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If Obama's clean energy bill fails, it will not be because progressive groups have not done a good job at defending the bill, it will be the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industry and their ideological front groups that will be to blame.

To name a few: The US Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, National Association of Manufacturers, Freedomworks and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is taking on water for advocating a climate change position that even its own members find irresponsible.

But this is only the latest episode in the Chamber's 20-year campaign to block legislative solutions that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create new green jobs and, ultimately, lead to energy independence.

That campaign is a central -- unavoidable -- theme in Climate Cover-up, the book that I have recently written with Richard Littlemore. It details four years of research on climate change misinformation and especially on the work of a powerful alliance of lobbyists and industry front groups who have set back the fight against climate change -- and the push for clean energy independence -- by two decades.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading player from the outset, is finally suffering mainstream exposure, as major companies abandoned ship in protest against the Chamber's climate policy.  Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have all quit; and Nike stepped down from the Chamber board of directors. All cited embarrassment over Chamber climate policy as the cause.

The Chamber brought this rift upon itself.

Vice President Bill Kovacs triggered the humiliation during the summer when he suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency be subjected to a Scopes monkey trial to review the science behind man-made climate change.   Kovacs back-pedaled as soon as mainstream media picked up the story,  but not in time to stop the exodus of Chamber members who wanted to distance themselves from the Chamber's anti-science position.

Last week, Mother Jones revealed that the Chamber has also beeninflating its membership numbers by 1,000 per cent. While the Chamber has been claiming to represent "more than three million" U.S. businesses, in reality, it has just 300,000 business members.  That still could be seen as an impressive number but, at less than 1% of all American companies, it hardly justifies the Chambers claim to be "the voice of business" in the United States.

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein published an excellent pieceon the Chamber's inflated membership, noting "how disingenuous the Chamber has become in its Washington lobbying."

Even the White House joined in the Chamber pile-on. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told reporters, "It's wonderful" to see so many companies quit the Chamber of Commerce. "I think companies like that -- Exelon and others -- are saying we have recognized the reality. They are saying we can't be a party to this denial and foot-dragging."

"I would encourage the Chamber of Commerce to realize the economic opportunity that the United States can lead in a new industrial revolution," Chu said.

Secretary Chu is absolutely correct.  

The United States can -- and should -- lead the clean energy revolution. It can -- and should -- pass strong climate and energy policies.  These policy signals would do far more to secure American energy independence and create millions of jobs than anything the Chamber and other business lobbyists could conjure up. Strong climate and energy policy will facilitate the rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the global economy, securing our future against oil price shocks, climate-altering pollution and wars over dwindling resources.

Against that scenario, the Chamber has been running interference on behalf of entrenched fossil fuel interests, a point often overlooked in the current hostile media coverage.  Despite the dents to its reputation, the Chamber remains one of the most effective lobbying forces behind the continued U.S. failure to address the climate crisis.  

The Chamber has always fought tooth and nail against the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, arguing that a transition to clean energy technologies would kill the U.S. economy.  The Chamber has repeatedly tried to magnify the voices of climate change skeptics like Richard Lindzen  and Roy Spencer.

The Chamber's long history of extreme opposition to climate policy is openly reflected in reports and press releases on its own website.  For example, an excerpt from the Chamber's 'Summary Remarks' section of its 2005 report, Reality Check: Straight Talk About the Kyoto Protocol:

"Addressing the climate change challenge by attempting to stabilize the level of CO2 in the atmosphere (if proven necessary) would require expending absolutely vast sums of money (many trillions of dollars) on a far larger scale of intervention than that envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol. However, adopting such an enlarged intervention, premised on enforced, huge cutbacks on CO2 emissions, could be highly destructive to the economies of many nations and could severely curtail the availability of funds needed for addressing other major societal problems, particularly if such a program were to be implemented within a short time frame of a few decades."

Further examples of the Chamber's climate skepticism abound, especially in its campaign againstthe failed Lieberman-Warner climate bill of 2008.  

The Chamber claims a responsible line, saying that it has "called upon the United States to join with other nations to negotiate a new international agreement that sets binding CO2 reduction commitments for each nation, while allowing each to devise its own best path to meeting its target."  

