As the Senate begins to move climate legislation, how influential will the business community be in shaping the policy? During today's OnPoint, John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of leading U.S. companies, discusses a new set of recommendations for Congress on climate. Castellani explains how his organization has been engaging with the White House on the legislation and gives his take on controversy surrounding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's stance on climate policy.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable. John, thanks for coming on the show.
John Castellani: You're welcome, thank you for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: John, the Business Roundtable recently released a set of recommendations for Congress on climate legislation, in particular you call for all energy sources to be put on the table. At this point, legislation has cleared Senate EPW. How does the current legislation compare to your organization's recommendations?
John Castellani: Well, it falls short in a few ways, in some ways it meets what we were recommending. Where it falls short and really what we were talking about is that irrespective of the regime that the Congress is going to decide on, on how we're going to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, in order to get there in a way that maximizes the reduction of greenhouse gases and minimizes the impact on the economy we're going to have to rely on a very wide and diverse set of technologies and sources if we're going to do it in a way that keeps the economy going. So, what we recommended is that they go back and focus on those things that need to be done no matter what path they take. We have to emphasize more in energy efficiency. We can get a lot more near term out of being smarter about the way we use energy in our commercial buildings, in our homes, particularly in our transportation systems. We need to do more about coal technologies, particularly coal carbon capture and sequestration. That's going to take a long time and a lot of money. We need to start that investment now and get more than just the one demonstration project that is currently planned. We need more nuclear. It's 20 percent of what we have now generating our electricity. It is the ultimate clean energy source. Let's get a process so we can get plants permitted in a faster and efficient basis and get them online. We're going to need a smart grid. We're talking about diverse technologies that are geographically diverse. We have to tie them into our electrical grid and we're going to have to use oil and natural gas, domestic oil and natural gas, for the foreseeable future if we're going to meet the kinds of goals that we're going to be setting for ourselves.
Monica Trauzzi: But to those meet the environment of goals that a cap and trade is trying to achieve?
John Castellani: We think they do. I mean the emphasis is going to have to be on both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the economy going. We think that in the near term we're going to have to rely on oil and natural gas. There's more available for us domestically. We can get it in a clean way. It's 90 percent of what we use now. It's going to be a lot for the future, but for the future we're going to have to bring the technologies that are going to be in different sources online at a much faster rate if we're going to meet the kinds of objectives that are either in the House or Senate bills.
Monica Trauzzi: I want to touch on the nuclear portion of your recommendations. Are you encouraged by the increasing support that we're seeing for nuclear on the Senate side and how far do you think the language actually needs to go in the final legislation?
John Castellani: Well, we are encouraged. I mean it was not there in the beginning. It's certainly not there as part of the House bill. Now we see Senator Boxer starting to talk more favorably about nuclear. Senators Kerry and Graham, as they're putting together their bill, are recognizing what I think everybody recognizes and that is we have a technology that is very, very benign when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. And that technology is being used everywhere else in the world. You see it in France, you see it in Japan and we're losing our infrastructure to be able to build and operate nuclear power plants. So, we've got to expedite the licensing process. We've got to take the funding process out of the Department of Energy and put it into a separate entity. We've got to make sure that that funding is done quickly and we've got to get the construction underway. And so those are the kinds of things that are beginning to be addressed and we're heartened by that.
Monica Trauzzi: Let's talk about the process for a moment. Republicans boycotted the Senate EPW markup of the climate bill this week. Democrats bypassed Republicans, passed the bill out of committee. What's your take on the political process on the legislation up until this point?
John Castellani: Well, it's unfortunate that it's being done in a partisan way, but that kind of reflects the times we're in right now. We take very good heart, I think, with looking at what's going on parallel to this. Senators Kerry and Graham, working on a bipartisan basis, are now starting to form, I think, the beginnings of a path to getting where we need to be that could be bipartisan and could accomplish what we want, but do it in a way that brings in all of the diverse elements that we think are necessary.
Monica Trauzzi: The White House has been reaching out to the business community on climate change.
John Castellani: They have.
Monica Trauzzi: In particular, they've tried to engage the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your organization as well. How are you working with the White House on this issue?
John Castellani: Well, we're providing them with the expertise the chief executive officers who run the companies that are going to be using or developing these technologies have. What we have done is taken that expertise, done a very comprehensive look at each one of the technologies, tested how they could be brought online, how soon, what it would cost and what would be the impact on both the economy as well as on carbon emissions. And we have given and shared that expertise with the administration as we have with Congress. And what we know is that if you rely on the full set, the full palette of what's available, you can achieve the kinds of carbon reductions that we want to achieve as a nation, we need to achieve as a world, and minimize the impact on the economy. So we're stressing that, that there is no one solution to the dilemma that we're facing, to the challenge that we're facing, that it really is a multiple of solutions that we have to engage here.
Monica Trauzzi: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has recently come under fire for its stance on climate change legislation. What's your take on the growing number of businesses that have left the chamber because of this position that they have?
John Castellani: Well, the chamber is a very fine organization and, you know, all of that is, quite frankly, a distraction from the real challenge that we have is how do we get this right? At the Business Roundtable we have, for many years, collectively realized that global climate change, global warming is real. It's in part man-made and we need a regulatory system to try to deal with it. Now, there is a diversity of view among our members about whether a carbon tax is the right approach or a cap and trade is the right approach. But what we've decided to do is while we continue to debate that, contribute to the debate in Congress and within the administration by providing our expertise of what works and what doesn't work. It's unfortunate that we can't tap all of the resources. I hope we're getting back to the point where we have the chamber's voice in this debate. It's very, very important. Our voice has been there. It will continue to be there.
Monica Trauzzi: OK, we'll end it right there.
John Castellani: OK.
Monica Trauzzi: Thank you for coming on the show.
John Castellani: You're welcome, thank you for having me.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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