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The Business Community is Speaking Out – Loud and Clear

Are the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers listening?

It’s pretty plain at this late date that many, many leading companies in manufacturing, mining, finance, insurance and other industries recognize the threat of climate change to their businesses and the opportunities for growth with sustainability.  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a good example of major corporations putting their shoulders to the wheel.  The United States Climate Action Partnership and Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy show that many Fortune 500 companies want a cap-and-trade scheme here and they want it sooner, rather than later.

There’s a pretty big story in the fact that a growing number of companies are pulling out of the US Chamber of Commerce because of their denial of climate change and their opposition to cap-and-trade.  The latest declaration of independence from the tunnel vision of the Chamber is Exelon, a major US utility.  Reuters had this story yesterday in which they quoted an Environmental Defense Fund climate spokesman, speaking of the Chamber:  “They’re lagging behind where their members actually are and I think what we’re seeing now is companies that have already made up their minds (on climate change) are losing patience.  Lots of companies want a bill to get the uncertainty out of the process.”

Duke Energy, the nation’s third-largest utility, made a pretty big splash when they pulled out of the National Association of Manufacturers and they’ve also bailed out of the “American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.”  So have Alstom Power and Alcoa, among others.

For more on this, see the story in today’s “FT” – Industry gets heated over stance taken by lobby groups.  Dan Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress (and an old comrade-in-arms of mine from the acid rain wars) is quoted:  “The chamber has signalled it is far outside the mainstream.”

Exelon’s head, John Rowe, said in a company statement “The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible.  Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.”

Earth to America.  The US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, not to mention the US Senators who are dead fearful of the transition to a low-carbon economy, need to hear these corporations.

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Comments (5)

  1. JeffM Saturday - 03 / 10 / 2009 Reply
    Cap and Trade promises fortunes to savy, connected businesses. Of course they want it. Scientists want the government to continue funding climate change research. That's what global warming/climate change/low carbon economy is all about. That's what it's always been about... money.
    • Bill Hewitt
      Bill Hewitt Monday - 05 / 10 / 2009 Reply
      JeffM - Do you have something against economic development, jobs, an equitable return on the investment of financial capital, and an expanded and improved investment in human capital, and the social well-being that these bring? Do you feel that sustainability - when economic opportunity is maximized and environmental impacts are minimized - is something we should avoid? (I didn't think you did.)
  2. JeffM Monday - 05 / 10 / 2009 Reply
    Bill- Are you talking about Cap and Trade? The proposed law that will raise the cost of living for all of us...that will raise the cost of all American-made goods and services...that will encourage more burning of our food crops for fuel...that doesn't include one iota of Federal spending on true 24x7 replacement energy sources for us to switch to...that will force more American companies to transfer manufacturing to China and India...that will raise the price of electricity and whatever might replace cheap gas, coal, and oil, the life blood of our way of life? (I didn't think you are.)
    • Bill Hewitt
      Bill Hewitt Wednesday - 07 / 10 / 2009 Reply
      JeffM - Let's start with an area of agreement: biofuels. I believe that most of the American and European emphasis on, and massive subsidization of, biofuels is misguided in the extreme. See my post Are Biofuels A Bummer? among others at the blog. As to the economic viability of cap-and-trade, there we definitely disagree. I see, frankly, nothing but opportunity. First of all, Waxman-Markey is carefully structured to protect consumers. See this post referencing articles from EDF and from Robert Stavins, as well as a history of cap-and-trade. It most definitely did not break the bank on acid rain. See also a slew of sources here, including analyses from EPA and the CBO. Please read at least this CBO analysis on the household costs before you conclude, once and for all, that we will all be bankrupted by cap-and-trade. Let me mention offsets. If I were a farmer, for instance, I would be breaking down the doors of Congress for this. There are huge economic opportunities, as Tom Vilsack will tell you, and so will the National Farmers Union. Further, here's a new report from the highly regarded Environmental Working Group: Crying Wolf: Climate Change Will Cost Farmers Far More Than a Climate Bill.
  3. JeffM Monday - 19 / 10 / 2009 Reply
    Bill: Sorry I couldn't reply sooner. Waxman-Markey cannot protect consumers. Maybe the low income consumers, but somebody has to pay the price. W-M mandates creation of compliance and inspection bureaucracies at each State and/or county. Consumers will have to meet mandated housing standards as a precondition to selling their home, or to build a new home. More expense. Virtually everything made in the USA (and, I suspect, anywhere else imported from China) will be made will costlier energy. Virtually everything made in the USA will cost more. This is economic suicide. By my way of thinking, the consumer utimately pays for all costs of W-M, and many consumers will find their company outsourcing their job to China.

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Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change


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