March 13, 2008 / 4:47 AM / in 10 years

GE CEO says U.S. moving too slowly on clean energy

GOLETA, California (Reuters) - The United States is in danger of falling behind other nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions if both the federal government and Corporate America do not move quickly to support sources of clean energy, General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said on Wednesday.

During an appearance at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Goleta, California, Immelt said he doesn’t understand critics of government tax credits for renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.

“For some reason we decide that energy is the one industry in the world where the only policy should be the price of a barrel of oil,” Immelt said, adding that GE could always sell its products overseas if they aren’t purchased here.

“If the U.S. isn’t buying my wind turbines, there is going to be 8,000 megawatts (MW) installed in Turkey,” he said. “I’ll go there.”

GE’s ecomagination business sells a range of “green” products including solar-powered lighting, a hybrid locomotive, wind turbines and water purification systems. Earlier on Wednesday, Immelt said in a letter to shareholders that ecomagination would top $20 billion in annual revenue by 2009, a year earlier than its prior forecast.

Immelt has long argued that “green is green” -- meaning that GE is in the environmental business because it can bring in serious money.

Dressed in a light green blazer, Immelt echoed those thoughts on Wednesday and defended GE’s green strategy against critics in the audience who suggested the market for cleaner, more energy-efficient products, could be a fad.

“For some strange, odd, incredibly insane, terrible horrible reason, I‘m going to sell $10 bln of wind turbines in 2010,” Immelt said, adding that he would sell them in China, Mexico and Turkey if they weren’t wanted by the United States.

“I don’t know why an anti-technology, stick-your-head-in-the-sand approach is applauded by anybody,” Immelt said.

Immelt also defended GE’s membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), saying he wanted to have a role in determining environmental legislation rather than have it “pushed down my throat” down the road.

USCAP, which includes environmental groups, utilities, and manufacturers, has called for a market-based emissions trading system and a nationwide limit on carbon dioxide emissions that would lead to reductions of 10 percent to 30 percent over the next 15 years.

To achieve those goals, Immelt said the United States needed to pursue the development of a range of energy sources, including building new nuclear power plants and implementing so-called “clean coal” technology.

“Coal gasificiation and nuclear are like going to the Superbowl, with all these people watching, and the teams never leave the locker room,” he said. “We’ve got to be doing nuclear, we’ve got to have cleaner gas, we’ve got to have conservation. We’ve got to have all those things or you are not going to have any progress.”

Reporting by Nichola Groom

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