Chamber of Commerce continues decades-long assault against clean energy economy

19th Century InstituteAt a Washington DC press conference, U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials blasted President Obama’s call for a clean energy future. Brad Johnson has the story.

Christopher Guith, vice president for policy at the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said a national clean-energy standard is “ridiculously premature,” even though 25 states have renewable and alternative energy standards, the first established in 1983. The Institute’s president, former Bush official Karen Harbert, said that the United States should instead allow “increased access to land for oil and gas drilling both onshore and offshore,” drilling a deeper hole with fossil fuel dependence.

This opposition to clean-energy job creation on behalf of big oil is nothing new for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the 2000s, the Chamber led the opposition to action on climate change, promoting global warming denial. Its history of defending pollution at the expense of the health of the American public and American jobs, however, goes deeper:

1999: Chamber of Commerce opposes reinstating Superfund taxes on toxic polluters. In a letter earlier this month to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, two large pro-business groups urged Congress not to reinstate the taxes. “Raising taxes on industry runs directly counter to congressional efforts to reduce taxes,” said the top officials at the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [National Journal, 10/19/99]

1997: Chamber of Commerce fights stronger smog and soot standards. The Chamber questioned the scientific studies used by the EPA to justify the tougher health standards, arguing that more research should be done before businesses are burden with standards that will require new and expensive additional pollution controls. [AP, 5/28/97]

1993: Chamber of Commerce opposes trade sanctions in NAFTA for failure to enforce environmental laws. “Authority to impose sanctions against private interests in any of the three countries should remain with the individual governments, and not be ceded to some supranational body not accountable to voters,” said Willard Workman, vice president, international, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Journal of Commerce, 4/13/93]

1992: Chamber of Commerce opposes binding global warming treaty. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that it would block any attempts to include binding commitments to reduce gases related to global warming. [Greenwire, 9/16/92]

1990: Chamber of Commerce attacks Clean Air Act revision. The Chamber said that the proposed legislation would “vastly increase the cost and complexity” of environmental regulations – perhaps costing U.S. industry $20 billion more a year. The Chamber of Commerce particularly objected to provisions of the Clean Air bill that would tighten pollution controls related to motor vehicles, smog, coal and toxic chemicals. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/23/90]

1988: Chamber of Commerce criticizes call for action on global warming as a “scare statement.” The Chamber’s Harvey Alter called the “Blueprint for the Environment”‘ prepared by 30 environmental groups full of ‘broad scare statements,” including: that “”¦global warming threatens to devastate the world, but no timeframe is mentioned. Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer will damage agriculture and marine life and cause an epidemic of skin cancer, but no mention of the remedial actions now in place is made.” [Inside Energy, 12/19/88]

1984: Chamber of Commerce opposes hazardous waste dumping ban. Harvey Alter, manager of the natural resources office at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued a ban on the dumping of wastes containing dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, heavy metals, halogenated organic compounds and cyanides would only “promote illegal dumping”. [Chemical Week, 8/8/84]

1982: Chamber of Commerce petitions to weaken Clean Air Act, claiming it kills jobs. “Obviously, the Clean Air Act needs to be changed,” said Dr. Harvey Alter, manager of the chamber’s resources and environmental quality department. “The construction ban has no place in this country. It is an inherently unfair punishment of communities and does not clean the air.” [Associated Press, 7/15/82]

1981: Chamber of Commerce compiles secret hit list of federal employees for Reagan. In 1981, the Chamber compiled a “hit list” of 18 government employees it urged the Reagan White House to dump from their jobs, including 10 EPA officials; Anthony Roisman, former chief of the Justice Department’s hazardous waste section; a half dozen Labor Department employes, and Maxine Savitz, deputy assistant energy secretary. [UPI, 9/6/84]

Brad Johnson, in a Wonk Room cross-post.

10 Responses to Chamber of Commerce continues decades-long assault against clean energy economy

  1. mike roddy says:

    We have ourselves to blame here, too. Trade groups in places like Sweden know how to spell “public health” and “environment”.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    There must be a LAW which prevents ANY tempering with climate change action. What the CoC does here is un-american, un-human it is a national security threat when people try to prevent clean energy solution.

    Humanity doesn’t have the time left to play around with agendas from people like Koch.

    Scientists ask Congress to put aside politics, take ‘fresh look’ at climate data

    What people on both side of the political agenda need to understand is, that ONLY a new technology can NOW bring back the economy. We need a new industrial revolution 2.0, this time with clean energy technologies.

