Why is the Chamber of Commerce a right-wing echo chamber when much of its Board supports a strong clean energy and climate bill?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a strong opponent of strong climate legislation.  Its business-as-usual policy plan has so little to say about the greatest threat to the health and welfare of Americans — and the greatest potential opportunity for U.S. businesses to become a leader in the clean energy industries of the future — that even the WSJ dissed it:  “So what does the Chamber of Commerce really want? More of the same, it seems.”  Yet, as explained in this recent Think Progress post, the vast majority of the major businesses on the Chamber’s board who have a publicly stated their position on climate legislation support strong action.  For more, see this NRDC post, “The U.S. Chamber Split Grows Wider: Now Local Chambers Are Going Their Own Way.”

ensign121Yesterday, President Obama sat down with members of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board to discuss the pending Waxman-Markey energy reform legislation. One of the advisers is James Owens, who is the CEO of Caterpillar and also a member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the right-wing trade group that has taken a hard-line approach against any energy reform that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When the President asked Owens if he saw a “competitive disadvantage” as a “big manufacturer” in dealing with energy reform, Owens said placing a cap on carbon would actually spur innovation:

OWENS: I agree with Jeff [Immelt, GE’s CEO, see full transcript here] I think we have the technology, we have the smarts here, and the product technologies, the economic incents of what’s needed. And that’s why I think of us in industry support a clarity around a carbon price, because that’s going to drive a lot of innovation and a lot of efficiency and will get with the program of reducing carbon emissions.

Owens continued laying out his support of clean energy legislation, noting most of Caterpillar’s renewable energy related products are currently sold “outside the United States”¦partly because of the way we regulate emissions site-specific, as opposed to looking at combined emissions and energy efficiency.” He also emphasized that giving the markets a price for carbon would “help our country be more competitive using the technologies that are out there.”

Owen’s increasingly outspoken tone comes at a time of tectonic shifts in the business community on clean energy. Currently, some of the most powerful traditional business trade groups “” the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers “” are devoting their efforts to “kill” clean energy reform legislation. But member corporations of these groups are at odds with this approach. The Natural Resources Defense Council conducted a study of the Chamber’s board members’ position on climate change legislation and found:

And out of the group of businesses that have publicly stated their positions, 19 favored federal action and only four opposed it. And three of those four are coal-mining companies.

Earlier this month, the utility company Duke Energy announced it would abandon its membership to the NAM over the trade group’s radical opposition to climate change legislation. When ThinkProgress asked NAM’s chief energy lobbyist about Duke Energy’s departure, NAM cowered and tried to hide its position. Similarly, member corporations such as Nike and Johnson and Johnson have applied pressure to the Chamber to drop its opposition to clean energy legislation.

With Caterpillar and other corporations calling for action on clean energy, the question becomes: will the NAM and other trade groups continue to lobby and fund ads opposing this legislation, or will member corporations find more relevant trade groups that will advance their interests in Washington?

10 Responses to Why is the Chamber of Commerce a right-wing echo chamber when much of its Board supports a strong clean energy and climate bill?

  1. Al says:

    The answer to the headline question is pretty obvious. They don’t want no government (pardon the double negative) telling them what to do. That overarching issue guides the thinking on most of the rest of issues. Secondarily, most corporations are risk adverse, especially if their money is on the line, and they would rather keep doing what their doing, without having to spend a bunch to change/upgrade things. And if gov’t wants to give them money to change from BAU, the less strings the better.

  2. Modesty says:

    This part was a bit confusing:

    MR. IMMELT: Mr. President, I think clean energy is the most exciting, fastest-growth industry of the 21st century. We’ve got about 70 energy-efficiency products, about $18 billion in revenue this year. We have 50,000 jobs between GE and our supply chain, lots of small- and medium-sized companies in this country and around the world.

    Technology is out there to be had. I think we have to have a broad aspiration to lead in technology. It includes what I call big base-load technologies, like coal gasification and nuclear; real advancement in renewables; technologies that drive efficiency like the smart grid. And it’s out there to be had. The leadership is out there to be had. This ought to be something that we aspire as a country to do.

    I think things that help that are actually a price for carbon and unleashing the technology that can be applied, as John, said, to energy. If you go back 50 years in this country, the amount that’s been spent in energy R&D is dwarfed by health care, NASA, other places. I think if we can take the ingenuity and the innovation of the United States, apply it to this technical revolution that’s going to be going on, give us certainty, give industries certainty around a price for carbon, or the rules of the world, I think we’re going to be surprised by how many great jobs this creates.

    I would say these 50,000 jobs in this brutal recession are the most robust jobs we have. We’re shipping products around the world. We ship about 150 heavy-duty gas turbines. Three will go to the U.S.; 147 go to the rest of the world. So this is actually —

    THE PRESIDENT: This is an area where we could develop a strong export market.

    MR. IMMELT: I think we have to think about it that way, Mr. President. We’ve got to move on. Other countries around the world are doing the same things. And there’s no reason why we should cede leadership to other people.

    THE PRESIDENT: How far behind are we technologically, though, in countries, John?

    MR. DOERR: I would say that innovation exists here. You know, Europe’s 10-percent renewables were at 2 or 3 percent. Other nations of the world, like China, Finland, France, are building nuclear power. We haven’t started yet. We’re doing the first whole-gas gasification plan in 25 years in Indiana. So the brains exist in this country. I think what we have to use is our domain to really build cost positions and competitiveness that can be globally competitive. But they’re the types of products, Mr. President, that we can build great export industries around.

