/ industry insight

Energy, the Environment and Politics

Political and thought leadership is strongly divided between those who support energy development and those who want to protect the environment. And, more often than not, government stands in the gap, trying to choose a side and setting the rules of engagement. The debate, at times, can become heated, partisan and extreme.

GE's ecomagination initiative provides a platform whereby GE, its employees and its customers can play a meaningful role in this dialogue. GE’s record for producing advanced technology that helps mitigate environmental risks, gives the company the credentials to bring these two worlds together.

At the recent policy meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) in Washington, DC, GE proposed a resolution that favors the development and use of natural gas. It articulated reasons why natural gas is good for America and promoted environmental sustainability, best development practices and the use of best available technology. The jobs, economic development, and energy security implications of the shale revolution also were highlighted. The initial draft received favorable reviews from Republican NLGA members. The view from the Democratic side, however, was less enthusiastic. One member, for instance, indicated that stronger environmental protection was needed before passage could occur. The proper role of government in the regulatory arena also was of primary concern.

How do you bring the concept of the states' rightful role in regulating development within their jurisdictions into a common framework that incorporates a competing view that the nation’s environment is a legitimate Federal government concern? More importantly for GE, how do we convene this debate and yield a meaningful outcome without creating additional concern among our customers, who may see government involvement as an impediment to development?  

Our technological leadership and ecomagination success served as the bridge that enabled the two sides to find common ground. Over a period of three days, GE's Oil & Gas policy leader and staff of the Lt. Governors worked to strengthen environmental protection language, while not offending pro-development governors or industry stakeholders.  

In the end, the NLGA passed the GE-sponsored resolution with only one dissenting vote. The nation’s second-in-command chief executives are now on record supporting the development of natural gas from shale by encouraging proper protections for the environment, appropriate oversight by government, best exploration and development practices by industry, and development and use of advanced technology.