An emerging theme at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics energy conference is that a lack of action by the U.S. government on climate change legislation creates uncertainty for utilities to embark on major, long-term investments.
Skepticism has been frequently expressed at the conference in Santa Barbara, Calif., that Congress and the administration will be able this year to pass legislation that essentially sets a price for carbon emissions.
Michael G. Morris, chairman and chief executive of American Electric Power, which he described as the largest coal burner in the U.S., supported the notion of a carbon price set by the government as it would allow businesses to “be better about your planning,” he said.
“The more uncertainty that can get sorted out, the more willing” companies will be to make big, long-term investments, said Lewis Hay III, chairman and chief executive of FPL Group.
“Some sort of price signal” about carbon is needed for investment certainty, said Tom Albanese, chief executive of Rio Tinto. He said his “preferred view” is a cap and trade system, as opposed to a carbon tax.