GE’s Immelt Calls for Long-Term U.S. Energy Policy

The U.S. needs a national energy policy that puts a long-term price on carbon pollution as China and other nations surge ahead in green technology, General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said.

“China is green, green, green, green -- four greens,” Immelt said today during a presentation with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman at the Gridwise Global Forum in Washington. He cited demand, innovation funding, supply chain and public policy as advantages for China over the U.S.

Immelt helps lead the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of companies backing stalled legislation that would establish a cap-and-trade system based on carbon-emission credits. He has urged new laws in part so that manufacturers can build to uniform specifications. The failure to set new rules promoting “clean” technologies puts the U.S. at risk, he said.

“You actually have to have an energy policy,” Immelt said. “It’s stupid what we have today.”

China and industrialized counties such as Canada are pulling ahead of the U.S. in the race to lead in clean energy because policy makers in Washington have been caught up in debates on issues such as the effects of climate change, Immelt said.

“The rest of the world is moving 10 times faster than we are, and that’s going to mean someday fewer jobs, it’s going to mean less energy security, it’s going to mean lots of other things other than just climate change,” he said.

Efforts to pass legislation limiting carbon-dioxide emissions collapsed in the Senate, and Democratic leaders say they have no plans to take on the issue this year.

EPA’s Efforts

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving to impose less stringent carbon limits over the objections of lawmakers seeking to bar it from acting and companies challenging the agency’s authority in lawsuits. Immelt, who also called for a national standard requiring the use of renewable energy, said GE won’t give up on pushing to change U.S. energy policy.

“This is just not the jihadist debate that people are making it out to be,” he said.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, is the world’s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, jet engines, locomotives and medical-imaging machines. GE power-generation equipment provides one-third of the world’s electricity.

The U.S. needs to establish a “long-term price signal” on carbon emissions, in order for companies to provide “appropriate funding for innovation” regardless of fuel, as well as revive nuclear energy. Such moves would create jobs rather than shift them overseas, Immelt said today.

‘Nuclear Renaissance’

“I personally believe there should be a nuclear renaissance in this country,” he said.

The GE Energy Infrastructure division includes gas, wind, steam, nuclear, smart-meters and transmission equipment as well as oil-and-gas exploration machinery.

In July, GE called for entries in a 10-week contest to speed updates of global power grids, promising investment and marketing help for the best submissions from a $200 million fund. The company is spending about $10 billion on environmentally friendly products by 2015 through Immelt’s five- year-old “ecomagination” program.

Other GE divisions include appliances, lighting, aircraft leasing, real estate, consumer finance and lending to small and mid-sized businesses.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Chipman in Washington at kchipman@bloomberg.net; Rachel Layne in Boston at rlayne@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at   or lliebert@bloomberg.net; Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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