Two weeks ago, BP America, Caterpillar Inc. and ConocoPhillips decided not to renew their membership in the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), an alliance of major businesses and environmental groups calling for federal regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, there have been some wild assertions about the health of the movement for clean energy in America. A lot of people are looking at this like tea leaves, and trying to figure out what it means, so here's my reading.
Businesses in America are realizing that a clean energy economy is no longer a dream or a goal - it is a requirement. Businesses have a choice between obstinately clinging to the fossil economy (already dead) or reading the writing on the wall and getting behind the clean energy movement. Thousands of businesses and organizations across the country get it:
- American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE), a group of large and small businesses that want Congress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; It already has over 2,400 companies -- all of whom joined ABCE in less than four months.
- More than 80 groups signed onto the recent USCAP Ad in the Wall Street Journal.
- We Can Lead, a group of more than 150 companies continues to gain ground advocating for policies that will generate an estimates 1.7 million good, American jobs.
This is the first time in world history that an international alliance of businesses and conservation groups have joined forces to address a planetary issue, and the support it has garnered is beyond anyone's expectations.
So does the loss of a few stuck to the status-quo mean that global enthusiasm to reduce carbon emissions is waning? Hardly.
On the one hand, with any coalition, let alone one as diverse as USCAP -- which includes environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Nature Conservancy as well as Shell Oil and Duke Energy -- there are bound to be difference of opinion and different priorities. Through education, negotiation and compromise, these differences get ironed out as members realize where their true priorities are and what they're willing to give up or wait for. You'll win some battles and you'll lose some, but by doing this, the key priorities of the coalition as a whole begin to emerge.
On the other hand, ConocoPhillips and cronies justified leaving the coalition with dubious, nit-picky excuses that range from complaining that more wasn't done for natural gas, to the ridiculous claim that USCAP had served its purpose and it was time for everyone to go their separate ways. Please.
If those three are so obsessed with their market share that they can't see that they are woolly mammoths sinking in a tar pit, then I suppose school children will study them someday long after they go extinct.
As this process comes closer to a finish line, it's only natural to find that some feel that they are being asked to compromise, while others may feel they are asking for more than they can get. The game we are playing here is one where winning means economic prosperity and losing means more of what we've seen for the past two years or worse. If your quarterly results matter more than that, the sensible thing to do is to agree to disagree and amicably part ways. While it's unfortunate to part ways with a partner, in a case like this hardly a tragedy.
I believe we are about to enter the last phase of this journey to revitalize our economy with a commitment to sustainable energy and the creation of millions of good jobs here in the US. And I'm excited to see who will be joining us. After all, America is known for its ingenuity and its innovative companies.