But in advocating for the death of Kyoto, the Chamber is really calling for a global agreement that requires no accountability between nations. The Chamber wants the U.S. to pollute at will, while holding other nations responsible for reducing emissions -- "if proven necessary."

While the beneficiaries of this policy are exclusively the fossil fuel industries that dominate Chamber policy making, the effects have been widespread. And no wonder. The Chamber spent nearly $35 million in the third quarter of 2009 alone, setting a single quarter record and quadrupling its 2nd quarter lobbying expenditures.   That brings the Chamber's annual lobbying total to over $52 million so far this year, with an active 4th quarter under way.

Their lobbyists and advertisements typically use arguments that are simple and effective, even while being inaccurate and misleading. The Chamber also claims "mainstream, commonsense views that are shared by a broad majority of the American people."  But in reality, the group is far out of step, pushing for denial and delay when most major companies are calling for urgent government action.  

As a result, the Chamber may be losing serious ground.

Politico reports this week that the White House and congressional Democratic leaders are working to marginalize the Chamber by dealing directly with the CEOs of major U.S. corporations.  This plan to "neuter the Chamber" goes beyond the Kerry-Boxer climate bill, involving President Obama's full first-year agenda on health care reform, climate change legislation and regulatory reform.

"They've taken a real hit this year," a prominent Democratic lobbyist told Politico this week. "In the White House and on the Hill, among the people who run things, they are radioactive."

But the Chamber, famous for long campaigns against labor unions, workplace safety regulations and other common sense American policies, is not giving up on its dirty energy advocacy.

"If people want to attack us, bring 'em on," Chamber CEO Tom Donohuetold reporters recently.  "We are not changing where we are," he said. "We've thought long and hard about what is important here and we are not going anywhere."

Whether anyone will still be listening remains to be seen.  A diminished role for the U.S. Chamber would brighten the prospects of passing climate and energy policy in the United States and abroad, but there are other lobbying groups determined to defend dirty fossil fuel interests at all costs. More on that in future posts about who is killing American climate policy.  Stay tuned.

James Hoggan is a 35 year veteran in public relations and the author of the new book Climate Cover Upthat will be released this week US-wide.

Cross-posted on Huffington Post:

Originally posted to Desmogblog on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 10:39 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The answer is "Qui bono?" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Radical def, alamacTHC

    "Who benefits?"

    Just follow the money.

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success."

    by QuestionAuthority on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 10:41:58 AM PDT

  •  The Chamber of Commerce is a nest of (4+ / 0-)

    climate denialists.  They deserve a full outing.

  •  There aren't a lot of denialists (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, trykindness, B Amer, Unenergy

    left in boardrooms any more.  I read somewhere (can't find link, alas) that most top CEOs no longer deny, in private, the existence of climate change.  It's only a few people whose profit model depends on denial that lie.  And it's especially telling that the Chamber's newest defender is Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Coal and buyer of judges.

  •  Rec'd and tipped...but just want to say... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    While huge responsibility does lay in the laps of the Chamber, et al, and they must, indeed, be held accountable...nevertheless, the "blame" is ours, as progressives, for allowing them to prevail these many years.

    And that will be all the more true, if we fail, at this critical juncture, to mobilize the masses, to once and for all seize the power from the monopoly corporate fascist pigs.

    The "blame" cannot be shifted to the enemy, nor to the masses.  It's all on us.

    (not saying that's the intent of the Diary, and not meaning to slag the many progressives who have so resolutely struggled for justice and peace, to save the planet, these many years...but just saying)

    A very substantial majority in this country are staunchly against racism, sexism, eco-rape, murderous corporate rip offs and imperialist warmongering profiteering, and this trend in public opinion is long-standing.

    This accelerating shift in public opinion has reached a critical mass, with the election of Obama and a Progressive Caucus majority within the Democratic Majority in Congress.

    We are now at a tipping point.  We have won the struggle for hearts and minds, in this country.  All that remains is to purge and suppress the anti-democratic traitors who still retain sufficient plurality to block motion.

    The revolution is at hand.  The enemy seeks to sow demoralization, diversion, and as a last resort, to co-opt the struggle, in their recalcitrant intransigence.

    But the more irrational, hysterical and draconian their rhetoric and actions get, the more obvious it is, that they are losing their ass, and are running scared.  

