CHICAGO -- As the United States continues to move toward legislative or regulatory action on climate change, Exelon Chairman and CEO John W. Rowe said Saturday that not all approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions are equal. In a keynote address at the MIT Energy Conference in Boston, Rowe emphasized that legislation that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions remains the best way to transition to a low-carbon future because of the environmental, economic, consumer and job creation benefits it delivers.
"We are moving inexorably toward a low-carbon society but in unproductive and uneconomic fits and starts," said Rowe. "Approaches that put a price on carbon emissions, such as cap-and-trade, remain the only solutions to our energy and climate challenges that give us cleaner, more secure energy while minimizing the costs to consumers and putting more people to work."
Rowe said legislation pricing carbon emissions is critical because it is the least expensive option for addressing climate change. The alternatives - piecemeal approaches such as renewable standards, subsidies, or regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency - don't provide the same benefits.
"EPA regulation is looming. There are 27 separate regulatory actions in seven major categories the EPA could take affecting the utility industry in the next seven years related to carbon and other pollutants," said Rowe. "Even if only half of them come to fruition, the impact on carbon-intensive forms of electricity will be significant. Make no mistake - we are acting on climate in one way or another, and we should do it in the cheapest way possible."
Carbon pricing methods such as cap-and-trade not only encourage low-carbon investments and can include protections to avoid sharp cost increases to consumers, but they also can create jobs.
"Harnessing the power of markets to find the most efficient solutions is how our economy has created jobs for decades," said Rowe. "And they aren't public works jobs that exist only as long as the subsidies flow - they are lasting jobs that will be here in the long-run."
Chicago-based Exelon, one of the nation's largest electric utilities, is not waiting for legislation or regulation to act. The company is actively addressing climate change through Exelon 2020, an environmental and business strategy to reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2020. In April 2009, Exelon announced that it had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 percent from 2001 to 2008.
Rowe is the electricity industry's longest-serving chief executive, with 26 years as a utility CEO. Rowe was among the first CEOs in the industry to focus on climate change, first testifying before Congress on the potential effects of carbon emissions in 1992. He currently serves as co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, and previously chaired the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Rowe's speech was part of the annual MIT Energy Conference that explores solutions for the world's most pressing energy challenges. Presenters included Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico); Susan Hockfield, president of MIT; and Nobua Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Rowe's prepared remarks are available on the Exelon Web site at: www.exeloncorp.com/aboutus/speakersbureau.