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Some In Corporate America Push Back On Trump's Climate Regulations Roll Back


Here in Washington this week, President Trump signed an order to start undoing some key climate change regulations. The president says they're hurting business.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The action I'm taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellas. It's been a long time.

SHAPIRO: Yet many companies have responded by saying they don't welcome this rollback. They want to reduce their impact on the climate. NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce is here to talk about the pushback from corporate America. Hey, Chris.


SHAPIRO: Who is not happy with this rollback, and why would they object?

JOYCE: A lot of companies basically have made a commitment saying, we see the writing on the wall, and we're invested in trying to be more climate friendly, reduce our carbon footprint. Notable among them this week was Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, who blogged internally in his company blog, look; we're totally committed to climate; please don't tell us we have to turn back the clock.

SHAPIRO: Well, also General Electric makes money off of renewable energy, right?

JOYCE: They make lots of money. They make turbines for a wind farm, specifically - also turbines for coal-fired power plants, I might add. But it's not just GE. I mean, yes, there are plenty of companies - solar manufacturers, wind manufacturers - that make money.

But in recent years, I mean there's just been this explosion of companies that - I mean I remember being in Kyoto in 1997, the first big climate treaty. There were no companies there except a few that didn't want the treaty. And you and I were in Paris - what? - in 2015. It was crawling with people from...

SHAPIRO: Right, at the climate summit there.

JOYCE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: I mean companies from Apple to Wal-Mart have made big commitments to reduce their carbon footprint.

JOYCE: Yeah, I mean these are people who make toothpaste. They make clothing. They make hiking boots. They make computers. And they want their customers to feel that they're engaged in something that's doing good for the climate. And there are some less obvious motivations. I mean a lot of companies have to hire new talent, and these are people coming out of college. A lot of these people are very committed to being green.

Also, companies have to deal internationally now. The international market is now very committed to climate responsibility, especially since Paris. So you know, you've got to sit down with these people and do business with them.

SHAPIRO: What specific steps do you see companies often taking?

JOYCE: One way to do it is to buy green energy, renewable energy for factories. You take Mars, for example. They run a chocolate factory down in Topeka, Kansas, that's a hundred percent wind. General Motors has a plant in Texas that runs on wind. The tech industry, Google and Apple - I mean they run big servers, and they're energy-hungry. They want renewable energy. So lots of them have even a hundred percent renewable-energy goals.

SHAPIRO: So these companies are saying it's not helpful for the federal government to roll back these federal regulations. What do they want to see from the government?

JOYCE: They want to see access to renewable energy. And the states are really the hot spot here. About 25 states have requirements for a minimum amount of renewable energy for their state. And so I mean there's even an index right now that's available - all 50 - rates all 50 states on how much renewable energy they have. You've got big fights going on in Ohio and Michigan with people lobbying, corporate lobbyists saying please give us more renewable energy.

SHAPIRO: So much of what President Trump said this week was directed at the fossil fuel industry when he signed this executive order. How do fossil fuel companies feel about this?

JOYCE: Publicly, you know, you hear from the American Petroleum Institute and the mining industry, and they say, we like it; we're good. This is - we've felt we've been unfairly singled out for criticism. Although, I'll tell you. I mean I've recently, for example, talked to an executive with a coal company in Wyoming, and he said, look; the writing's on the wall. We know that the world is headed toward a less carbon-intensive business environment, and we know we have to find a way to make energy less carbon-intensive, and help us do that.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Christopher Joyce, thanks.

JOYCE: Glad to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.