    From the transcript you posted:

    When Obama comes in with the export thing…I didn’t see that as where Immelt was going.

    And Doerr responds to where we are with implementation, not with producing the technology for export….was that what Obama was asking about?

  3. Modesty says:

    Browner on W-M (from the transcript):

    “Waxman-Markey does include a renewables and efficiency standard. What they’ve done is they’ve blended it together; right now it’s a total of 20 percent renewables, up to 8 percent can come from efficiencies at least — so you could get 12 percent renewables and 8 percent efficiency. I think it’s a carefully crafted provision to the bill. We’ll see where it goes. And we look forward to that.”

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    Mainly, it’s because huge corporations like the traditionally Rockefeller dominated ExxonMobil and JPMorgan/Chase appear to covet the 10 trillion dollars worth of oil under our current Arctic icecap.

    The traditionally Rockefeller dominated Council on Foreign Relations continues to hype Arctic resources, and advocate a new cold war with Russia over Arctic resources :

    Russia’s Other Front

    Scott C. Borgerson, Visiting Fellow at the CFR

    President Bush is right to demand an immediate end to the looting and shooting in Georgia by Russia, but he should also turn his attention to recent aggressive Russian activity in the opening Arctic.

    The stakes there are extraordinary; a just released accounting by the USGS estimates the Arctic contains 22% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. New Arctic seaways will soon become inter-ocean shortcuts shaving thousands of miles off of longer routes through the Panama and Suez Canals. Similar to Georgia’s strategic location between the Black and Caspian Seas, the Arctic links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A resurgent Russian bear is also stretching its claws on its northern frontier. The US would be wise to take notice.

    So, what is a “visiting fellow?”. Essentially, it appears that “visiting fellows” are paid propagandists:

    David Rockefeller Studies Program

    The Council on Foreign Relations’ David Rockefeller Studies Program — CFR’s “think tank” — is composed of about fifty adjunct and full-time scholars and practitioners (called “fellows”) as well as ten in-resident recipients of year-long fellowships who cover the major regions and significant issues shaping today’s international agenda. These scholars contribute to the foreign policy debate by writing books, reports, articles, and op-eds on the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.

    So, he’s on the payroll.

    This same Scott Borgerson recently testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee, where he wistfully hinted that the U.S. needs a fleet of nuclear powered icebreaker ships to help exploit these Arctic “resources”.

    Icebreaker ships are quite useful, if for example you want to guide a relatively fragile oil tanker through pack ice. The icebreaker breaks a path, and the tanker or other ship follows.

    Many of the strange decisions that the U.S. has made in the last decade can be traced back to David Rockefeller, IMO. Our decision to invade the Middle East, for example, after a questionable terrorist incident. And now, the CFR’s position on global warming, which appears to be that it doesn’t really matter why it’s happening, but we really need to exploit it, and go after this Arctic oil, natural gas, and truly vast deposits of methane hydrate.

    Thomas R. Dye, a sociologist who has studied elite power in the U.S. for decades, claims that the Rockefeller family empire, at its peak a couple of decades ago, may have controlled over one hundred major U.S. corporations. Today, these corporations include the half trillion dollar ExxonMobil, and the 2.4 trillion dollar JPMorgan/Chase.

    The tentacles of this vast, mostly hidden financial empire stretch throughout the banking and industrial sectors of this country, and through the intelligence and political apparatus of this country as well.

    Much of the strange stuff in the last decade can be traced to this source, IMO.

    We’re doing strange things because we are covertly ruled by a mad, senile emperor, I think.

    His name is David Rockefeller.

  5. Modesty says:

    (cont. re the Economic Recovery Advisory Board transcript)

    Then they go on to talk about decoupling–which I was actually just about to ask about–I was assuming it must be somewhere in the bill…but I guess it’s not at all…so what would the framework be for that reform, outside of Congress? Also, why isn’t it in the bill–was it once? I see something about:

    ‘Align Utility Incentives to Pursue and Promote
    Energy Efficiency: Congress should clearly encourage
    the alignment of state and other authorities’
    regulations and ratemaking by placing a high
    priority on delivering cost-effective energy efficiency
    and demand management programs.”

    in one version of the USCAP Blueprint–and something about “smart” utility regulation.

    What’s the story on W-M and decoupling?

  6. hapa says:

    i smell “good cop, bad cop”

  7. K L Reddington says:

    Cat has laid off 25,000. They are Yellow. Most of these will not come back this year.
    There seems to be a lot of havoc in construction. Cat is a well run company. They workers are represented by the UAW. Most of the green jobs are temp work.

  8. hapa says:

    sir reddington, there are two kinds of green jobs: those that change one thing to another, and those that are changed by new standards and sensibilities. the first group is a transitional wave across the world, like wartime employment. the second is what every economy needs if it has any desire for future success.

  9. Rouggencinc says:

    My mom is thinking of doing a reverse mortgage in two years when she turns 62. The house has a tax lien. How would this affect getting the reverse mortgage, if it affects it at all?

    When a bank or mortgage company gives you a mortgage against a house, they put a lien on the house. They usually won’t do the deal unless they are the first lien. If there is already a tax lien on the home, the mortgage company would be 2nd in line to be paid if/when the house sells, so they will treat the loan like a 2nd mortgage (even though there is no first mortgage). Being a 2nd mortgage will make it much harder to get the loan, and result in much higher interest rates if you do get the loan.

    With that being said, I believe she will be unable to get a reverse mortgage. But I’m not sure.

    wholesale mortgages