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ConocoPhillips CEO calls for balanced energy plan


By RICHARD S. DUNHAM Washington Bureau

Jan. 13, 2009, 10:58PM

PAT SULLIVAN Associated Press

Jim Mulva, head of ConocoPhillips.

WASHINGTON — ConocoPhillips Chief Executive James Mulva on Tuesday urged energy companies and environmentalists alike to make concessions so the United States can adopt a comprehensive, balanced energy policy.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Mulva urged Congress and the incoming Obama administration to move forward with a combination of increased domestic production, alternative energy sources, stepped-up conservation efforts and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Houston energy executive’s speech was a prelude to the release Thursday of a wide-ranging energy plan by a new coalition of industry and environmental players called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Mulva didn’t provide details of the group’s proposal. But he outlined a plan that calls for concessions by oil companies and green activists alike — a compromise designed to prod Washington to act.

“The train is leaving the station,” he said. “We think it’s very important as a provider of energy that we participate in this process.”

Greenhouse gas issue

Mulva said he has concluded that voluntary efforts by companies, cities and utilities are not enough. The plan to be released Thursday, he said, will call for “a mandatory national framework to slow, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Though he did not explicitly say so, he hinted that the group will propose some kind of cap-and-trade system that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions and let industries buy and sell emissions permits.

Congressional Democrats and the incoming Obama administration also support a cap-and-trade approach.

Others prefer a tax on carbon dioxide emissions rather than caps as a way to force emissions down.

Mulva said the Climate Action Partnership’s plans “are neither a one-sided, pro-industry approach nor a solely pro-environmental approach. They are balanced.”

Mulva conceded that the proposal will raise the cost of energy. But he said it is necessary for the long-term future of the U.S. economy and the global environment.

Diverse coalition

ConocoPhillips is the only domestic petroleum giant involved in the diverse coalition, which also includes General Electric, NRG Energy, Dow Chemical Co., the Environmental Defense Fund and others. Europe-based BP and Royal Dutch Shell are partners in the group, but Exxon Mobil Corp. and other U.S. producers have remained on the sidelines.

Indeed, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson last week endorsed a carbon tax instead of the cap-and-trade mechanism.

Mulva said Tuesday that a carbon tax is “another way of addressing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Both can work,” he said. “The devil is in how they are designed.”

Alternative sources

Mulva called for aggressive development of alternative energy sources and immediate conservation measures.

At the same time, Mulva pushed for increased exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and new exploration off the East and West U.S. coasts, which have been off-limits until recently, as well as development of shale and oil sands.

“Our economy requires readily available energy today — not just the promise of it 10 or 20 years from now,” Mulva said.

Changing priorities

He cautioned against re-imposing a ban on new offshore drilling, which he said would be “a mistake of historic proportions.”

Mulva conceded that energy and climate change, which topped vital issues just six months ago, have “taken a back seat” in Washington policy deliberations because of declining oil prices and the nation’s economic woes.

After his speech, he said it’s unlikely that Congress will get around to adopting a comprehensive energy plan this year.

“It may not be 2009,” he told reporters after his speech. “It may be 2010.”

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Tom Fowler contributed to this story from Houston.


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