The making of 'the world's cleanest Third World country'

In an interview with the Financial Times, James Hackett, chairman and chief executive of independent oil and gas company Anadarko Petroleum (APC) said, "Washington's energy and environmental policy risks plunging the United States into an economic tailspin that could make it the world's cleanest Third World country."

Guess he won't be celebrating Earth Day with Al Gore, judging from his subsequent statement that, "The histrionic and maniacal focus on carbon dioxide is intellectually repugnant to me." But how does he really feel?

What exactly about the greening of Washington does Hackett have a problem with? Could it be the movement toward "cap and trade" legislation? Because, actually, now that you mention it, the The Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones have expressed doubts about such a system, as well.

Does he fear that oil companies, in particular his (which is also mine), will find their bottom lines squeezed? He (and I) may find less sympathy there, though investors would do well to recognize that they are in danger of losing one of the few steady performers in the current topsy turvy conditions. (See Chasing Value: Anadarko (APC) Q4 profits triple.) APC is up about 30 percent in 2009.

I think we should always question new government programs, especially ones that are not revenue neutral. A cynic (or outright grump like Hackett) might argue that Democrats are rubbing their hands together more about another source of revenue than the potential environmental improvement. And even a thoroughly temperate soul like yours truly grows increasingly concerned that government is too big now and getting bigger daily!

I think if I were running for office, I would promote a policy that every time we create a new law, we take one way.

Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value and Serious Money. Disclosure: I own shares of APC and options.


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