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Corporate Leaders Discuss Challenges of a Low-Carbon World

Some of the biggest players in the corporate world gathered Thursday to discuss the intersection where business meets the environment for the Wall Street Journal's ECO:nomics conference in Goleta, California.

Speaker and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott spoke about the ways in which the company will engage its Chinese suppliers to help the retail behemoth reduce waste and emissions associated with its products, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, Wal-Mart wants to bring to China the same initiatives of reducing packaging and improving energy efficiency that were introduced in the U.S. The company wants its suppliers to reduce packaging 5 percent by 2013, and improve energy efficiency of its most intensive products by 25 percent in three years.

Lee reportedly told attendees, "We are not green." He acknowledged that the company's plans to reduce waste is about more than saving trees: It's to save money.

"It really is about how you take cost out, which is waste," Lee is quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal.

Members of the Rainforest Action Network reportedly infiltrated the conference to grill the president and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) on the company’s support of palm oil for use in ethanol production. Tropical rainforests are allegedly being deforested and supplanted with palm and soy oil plantations for biofuel production.

ADM’s Patricia Woertz remained unfazed, according to the Wall Street Journal, and even received a hand from a competitor who said, "It’s very easy to walk in with a placard when you have no responsibility for providing the energy of the world."

Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris told attendees his company was prepared for a "worse year economically than we had planned as recently as three months ago," Reuters reported. Duke Energy, too, is steeling itself for hard times in relation to impending climate change legislation, Dow Jones reported.

Duke CEO Jim Rogers said at the conference that the utility, which is the third largest coal consumer and the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country, is hoping for a cap-and-trade system that would give utilities the bulk of carbon emissions allowances, rather than auction them off.

If Duke were forced to buy the allowance at auction, its Indiana customers could see energy bills that were 60 percent higher, it said. The company is exploring the number of coal plants it will shut down and the number of clean coals plants it will have to construct to slash its carbon emissions by half by 2030.

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