Obama to CEOs: A Carbon Cap is Good for You

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Barack Obama made a business case for cap-and-trade to CEOs on Wednesday, arguing that cutting carbon pollution is necessary for the future of American companies.

“A competitive America is also an America that finally has a smart energy policy,” Obama told the 100 corporate leaders gathered at the Business Roundtable, noting that he will “not accept second place for the United States of America” when it comes to energy. The roundtable’s executive board include a number of CEOs of companies key in the climate fight, like Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil., Michael Morris of American Electric Power, and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric.

Obama reaffirmed the need for a cap and price on carbon, noting that “many businesses have embraced this approach.” “I am sympathetic to those companies that face significant transition costs, and I want to work with organizations like this to help with those costs and get our policies right,” he said.

But failure to act, he said, would present more uncertainty for businesses:

What we can’t do is stand still. The only certainty of the status quo is that the price and supply of oil will become increasingly volatile; that the use of fossil fuels will wreak havoc on weather patterns and air quality. But if we decide now that we’re putting a price on this pollution in a few years, it will give businesses the certainty of knowing they have time to plan and transition. This country has to move towards a clean energy economy. That’s where the world is going. And that’s how America will remain competitive and strong in the 21st century.

There has been some concern of late that the White House might not be backing off calls for a carbon cap, but Obama has made a point of reemphasizing his support for it in recent weeks. He also called on Senate Democrats to keep it a cap in legislation.

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