  3. john atcheson says:

    Note to Karen Harbert: Opening up US territory to oil and gas exploration will not solve the problem — we have 3% of the world’s reserves, but we use 25% of the oil. We could drill the country until it looked like swiss cheese and we’d still be dependent upon the global market — which is setting the price in any case.

    Moreover, getting domestic oil is no different than a junky getting a new pusher and thinking he’s solved his problem — the damaging drug is still damaging, no matter where you get it from

  4. Paulm says:

    EU needs €2.2 trillion to meet carbon targets
    By Sarah Arnott

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    Al Gore is right about snow and climate change

    9:22 am February 3, 2011, by ctucker

    Even if Americans were more knowledgeable about the science of climate change, they’d have difficulty understanding the connection between a winter of extreme weather and a warming planet. A giant cold front has much of the country locked down under bitter cold and brought Chicago the most snow it has had in its recorded history.

  6. Bill Green says:

    While the evils of “big oil” always provide an easy rallying cry for progressives, a little market knowledge and a moment’s reflection suggest that “big oil” is not the driving force behind the Chamber of COmmerce’s opposition to a Clean Energy Standard (CES), for the simple reason that such a polciy would actually help rather than hurt them. Currently less than 1 percent of electricity is generated using oil, so they have little or nothing to lose there. Furthermore, the President’s SOTU remarks indicate that natural gas, which is produced by both “big oil” and independents, will count as clean energy.

    Bottom line: CP presents itself as a place for thoughtful and credible analysis. The reflexive attribution of the C of C’s opposition to the CES to the influence of “big oil” doesn’t meet that standard.


    [JR: CoC is driven by Big Oil and Big Coal. Both oppose CES. Big Oil itself has opposed every form of clean energy, even if it didn’t see it as an immediate threat. Remember, Obama is pushing hard to electrifying transportation system.]

  7. The Pew Climate source cited actually indicates that 27 states have an RPS, plus 4 with an Alternative Energy Standard, plus 5 with guidelines. The DSIRE ( and look in Summary Maps for RPS Policies map) indicates 29 states with RPS or Alt Energy Standard plus 7 with goals. Neither of these totals include DC and PR and the TVA, which each have RPS. The Pew Center does not count Oklahoma, while the DSIRE does not count Florida (RPS by Governor’s Executive Order, which can be reversed by the next governor).

    In any case, the total is more than the 25 mentioned in the article.

  8. In the Pew Climate source cited and linked, the actual total of state RPS is 27, plus 4 Alternative Portfolio Standards, and 5 states with guidelines. DSIRE ( then choose Summary Maps, then choose RPS Map) indicates 29 states with RPS or Alt PS and 7 with guidelines. Neither total includes DC, PR, or the TVA, which each have RPS. Pew Climate leaves out Oklahoma and DSIRE leaves out Florida, which has a Governor’s Executive Order mandating an RPS (Ex Orders can be reversed easily by subsequent governors).

    In any case, the number is greater than the 25 mentioned in the article.

  9. Frank Zaski says:

    With the conservative groups, it might be better to promote energy efficiency more to achieve GHG reduction – it is more intone with their cut costs, waste and fat approach. The following are EE statements from the Business Roundtable (BRT) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM):

    The (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations with a combined workforce of more than 13 million workers and nearly $6 trillion in annual revenues. They say:
    “Increasing energy efficiency can be one of the cheapest and most immediate ways of improving our energy security, reducing energy costs and curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. Business Roundtable members have committed to aggressive energy efficiency programs and recognize the important role of energy savings in improving the bottom line. We encourage the development of policies that promote significant energy efficiency increases in our residential and commercial buildings and encourage improvements in the efficiency in industrial processes. Read more about Energy.”

    From testimony of John Engler, (NAM President) submitted to the Committee on Energy and Commerce:
    NAM members recognize the need to promote energy efficiency across the U.S. economy. Manufacturers account for a third of our nation’s energy use and the NAM believes that cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation measures are key to reducing energy cost inputs, stretching available energy supplies and reducing green house gas emissions.

    If consumers installed more energy-efficient products, they could save up to 30 percent on their energy bills. Moreover, we would immediately begin to reduce the demand for energy in this nation. In fact, one study showed that the United States could save more than $600 billion in energy costs by 2020 if we spend more on making our homes and our buildings more energy-efficient.

  10. Leif says:

    … “the United States could save more than $600 billion in energy cost by 2020″… That is over 1/2 trillion bucks that is recycled here in the USA not deposited in some already rich persons pocket.

    Come on Tea Baggers, just what is it that you don’t understand here?