Is the US Chamber of Commerce going to continue to oppose everything the Obama administration brings forward -- from healthcare to climate change to financial reform?
Yet another board member of the US Chamber of Commerce has left the organization's highly influential governing body because of its stance on climate change. [Update: A spokesperson for the Chamber has informed ecopolitology that Jim Rogers stepped down from the board only because he had served three consecutive two-year terms, and was required by the bylaws to cycle off. -Ed.]
Of course, the Chamber states: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of business and industry, strongly supports comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases while providing for a strong American economy." However, the Chamber opposed the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House of Representatives, it strongly opposed the EPA getting involved in regulation of climate change pollution, and Nike, Apple, Best Buy and (just last week) Duke Energy's CEO Jim Rogers have left the Chamber or stepped down from the board due to the Chamber's efforts to oppose climate change action. So, what is the issue?
Maybe it is opposed to everything Obama does? It opposed the healthcare bill and is opposing financial reform as well.
Is the Chamber For or Against Clean Energy and Climate Change Action?
The Chamber of Commerce's climate change webpage reads as a strange web of entangled support for and opposition to climate change action. The Chamber emphasizes five core principles that they say must be a part of climate and energy legislation:
1) Preserve American jobs and competitiveness of U.S. industry;
2) Provide an international, economy-wide solution, including developing nations;
3) Promote accelerated development and deployment of greenhouse gas reduction technology;
4) Reduce barriers to the development of climate friendly energy sources; and
5) Promote energy conservation and efficiency.
Regarding number one, the non-partisan CBO found that a recent iteration of clean energy and climate legislation in the Senate would create $21 billion in surplus for the national budget over 10 years if enacted this year. We are yet to see the newest version of clean energy and climate legislation (due out within the week) or its implications for the budget, but if things remain approximately the same in this respect, the Chamber can check number one off its list.
Number two is a little vague and potentially absurd. US legislation is going to be focused on the US. Obama and his administration made it clear that they were serious about improving international negotiations and commitments to address climate change in Copenhagen in December. International movement is important, but a lot of that is currently blocked by the US' lack of internal action on climate change (since the US contributes more greenhouse gas pollution than any nation other than China and more per capita than any nation other than Australia).
Of course, items 3-5 are exactly what climate and clean energy legislation would be about.
The Chamber continuously brings up the need to ensure energy security as well. A major focus of the climate and clean energy bill is to wean the US off its addiction to oil from insecure and US-unfriendly nations and to diversify our energy supply (i.e. reduce our heavy reliance on coal). If the bill doesn't do this, the Chamber's opposition to the bill would be irrelevant because hardly anyone would support such a bill.
So, if the proposed climate and clean energy bill meets all of the Chamber's requirements and the Chamber continues to oppose government-led action, the question this all brings up is this: "Is the Chamber the 'trade group of No' that will continue to say no to anything the Obama administration proposes?"
Moving Forward on Climate and Clean Energy Legislation
The problem with the Chamber opposing climate and clean energy legislation is that the Chamber is a very powerful group in DC. The Chamber spends, by far, more than any other group on lobbying. Without its support, getting climate and clean energy legislation passed will be difficult.
US Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Tom Donahue has been summoned to the White House by Obama this week to discuss climate and clean energy legislation. Hopefully, something new will come out of that discussion.
Image Credit: Steve Rhodes via flickr/Creative Commons