ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva called on fellow energy executives last week to embrace climate change policies because federal legislation “may be just a year or two away.” And the United States, he said, has to take a more active role worldwide to build a consensus.

Speaking at Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ CERAWeek 2008 in Houston, Mulva told a packed luncheon audience Tuesday that climate change is a priority for the country, and “the train is leaving the station without the industry onboard…Why should we care? Because we have a responsibility to provide sustainable energy…and rising concerns over climate change are likely to seriously constrain our ability to do so.”

With Mulva at the helm, ConocoPhillips was the first major to back mandatory caps on carbon emissions (see NGI, April 16, 2007). Now he is urging the country’s industries as a whole to become more progressive to meet international norms on climate change.

“If the country continues opposing the growing worldwide desire to take action, it risks a further loss of geopolitical influence,” Mulva said. “This would cause incalculable damage to efforts to fight terrorism, encourage trade and so forth.”

Mulva offered a series of high-level goals for his peers and for the U.S. government. Among other things, he called on the energy industry to promote energy conservation within its operations and to continue to develop technology to promote carbon sequestration. And the federal government has to strive for national solutions, rather than individual state responses.

“The U.S. needs a strong, consistent and mandatory national framework to manage carbon emissions…one that is unencumbered by diverging state and regional initiatives. Without this framework, rising public concern over climate change threatens our energy security by contributing to further access restrictions.”

Pressure to become more actively involved will grow as the energy industry looks to tap more unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil and gas shale and oilsands — which will also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

“These are higher on the carbon-intensity curve, which adds to climate concerns,” and these “concerns” would waylay development plans now under way. “The consequence could be even further restrictions on access and the spiral downward would accelerate.”

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