Target Green

Markey bemoans big business inertia

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, had some harsh words in his keynote address to the Target Green conference this morning about “Detroit” and the “energy industry.”

Though people under 30 by and large are greatly concerned about global warming and are pushing for a revolution in the way businesses, consumers, and people in everyday life use energy, the auto and energy industries are for the most part actively against implementation of new legislation that could effect change, such as rules to set average mileage per car at 35 MPH and mandates requiring utilities produce 15% of electricity through renewable sources by 2020, Markey said.

“But while Detroit is fighting it, there’s no denying that change is possible,” Markey said. “There is a lot of institutional inertia. A lot of companies are using their PR firms to fight change.”

Yet energy efficiency is in fact a marketing opportunity, said Markey, given that all the leaders on college campuses today are being very active in pushing for change. At the University of Florida, for instance, Markey said students pushed against the initial wishes of university officials to enact a small student fee to go toward creating a wind turbine, ultimately raising about $25,000.

“Increasingly [environmental activists are] going to be a larger and larger audience in our country,” Markey said. “I think the polling is so overwhelming that politicians are going to vote against that change at their peril.”

Plus, he noted, many energy efficient products, from cars to lightbulbs, have the false reputation of being virtuous but requiring financial sacrifice.

“Light bulbs that have five times the efficiency but cost twice as much — this is not a sacrifice,” and companies are starting to appreciate the marketing opportunities such products present, Markey concluded.

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