Debunking the Myths of Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Pollution

by Jorge Madrid and Arpita Bhattacharyya

From the EPA to the Keystone pipeline, the Chamber of Commerce has left no stone unturned in their quest to pit economic growth against the environment and public health.  This morning’s “State of American Business Address” by the Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, will likely repeat the barrage of misleading statements.

Here are five pieces of misleading rhetoric to listen for and the facts that prove them wrong.

1. Environmental regulations hurt businesses’ bottom line.

“We wholeheartedly share this and previous administrations’ goals of protecting public health and the environment, but the rushed implementation of this rule could undermine the nation’s economic recovery.” (Tom Donohue, 12/22/11, on EPA Utility MACT)

FACT: Illness and missed days of work are bad for business productivity and overall bottom line, particularly for small businesses and entrepreneurs with fewer than 20 employees.  We know from the EPA’s peer-reviewed analysis that U.S. clean air protections from particulates and smog alone prevented 13 million missed work days IN 2010, and are projected to prevent 17 million lost days of productivity in 2020.  This increased productivity does not include the benefits from the Cross State and Air Toxics Reductions rules that will lower smog, acid rain, and toxic pollution from power plants.  It also does not take into account the added healthcare costs that clean air regulations have prevented (in the ballpark of $2 trillion by 2020).

2. Environmental regulations stall investment and create uncertainty for businesses.

Question: Why are U.S. companies sitting on so much money?

Donohue: “Uncertainty. Businesses have questions about energy costs. Tell me about the EPA stuff? What about labor regulations? Are the consumers there? What are the trade-offs?” (12/19/11, PJStar)

FACT:  Blocking or delaying the newly promulgated power plant pollution reduction rules would almost certainly increase uncertainty for utilities and thus stall new investments in cleaner and more efficient equipment, resulting in fewer jobs created.  Constellation Energy, the largest wholesale and retail power seller in the country, has already invested in a $885 million installation that has vastly reduced emissions from two giant coal-burning units. By delaying these rules that have been in the works since the second Bush Administration, we are creating uncertainty, harming business, and creating unfair advantages for the “free-riders” who pollute without consequence.

3. The Keystone XL pipeline is a magic bullet for creating tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of jobs.

“The pipeline project is expected to create more than 20,000 high-paying construction and manufacturing jobs in the near term and more than 250,000 permanent jobs in the long run”. (Press Release, 7/22/11)

FACT: There are glaring discrepancies in the job creation numbers reported by both TransCanada and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Yet, an independent analysis, conducted by Cornell University, found that between 500 and 1,400 temporary construction jobs will be created, with a negative long-term economic impact as gas prices rise in the Midwest.  Further, the State Department’s analysis finds that the project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs, and that TransCanada and the Chamber’s job claims are “not substantiated.”

4. EPA regulations will “kill jobs” and compromise reliability of the electricity grid.

“We urge the administration to reconsider the unrealistic implementation timetable for the Utility MACT rule and the effects it will have on American businesses of all sizes. Jobs, our economy, and the reliability of our electricity grid are at stake.” (Press Release: U.S. Chamber Disappointed With EPA Issuing Another Job-Killing Rule, 12/22/11)

FACT: The Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly cited electric reliability and job creation as the key reasons to delay EPA’s new acid rain, smog, and toxic pollution reduction standards for power plants.  However, an AP survey of power plants reports that federal air pollution regulation will likely cause no power disruptions.  Further, studies from Ceres, a coalition of investors and corporations, projects the creation of 290,000 direct and indirect jobs on average over the next 5 years as a result of the new power plant pollution reduction rules – after all, we need workers to install these new upgrades.  Finally, data collected from EPA and presented by Calpine, America’s largest independent power producer, shows that “electricity providers are far more prepared for changes to air-toxic standards than some companies in the industry admit”.

5. American companies do not have ingenuity or the ability to innovate in the face of National Fuel Economy Standards.

“If national fuel economy standards are set too high, automakers may not be able to make the types of vehicles that Americans need.” (Letter to the White House Chief of Staff on the National Fuel Economy Standards, 7/14/11)

FACT: The industry’s largest auto companies have agreed to these standards, and undoubtedly believe that they can continue to make the vehicles that Americans want.  The proposed standards will reduce oil use by 2.2 million barrels per day and save new car owners an average of $4,000 in lower gasoline purchases.  That is the type of security and savings that Americans need.  In addition, companies will have to make much more fuel efficient cars to sell cars that compete with the much more efficient standards in Europe and Japan.  Fuel economy has already become a key feature in new car models.

Arpita Bhattacharyya is a special assistant on the energy team at the Center for American Progress; Jorge Madrid is a research associate on the energy team at the Center for American Progress.

10 Responses to Debunking the Myths of Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Pollution

  1. Malatesta says:

    Nice. But its worth keeping the lessons of the Debunking Handbook (cross-posted here from Skeptical Science, and absolutely a must-read) in mind for posts like this. Turns out that this style of debunking can be counterproductive.

    And that’s the last thing we want.

  2. Jim Marzilli says:

    I expect this kind of politics from the US Cahmber but unfortunately too many people think their good local businesses are part of this band of dishonest 1 percenters.

  3. Joe Romm says:

    That’s true for debunking for a general audience, less so here.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    The word Douchebag was invented for people like Tom Douchebag

  5. prokaryotes says:

    The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday appeared to take a jab at Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Chief Executive Steve Jobs for defecting from the business organization in a dispute over climate-change policy.

    “It is unfortunate that your company didn’t take the time to understand the Chamber’s position on climate and forfeited the opportunity to advance a 21st century approach to climate change,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Tom Donohue wrote in a letter to the Apple chief executive. He said that the business group is committed to the environment but also to preserving the competitiveness of American business.

  6. J Bowers says:

    Cuadrilla oil executive unwittingly confims Gasland and debunks industry counter myths, at fiery public meeting with rural English residents.

    [Miller] said the pollution suffered in parts of America, where the fracking industry is huge and growing, represented “the poorest part of our industry”.

  7. Malatesta says:

    For sure. I’m just thinking of the FB links back to here.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘…a 21st century approach to climate change’!!?? Up there with War is Peace, and Hate is Love. Do these creatures really so dumb as to believe this bulldust, or are they simply infinitely cynical-or is it both.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    But with the biggest profits, no doubt. Privatise the profits and socialise the losses.

  10. DJ says:

    I have one simple question for number3 in your post here. Have you ever worked in the real world? Do you not understand how production works? The oil has to be refined creating more refinery jobs. It has to be transported created more jobs in transportation, both by trucks and seaport shipping. The workers on the pipeline stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants creating more jobs. The materials needed to build the pipeline create more jobs in pipe manufacturing and related industries. Are you people really this naive? Sure looks like it.