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Under the direction of former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continued to roll back various Obama-era policies as 2017 wound to a close. Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics Eric Orts, director of the school’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, and Daniel Kammen, founding director of the University of California Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111 to discuss the direction the U.S. is heading regarding environmental protection and conservation, and whether recent policy changes put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage to those in countries that support environmentally friendly policies and renewable resources.
Under the current policy regime, leadership on environmental issues has now shifted from the federal to the state level, Orts pointed out. Moving forward, we’re likely to see “businesses who are not the direct beneficiaries [of these policy changes] like oil and gas companies pick up the ball.” For example, big players like Amazon — which one study says garnered 4% of total U.S. retail sales in 2017 — could step up to the plate and take sustainability more seriously, Orts suggested.
Meanwhile, with the global clean energy boom, businesses are poised to capitalize on a huge opportunity, Kammen noted. “The clean energy push is producing energy cheaper than any of the fossil fuel options today. There really is a huge economic upside that the federal government has abdicated. It’s a shame they are ceding these business opportunities and jobs to other countries and states around the world, [because of] their disinterest in what is the future.”
The Knowledge@Wharton show airs Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 12 noon EST on SiriusXM channel 111.