GE Faces the Inevitable

Thu May 12, 2005 6:48 PM EDT

As reported in Greenwire (sub. only), some energy companies are now beginning to realize that there's money to made by increasing the efficiency of their utilities and reducing their carbon-dioxide emissions. General Electric—without even being spurred on by any sort of environmental law—has just announced plans to reduce emissions by 1 percent over the next seven years, and increase its energy efficiency by 30 percent. Their company claims that their emissions would otherwise grow 40 to 45 percent during that time. GE also plans to double its investment in and sales of new environmental technology. It's a substantial shift from a major and highly visible corporation.

Does this mean that the energy industry believes that global warming is inevitable and wants to avert that fact? Not quite. As we noted a few weeks ago, many investor groups and CEOs in the United States feel that it's just a matter of time before new emissions restrictions get put in place anyway. The Kyoto Protocol has already had a major impact on carbon trading in Europe, and in all likelihood, something similar can't be too far off here in America. Indeed, the behavior of GE suggests that some companies believe—whether or not climate change is occurring—that voluntarily preparing for new environmental laws may prove more profitable than resisting the regulation when it finally emerges.

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