NYT: US Chamber has not expressed support for any proposals to cap emissions

Shrinking Chamber

When we last left the Chamber of Commerce, Apple was leaving over their ‘frustrating’ global warming denialism.  NRDC’s Pete Altman has the latest on the incredible shrinking Chamber in a piece first published here.

John Broder has an illuminating story in today’s New York Times “Storm Over the Chamber” discussing the US Chamber of Commerce’s climate crisis and how Mr. Donohue’s style exacerbates it.

Tellingly, the story begins with an anecdote that suggests where the US Chamber gets its tin ear.

BACK in the 1990s when Thomas J. Donohue was president of the American Trucking Associations, a subordinate raised a question at a staff meeting.

Some of the association’s members, the aide said, wondered whether it was really necessary for the group’s president to fly on a private jet.

Mr. Donohue, a scrappy Irish-American born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, turned to his chief of staff and asked how many seats his jet had. “Well, eight, sir,” the aide said. “Tomorrow morning I want you to call and get a 12-seater,” Mr. Donohue shot back. The subject never came up again.

The US Chamber has demonstrated a similar lack of interest in exploring the concerns of its members when it comes to climate change.

Although it has at least made an effort – schizophrenic though it might be – to at least sound as though it isn’t as out of step as it really is. We’ve been keeping a close watch on the Chamber’s rhetoric, through our ad this week and our “” website and in recent blog posts (here and here.)

Alas, despite the Chamber’s change of tone, it has yet to change the tune. As the New York Times reported

Mr. Donohue would not agree to an interview for this article but provided written answers by e-mail to a number of questions about the chamber’s climate change position. . .

Mr. Donohue said that the chamber had a series of basic principles by which it would judge any legislation on climate change. It supports new nuclear plants, increased domestic oil and gas exploration, research on capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions, new efficiency measures and provisions to control cost increases associated with emissions reductions. It has not expressed support for any proposals to impose a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. (emphasis added.)

Aside from wondering why Mr. Donohue suddenly got so shy about talking to a reporter, I couldn’t help but notice the last sentence, which gets to the heart of the questions we’ve been raising about the US Chamber position.

Does this mean that the US Chamber won’t support a mandatory cap?

Or is the US Chamber keeping the door open to the possibility it will at some point support a cap?

Or is the US Chamber just really never going to support serious climate policy, but is trying to avoid saying so?

While we wait for answers, in light of the fact the US Chamber has “not expressed support for any proposals to impose a mandatory cap on green house gas emissions,” how does the Chamber explain its agreement “that the objectives outlined in [Senator Kerry and Graham’s NYT] editorial can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense foundation on which to craft a bill,” considering that the Senators stated their main purpose is “advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change”?

UPDATE: Marc Gunther names Tom Donohue “America’s Worst CEO.” Find out why

8 Responses to NYT: US Chamber has not expressed support for any proposals to cap emissions

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Here is The Question:

    Has ExxonMobil expressed concrete support for a concrete approach that will lead to a “price” for carbon, i.e., a cap-and-trade approach or carbon tax?

    Now, before you answer, many of us already know that they have, periodically, suggested that they support some sort of approach but need to think about it more, or that they favor a carbon tax over cap-and-trade.

    But, I’m not talking about lip-service or ambiguous platitudes that don’t match up with actions.

    What have they said, concretely and specifically, about the approach they recommend? What IS that approach? What are the numbers? In other words, if it’s a tax, what amount? And, what results do they think such an approach will bring about? And why?

    Where have they stated their recommendation, and in how much detail? Are they lobbying in favor of that specific recommendation, or are they saying one thing and doing something else?

    Can they support their reasoning with science and basic economics? Where have they done so?

    I really, REALLY, think that CP (Joe etc.) ought to cover these questions and push The New York Times and other media to ask them of ExxonMobil. After all, ExxonMobil is the most profitable company in the U.S. and one of the two largest oil companies in the world.

    AND, they have told people that they have been “thinking” about these very questions for a long time, now. Indeed, Rex Tillerson told a gathering long ago that ExxonMobil was concerned about climate change and had been analyzing what approach would be best — carbon tax, cap-and-trade, etc.

    So, time’s up. It is the job of our media (if they still want to consider themselves as responsible journalists) to ask ExxonMobil such questions and not stop until they get specific, concrete, real answers.

    Thank you.


  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Rex Tillerson’s Speech to the Royal Institute for International Affairs, June 21, 2007

    As followup to my comment above (Comment 1), I highly urge people to read Rex Tillerson’s speech to the Royal Institute for International Affairs, delivered well over two years ago.

