Energy executives discuss global warming with Turner, Wirth

Energy executives met in a Feb. 7 roundtable discussion with billionaire businessman Ted Turner and Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and former US senator from Colorado, to discuss global warming.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Feb. 8 -- Energy executives met in a Feb. 7 roundtable discussion with billionaire businessman Ted Turner and Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and former US senator from Colorado, to discuss global warming.

"What interests me is watching the behavior of the large oil companies," Wirth said. "They are moving in the right direction," he told reporters at a news conference after he and Turner addressed a Houston World Affairs Council luncheon.

The United Nations Foundation was formed after Turner donated $1 billion in 1997 to support UN causes and to help address key global challenges

BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Marathon Oil Corp., and ConocoPhillips executives were among 25 people who attended a roundtable meeting with Turner and Wirth before the luncheon discussion, moderated by investment banker Matt Simons, chairman of Simmons & Co. International.

Wirth said the message from energy executives during the roundtable meeting was that the government needs to "get the rules right [on greenhouse gas emissions] and then let us go." Simmons noted what he called "50 years of energy mistakes" under eight presidents.

Momentum is building for worldwide support to cap greenhouse gas emissions, Wirth said, particularly carbon dioxide. He said the environmental movement "has dramatically matured" since the Clean Air Act was implemented during the 1990s.

"I wish that were the case with the political environment today," Wirth said, adding that it's "going to be hard" to reach a consensus in the US Congress. "We have to break down some old thinking on Capitol Hill."

The major greenhouse-gas negotiation globally will be about which countries get the right to pollute and what volumes of pollution from which countries will be acceptable, Wirth said.

Turner's fuels
Turner said the private sector can help the government, and he predicted that clean renewable energy "is going to make a fortune." He said: "The day of fossil fuels as a fuel are over. It's just a matter of how soon everybody recognizes it. We only have one atmosphere."

Saying his favorite forms of alternative energy are solar and wind, Turner told reporters that he recently invested "millions" of dollars in DT Solar, formerly Dome-Tech Solar, of Branchburg, NJ.

"I think dealing with climate change is going to be the biggest single challenge humanity has ever faced, and we're facing it now," Turner said. "I'd rather have a nuclear plant than a new coal plant the way they are now."

He and Wirth called for advances in CO2 sequestration.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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