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Get ready for round 2

powerplant.jpgPop quiz. Who said the following:

We have to deal with greenhouse gases….the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who [can] say, ‘Let’s debate the science’?

Bonus question. Who said this:

If we had our druthers, we’d already have carbon legislation passed. Our viewpoint is that it’s going to happen. There’s scientific evidence of climate change.

If you guessed John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., and John L. Stowell, Duke Energy’s vice president for environmental policy, give yourself a big pat on the back. While certain politicians and confused segments of the public continue to fight a rearguard action against the consensus on climate change, the attitude in the energy industry is quietly coming around to one of cooperation and discussion.

The change in tone has come about because some form of legislation is now seen as inevitable, and energy companies want to have a hand in shaping the regulatory framework. More than anything, they want to avoid having to deal with the patchwork of state and regional laws that will spring up in the absence of strong federal leadership.

RGGI and the California greenhouse gas legislation were the writing on the wall, and the November election further accelerated the conversation. No one expects major legislation to pass anytime soon, but to a certain degree, the exact date doesn’t matter. The energy industry invests billions of dollars in infrastructure according to decades-long planning cycles. Those plans already anticipate some form of carbon regulation. The sooner energy executives know the details of that legislation, the better they can adjust to it.

The eventual legislation will likely involve some form of carbon caps and tradeable emissions quotas. Expect a titanic battle over the design of the market. The result will be an imperfect compromise that nevertheless represents a gigantic step forward in the global effort to combat climate change.

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