Waxing on Waxman-Markey

Canadian CEOs share their thoughts on a proposed American energy bill.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Cap-and-trade could be coming to the U.S. In late June the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade Bill (officially known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act), though it still has to be approved by the Senate, where it’s expected to meet some resistance. The bill could have a major impact on the Canadian economy, particularly oilsands production. Canadian CEOs expressed enthusiasm for some aspects of the legislation in a recent poll by COMPAS Inc, but had concerns about other provisions.

The 100 business leaders who responded to the poll are most supportive of the bill’s commitment to improved energy efficiency in industrial equipment, motors, lighting and appliances. Only 4% disagree with the merits of the proposal. Similarly, a majority of respondents is firmly in support of updated insulation standards for new buildings, and incentives for renewable energy. “I believe that we only need incentives to lower the capital cost of building renewable energy sources, and after that the market will take of those who continue to use more expensive fuels,” wrote one CEO.

But the respondents were divided on a few other issues, such as implementing tariffs on imports from countries that are deemed to not be doing enough to reduce emissions. “It is not the role of the U.S. to police the environmental activities of the 199 countries,” wrote one respondent. “There is far too much work for them to do at home first before the can be concerned about what others are doing.” (President Barack Obama has recently urged caution in regard to tariffs.)

Another provision to reduce emissions to 17% of 2005 levels by 2050 received the support of 45% of the respondents, while 22% opposed it. The rest either didn’t know how they felt about the proposal, or were on the fence. They were also split on the idea of developing a national strategy to boost carbon capture and storage—technology the Canadian government is enthusiastic about, as well.

But there still could be changes to the bill if and when it becomes law, as one respondent pointed out: “I wonder what it will look like when it gets out of the Senate.”