"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"Apparently, burgeoning state and local legislation is helping to provide the political impetus for this shift in position:
Hofmeister and other top energy company leaders, such as Duke Energy Corp.'s chief executive, James E. Rogers, back a proposal that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and allow firms to trade their quotas.
Paul M. Anderson, Duke Energy's chairman and a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, favors a tax on emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. His firm is the nation's third-largest burner of coal.
Exxon Mobil Corp., the highest-profile corporate skeptic about global warming, said in September that it was considering ending its funding of a think tank that has sought to cast doubts on climate change. And on Nov. 2, the company announced that it will contribute more than $1.25 million to a European Union study on how to store carbon dioxide in natural gas fields in the Norwegian North Sea, Algeria and Germany.
One reason companies are turning to Congress is to avert the multiplicity of regulations being drafted by various state governments. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a group of seven Northeastern states, is moving ahead with a proposed system that would set a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions, issue allowances to companies, and allow firms to trade those allowances to comply with regulations.A similar dynamic apparently contributed to the passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act when the auto industry decided that it would prefer preemptive federal regulations to piecemeal state regulations.
California is drawing up its program. Other states are also contemplating limits. Even the city of Boulder, Colo., has adopted its own plan -- a carbon tax based on electricity use. "We cannot deal with 50 different policies," said Shell's Hofmeister. "We need a national approach to greenhouse gases."
There certainly does seem to be a shift away from the position taken on the American Petroleum Institute website:
Oil and natural gas take us down the street and around the world. They warm and cool our homes and businesses. They provide the ingredients for medicines, fertilizers, fabrics, plastics and other products that make life safer, easier and better.
While we rely on them for most of our energy and will likely do so for years to come, emissions from their production and use may be helping to warm our planet by enhancing the natural greenhouse effect of the atmosphere. That’s why oil and gas companies are also working to reduce their greenhouse emissions.Note the "may be helping to warm our planet" -- just a theory, after all!