Sunday, February 6, 2011

John Engler takes helm of CEO group pitching energy efficiency, addressing climate change: Is the world spinning off its axis?

Gov. John Engler
As governor of Michigan from 1991-2003, John Engler won few fans in the environmental community. Under his tenure enforcement of environmental laws was anemic, citizen input into natural resource decisions was squelched and important programs to protect citizens and resources were eliminated.

Michigan’s energy efficiency programs were among the casualties of Engler-era cuts. It was a penny-wise and pound-foolish move. Every dollar spent on efficiency programs typically results in $3 saved by businesses or homeowners on their utility bills. Many millions of dollars in unnecessarily high bills have been shelled out by Michiganders over the intervening decades – mostly to out-of-state coal companies – as a result.

Engler most recently was CEO and President of the Washington D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. Environmentalists said, “well, that figures.” The NAM has never seen an environmental rule or regulation that it’s not willing to bury with an army of lobbyists and a slew of campaign contributions. Even NAM member Duke Energy, which operates coal power plants, quit the group in 2009 partly because of NAM’s Neanderthal-like position on climate change.

In January, Engler changed jobs, becoming President of the Business Roundtable (BRT), an association of the CEOs of the nation’s top companies – firms with a collective $6 trillion in revenue and 12 million employees.

“Well, that figures again, right”? You’re damn straight. I mean right there on the Business Roundtable web site you can find reprehensible positions like…….like…..wait , what the....? 

Under the “energy” tab of BRT’s Sustainable Growth section there’s this: “Business Roundtable members have committed to aggressive energy efficiency programs and recognize the important role of energy savings in improving the bottom line. We encourage the development of policies that promote significant energy efficiency increases in our residential and commercial buildings and encourage improvements in the efficiency in industrial processes.”

Does Gov. Engler know about this? Hmmm…maybe he figured it was a bone to toss the public while the BRT pursued its ultimate mission of crushing attempts to regulate carbon pollution. So, back to the  Sustainable Growth page we go and find..….oh my! “Business Roundtable was the first broad-based business group to agree on the need to address climate change through collective action, and we remain committed to limiting GHG emissions and setting our nation on a more sustainable path. The environmental and energy challenges facing the world are serious obstacles to economic growth and can only be managed by thoughtful and far-sighted government policies and business strategies. Threats to water quality and quantity, rising greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of climate change – along with increasing energy prices and growing demand – are of great concern.”

There’s more of this tree hugger stuff sprinkled throughout the site, including video of the member CEO’s talking about sustainability and talk about the tremendous potential for new clean energy technologies to create economic growth.

Maybe it’s all greenwashing. Maybe Engler is actually intends to banish such socialist babble from the BRT’s platforms. Maybe the wisdom of old age and hindsight have changed the man’s views. And maybe this notice listing Engler as a speaker at something called the Great Energy Efficiency Day on Capitol Hill is some kind of bizarre hoax.

In any event, it will be interesting to see if the former governor changes his tune on key energy issues during the next few years. And if he does, if Michigan’s environmental community will warm up to him, at least a little?

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