupt departure from his views on the issue as recently as January.
In an interview at the time, Mulva acknowledged that all types of efficient energy sources were needed, but said market forces and consumer preferences, not federal mandates, should determine how they're used.
"We believe very strongly the best way of meeting those metrics is to determine what they are and then let the industry ... come up with the resources and plans to meet those, (rather) than have mandates saying specifically, 'You have to do it this way and that,'" he said at the time.
Now, he says ConocoPhillips believes a "mandatory national framework" is the most likely way to achieve meaningful impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, though he said it was too soon to say what type of caps should be imposed.
He said much of ConocoPhillips' focus was on finding ways to produce ethanol, an alternative already in use, and renewable diesel fuel more efficiently.
Mulva said the company was building the potential long-term costs of reducing emissions into its capital spending plans for each of its global projects and was developing internal targets for carbon emissions at its operations.
To that end, ConocoPhillips has committed to improving energy efficiency at its U.S. refineries by 10 percent by 2012.
Earlier industry push
In January, the CEOs of 10 major corporations, as part of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, said in their letter to Bush that the cornerstone of climate policy should be an economy-wide emissions cap-and-trade system.
Members of the group included chief executives of Alcoa Inc., DuPont Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. The executives said mandatory reductions of heat-trapping emissions can be imposed without economic harm and would lead to economic opportunities if done across the economy and with provisions to mitigate costs.
Many of the companies already have voluntarily moved to curb greenhouse emissions, they said. But the executives noted they don't believe voluntary efforts will suffice.
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