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Oil company vows to cut greenhouse gases

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KAI RYSSDAL: ConocoPhillips is this country’s second-largest oil refiner. It’s part of an industry that’s been remarkably cohesive when it comes to public policy. But Conoco has stepped out alone today. While other big oil companies have supported voluntary steps to control global warming, Pat Loeb reports ConocoPhillips announced today it’s serious.

PAT LOEB: Conoco’s climate change policy includes improving energy efficiency at its facilities, investing in alternative fuels, and anticipating paying for carbon emissions in the future.

Most significantly, today it announced it’s joining the Climate Action Partnership. That’s a group of major businesses lobbying for mandatory caps on emissions.

London-based BP oil is already a member, but Conoco spokesman Bill Tanner says Conoco is the first U.S. oil company to join.

BILL TANNER: We want to be involved in a public policy discussion on what is the best and most efficient path forward from here.

Conoco’s announcement was roundly applauded by environmental groups. Trillium, a firm that specializes in socially responsible investment, had been critical of Conoco for failing to invest in zero-carbon fuels.

But Trillium’s Shelley Alpern says today’s announcement is a positive turn-around.

SHELLEY ALPERN: What’s changed in recent months is that the old strategy was for big oil just to fight a climate change bill tooth and nail. But now everybody wants to weigh in on how it’s going to be written.

But, Alpern says, having big oil at the table to work on emissions caps could be a double-edged sword.

SHELLEY ALPERN: We’re not going to see any legislation until industry gets involved in writing it. But we can’t let industry dominate the content of any climate change bill that comes out.

Many energy analysts and environmentalists predict that other U.S. companies will follow Conoco’s lead, if only because they don’t want to be left out as new regulations are debated.

I’m Pat Loeb for Marketplace

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