    It is/was titled “meeting growing energy demand and addressing climate change” and can be found, via a careful search, on ExxonMobil’s website. Read the speech itself, not the article that ExxonMobil has posted that describes the speech.

    So, well over two years ago, ExxonMobil said that it had been exploring and analyzing the various approaches and was considering what it would recommend, presumably (if you read the speech) to actually ADDRESS the climate change problem. The speech discusses cap-and-trade, carbon tax, and related matters, quotes Bertrand Russell, and even says something like “the devil is in the details”.

    It sure is!

    An ExxonMobil Board member — professor William George from Harvard Business School — originally suggested the speech to me.

    Now, within the context of my message above (Comment 1), will The New York Times look into this matter? Or, is it “not important”? (Ha!)

    And, ClimateProgress: Will you do a post about this speech and this issue? Will you help shine light on what Rex Tillerson was saying over two years ago, and then prompt the media for followup?

    What is ExxonMobil saying, and doing, now — over two years after that speech?

    The public has a right to know — not ambiguously, but clearly.

    Are we going to ask those questions — until we get answers?



  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Correction: Rex Tillerson’s speech was titled “meeting growing energy demand and addressing climate risks”. Sorry for the mistake.

    Be Well,


  4. Al says:

    Here in Indiana were getting pelted with constant TV commercials by the American Petroleum Institute resisting any Cap & Trade billing, calling it an energy tax. The Chamber is running ads warning of “Gov’t Health Care”. I’m glad I mute TV commercials.

  5. Their rhetoric on what they support is fascinating – they support new technologies, basically, and any development they see that could make a profit or represent new business. They don’t support anything they think would represent a risk to the growth of their members, which on the surface a ‘cap’ and trade would represent, to limited thinkers.

    Ultimately that’s the thought that’s driving this overwhelming rush to deny anything’s happening and if it is happening that we shouldn’t do anything about it. Many of these business leaders follow the Randian mantra that business should be left alone and that any restrictions or regulation on growth profit and business is detrimental. These people have invested huge amounts of effort in this way of living, and all their lives are judged by the ‘need to achieve, earn and buy more’ ideal.

    Climate change and resource scarcity represents a huge threat to people who have bought into this way of thinking. Far greater, in some respects, than climate change would be. After all, they are wealthy individuals that could afford the things they’d need to ride it out and relocate. But these problems are ones that traditional business cannot solve. Climate change will need huge scale government intervention to fix and almost inevitably the current consumption capitalism model on which business relies on will have to be curbed. For someone who’s livelihood and ego is entirely invested in making more each year than the last, the idea of a limit to growth is far more terrifying than rising sea levels or increased storm damage.

    Ultimately I think we will have a better world with the changes that will inevitably be made to combat climate change. The laissez faire, constant growth model is good at generating profit (well, most of the time) but little else. A system designed to live within our emission and resource means will almost inevitably be a fairer, more rewarding place to live for many of us, if the problems don’t catch up with us first.

    But for the richer members of our society like the leaders of the Chamber, that world sounds like hell. How can they win if everyone gets what they need and they can’t hoard more than their fair share of resources, money and energy use?

    It is my firm belief that this disconnect – that those who believe in global warming do so because they have read and understood the science, and those who deny it are doing so not because of the science at all, but because of their economic, political and social beliefs – is something that needs to be talked about far more. This blog does a better job than anywhere else, but we all need to be doing more to highlight the difference in motivations at the heart of ‘skepticism’ about climate change.

  6. Sable says:

    Bravo Tomas! I’ve rarely heard the heart of the matter so clearly expressed. And it goes for all of us – on the consuming end for example, how many of us are sticklers about the products we buy? They have to be the latest and “best”, and by God, at a bargain price.

    There’s a tremendous hidden cost in terms of resource depletion, pollution, and injustice, etc. that we all pay for our lifestyle and attendant point of view, in the industrialized nations. Our habits are part and parcel of our world view. Everything should be on the table when faced with a crisis like the one shaping up here. Even those of us who’ve made personal efforts to reduce our impact could stand to re-examine our choices, attitudes, and buying habits. Our collective identity caused the problem/s, re-defining who and what we are is an important part of the solution.

  7. As a business owner and member of a local Chamber, I think it’s extraordinarily shortsighted of the U.S. Chamber not supporting health and climate legislation. There are many industries and commercial sectors that directly and indirectly benefit from the shift toward green and renewables.

    We are now at the tipping point where intellectual and commercial inertia toward green is irresistible.

  8. shannon says:

    I think we should cap emissions or put a high tax on it so we can help save the environment.