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CEO DATELINE – Business groups greet ‘Green New Deal’ with silence, skepticism

Feb. 8, 2018
By Walt Williams

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A proposal by several congressional Democrats to incentivize renewable energy and combat climate change was met mostly with silence by associations representing the energy sector, although two groups representing businesses and ranchers issued statements criticizing the idea.

The “Green New Deal” championed by progressive Democrats calls for major government investments in renewable energy technology and the implementation of policies that lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation released Thursday was light on details, but it outlined what supporters said was a path to a clean energy future.

The proposal appears unlikely to make much traction in the current Congress. Senate Republicans have shown little interest and even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared to dismiss what she mislabeled the “green dream” when asked about it by reporters.

Two groups representing renewable energy producers—the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association—hadn’t issued statements about the Green New Deal as of Friday morning. The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement to the news site Breitbart noting that the growing use of natural gas for electricity generation has helped reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

“Congress’ goal must be to balance meeting record consumer energy demand reliably and affordably for every American family while enabling environmental progress and API will evaluate and support proposals that strike this necessary balance,” API said.

The Nuclear Energy Institute released a statement commending efforts to reduce greenhouse house gas emissions even though the bill’s supporters appear divided on whether nuclear power should be part of the clean energy future they are seeking.

“Any approach to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions requires all clean energy technologies, including nuclear, to work together to address that urgent problem,” NEI CEO Maria Korsnick said.

"There is a growing consensus among climate advocates, including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The Nature Conservancy, and even The Union of Concerned Scientists, that any climate solution must include nuclear energy,” she added. “Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said this week that the notion of achieving a grid composed of 100 percent renewables by 2050 is ‘not realistic.’”

The legislation failed to impress the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a statement, Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said the proposal relies too much on government control, “passing along the enormous costs and bureaucratic inefficiencies to everyday Americans.” He instead advocated for a free market approach in addressing climate change and other policy challenges.

“This is the approach that built our nation and made us a land of opportunity for all, in stark contrast to failed socialist policies that have plagued many other countries over time,” Bradley said.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also had a beef with the bill. Methane from cattle contributes to climate change, so proposals for combating the problem often include reducing this emission source. The biggest problem with proposals like the Green New Deal is they lack specifics, Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. His group has drafted six “cost/benefit principles” that should be considered before any climate change policy is put in place, such has how much it will cost.

“Seems like anyone who is proposing billions or trillions of dollars’ worth of policy changes should be happy to answer those questions. Yet for some reason, few currently are,” Woodall said.