    That's why many of the biggest companies are now abandoning the Chamber, lol, and running PR and ad campaigns bragging about how "green" they are.

    Now is the time to mobilize the masses, to deal the coup de grace to capitalism as we now know it, and it's moribund form, fascism.

    Give no quarter!  Press the contradictions!  Attack!

    Seize the Time!

    All Out for 2010 and 2012!

    Seize the Power!]

    All Power to the People!

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 11:11:37 AM PDT

  •  Actually, lack of Prog support for Cap & Trade (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, RLMiller

    could be a major problem. This is not to say that the US Chamber, NAM and API aren't fighting this hard, but many progressives have not accepted the concept as a legitimate way to reduce emissions.

  •  Exxon does what it can to help (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, puffmeister, RLMiller

    ExxonMobil Continues Funding Global Warming Denial Groups Despite Repeated Pledges to Stop
    Posted by Wonk Room on Friday, July 03, 2009

    From the Wonk Room.

    From 1998 to 2005, ExxonMobil directed almost $16 million to a group of 43 lobby groups in an effort to confuse Americans about global warming. After being criticized by the Royal Society in 2006, Exxon promised to end funding to groups questioning climate change. In May 2008, Exxon again issued a public mea culpa and pledged to cut funding to groups that "divert attention" from the need to develop and invest in clean energy. Yet, in 2008, while cutting contributions to the most extreme groups, Exxon still funded the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, all groups which publicly question or deny global warming:

    Company records for 2008 show that ExxonMobil gave $75,000 (£45,500) to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas and $50,000 (£30,551) to the Heritage Foundation in Washington. It also gave $245,000 (£149,702) to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington. The list of donations in the company’s 2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community investments is likely to trigger further anger from environmental activists, who have accused ExxonMobil of giving tens of millions to climate change sceptics in the past decade

    If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama

    by ohcanada on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 01:01:13 PM PDT

  •  Flag-Waving, Right-Wing Nutjobs Claim to Love (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, puffmeister

    their country, but they would rather destroy the planet than admit they were wrong about global warming.  They are sick and dangerous to everyone.  The same trash were willing to allow DuPont to jeopardize the planet's protective ozone layer so DuPont could continue manufacturing freon-12.  Thank GOD Ronald Reagan had some sense and put a stop to DuPont's irresponsibile idiocy.

     We need wind, wave, and solar power -- no carbon footprint.  There are plenty of new, good-paying jobs associated with creating and maintaining this new power grid.  Big (Clean) Coal has other plans, ones similar to Big Oil's in 1973 after the OPEC Oil Embargo to keep us dependent on fossil fuels.
     We need electric cars.  We also need vapor compression distillation water purification.  More great jobs if we develop them.  The status quo must go!

  •  Positive Protest (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, puffmeister

    We do weatherization barnraisings once a month in Cambridge, MA as a positive protest against climate change.  "Since Congress isn't acting, we will."  We'll be doing two on October 24, one for women only on the Women's Center, as well as a CFL give-away.

    I'd like to see a weatherization barnraising on the White House with full TV coverage by all the TV carpenters and home repair shows.  That would make a great deal of difference on a practical level and be a great public relations and public education move, similar to what the White House garden did for food.

    Writing letters and phoning Congresscritters is necessary but installing a setback thermostat makes a real difference on your carbon footprint and your wallet.  Hit back at the climate change deniers and energy obstructionists by putting energy efficiency right in their faces.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 01:34:27 PM PDT

  •  We’re not giving up on climate change legi (0+ / 0-)


    Isn’t it a bit early to start throwing in the towel? You’re accusing us of intervening with the passage of climate change legislation, and the Senate has only begun to consider proposals.

    For the past few months, we have been working constructively with congressional members to promote changes to the climate legislation that will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, preserve access to affordable and reliable energy, protect and create clean jobs and promote greater energy independence through the use of coal and other domestic energy resources.

    Should legislation fail to pass, it will most likely be because of a lack of willingness to compromise.

    The close vote in the House showed that there were still serious concerns about the economic effects of the climate legislation in many parts of the country. Now that a bill has reached the Senate – where states will have equal representation – greater compromise will be more important than ever.

    The America’s Power(SM) Team

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