Barack Obama suffered a setback to his green energy agenda on Tuesday when three major corporations — including BP America — dropped out of a coalition of business groups and environmental organisations that had been pressing Congress to pass climate change legislation.

The defections by ConocoPhillips, America's third largest oil company, Caterpillar, which makes heavy equipment, and BP rob the U.S. Climate Action Partnership of three powerful voices for lobbying Congress to pass climate change law.

They also undercut Mr. Obama's efforts to cast his climate and energy agenda as a pro-business, job-creation plan. Only hours earlier, Mr. Obama and other cabinet officials had made a high-profile announcement that $8.3bn was being awarded in loan guarantees for a company building the first new nuclear reactors in America in nearly 30 years.

But the loan decision in favour of Southern Company, which was framed by the White House as a kick-start for new nuclear plants, was upstaged by the departure of the big three firms from the climate partnership. Officials from BP and ConocoPhillips said that the proposals before Congress for curbing greenhouse gas emissions did not do enough to recognise the importance of natural gas, and were too favourable to the coal industry. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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