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Energy

Cap-and-trade key to US energy reform - Exelon CEO

* Says pending EPA regs risk a “train wreck”

* Cap-and-trade system termed only workable policy

BOSTON, March 6 (Reuters) - U.S. energy reform has stalled now that the Democrats have lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Republicans drift to a more negative position, a top industry executive said on Saturday.

"What I see is a series of disjointed, piecemeal approaches that will not yield the optimal solution," Exelon Corp EXC.N Chairman John Rowe said in remarks prepared for a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax are the only policy frameworks that could achieve each of the four desired outcomes from energy reform -- cleaner energy, greater security, job creation, and the lowest cost, Rowe said.

“The odds of Congress passing cap-and-trade legislation this year are slim. ... But I believe that we will keep coming back to some kind of legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions as the most efficient answer.”

Chicago-based Exelon is one of the largest U.S. electric utilities.

Rowe warned about the cost and confusion from a jumble of regulatory actions pending from the Environmental Protection Agency on gases blamed for warming the planet.

He showed the audience a color-coded slide of 27 pending actions in seven major areas that the EPA expects to take over the next seven years.

“Some of my colleagues in the industry have taken to calling this the ‘train wreck’ chart,” he said.

“You can think of each of the seven colors on this chart as a car on the train -- and each one could cost the utility industry billions to implement.

The regulations could ultimately force a move away from carbon-intensive, coal-fired electricity generation, if only because of their cost, Rowe said.

“We are moving inexorably toward a low-carbon society, but in unproductive and uneconomic fits and starts.”

Ultimately, only legislation that places a price on carbon emissions “will efficiently encourage low-carbon investments and discourage high-carbon investments,” said Rowe.

Cap-and-trade legislation would not be the job killer that opponents suggest, but instead could lay the groundwork for lasting jobs creation, Rowe said.

“If the train wreck scenario plays out, the only jobs created will be those for attorneys.”

Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Richard Chang

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