Guest post by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, originally published at AlterNet.
Not for forty years has there been such a stretch of bad news for environmentalists in Washington.
Last month in the House, the newly empowered GOP majority voted down a resolution stating simply that global warming was real: they’ve apparently decided to go with their own versions of physics and chemistry.
This week in the Senate, the biggest environmental groups were reduced to a noble, bare-knuckles fight merely to keep the body from gutting the Clean Air Act, the proudest achievement of the green movement. The outcome is still unclear; even several prominent Democrats are trying to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
And at the White House? The president who boasted that his election marked the moment when ‘the oceans begin to recede’ instead introduced an energy plan heavy on precisely the carbon fuels driving global warming. He focused on ‘energy independence,’ a theme underscored by his decision to open 750 million tons of Wyoming coal to new mining leases. That’s the equivalent of running 3,000 new power plants for a year.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Guest post by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, originally published at AlterNet.
The success of GOP and Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections was enabled by a massive influx of secretive spending thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
A new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation identified $126 million in unrestricted funds spent during this midterm without any disclosure of whose money it was. That figure represents more than a quarter of the total $450 million spent by outside groups on the midterms.
Sunlight Foundation notes that:
The two leading GOP shadow groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS - both founded and guided by GOP veterans Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie - are reportedly “gloating” over their influence on the elections. The two groups spent more than $38 million on attack ads and misinformation campaigns to defeat Democratic candidates.
NBC News reports that “a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls.”
Senators working to craft legislation to transition the U.S. economy to cleaner energy and provide green jobs for Americans have a critical task ahead of them. The U.S. economy is lagging due to an addiction to foreign sources of dirty energy, among other reasons. Leaders from government, the private sector and even the Pentagon acknowledge the need to move rapidly towards a clean energy future that provides good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.
Which begs the question: Why are the Senators working on this critical legislative effort spending so much time and energy negotiating with lobbyists for the dirty energy industry – the very sector that is largely responsible for our addiction to foreign oil and filthy coal and outsourced jobs?
Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman – who are spearheading the new green economy legislation – met today with a gaggle of lobbyists and front groups representing the carbon club.
E&E News reports that:
A cross section of industry power players met this afternoon in the Capitol with Kerry, Graham and Lieberman. Groups represented at the meeting included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, Edison Electric Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, Farm Bureau, American Forest and Paper Association, American Railroads, National Electric Manufacturers Association and Portland Cement Association.
A new report published jointly by Yale University and George Mason University finds that Americans are much less concerned about climate change than they were just a year ago. Fifty-seven percent of Americans polled believe climate change is happening, compared with a figure of 71 percent in October 2008, a 14 point drop.
The reason ought to be clear. The climate confusion campaign - waged by the like of Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) - is alive and well, and obviously still inflicting damage.
The primary funder of Tucker Carlson’s new website ‘The Daily Caller’ is climate change denier and GOP bankroller Foster Friess, and Carlson has reportedly lined up sponsorship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and Southern Company, all major opponents of meaningful action to curb climate change.
Friess donated $3 million to Carlson’s site, which is run out of an office a “stone’s throw from the White House” by a 21-person staff. ‘The Daily Caller’ is the brainchild (if you can call it that) of Carlson and his college roommate Neil Patel, a former Dick Cheney aide. The site’s opinion editor is former RNC press secretary Moira Bagley, immediately calling into question Carlson’s insistence that ‘The Daily Caller’ won’t cater to the right-wing crowd.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already done everything it can to kill the chances of a legally binding agreement emerging from the Copenhagen climate change summit.
Now it can sit back, relax and watch the action from a coffee shop outside the United Nations conference, content that its efforts to derail U.S. climate policy have effectively hamstrung the international negotiations.
As explained clearly in “The Global Climate Change Lobby,” an excellent new report from the Center for Public Integrity, corporate lobbyists and trade associations focus their attention on tampering with domestic legislative efforts, and then stand by and watch as their positions and talking points contaminate international negotiations indirectly.
Business interests (or BINGOs as they’re called in U.N. speak) “can have very little effect at these meetings,” according to Nick Campbell, a European industry lobbyist who has represented the International Chamber of Commerce at U.N. climate talks since the early 1990s when the global effort to fight climate change began with the Rio Earth Summit.
If the Chamber or other lobbying groups send any staff to international summits like the upcoming Copenhagen conference, their goal is to “loiter” in the coffee shops and collect business cards from delegates they can target later on legislative matters back home.
It turns out that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce only has 300,000 members, not the “more than 3 million” it claimed to represent just a day ago, before Mother Jones magazine questioned the business lobby’s inflated numbers.
The Chamber has now “quietly backed off” the 3 million figure, according to Mother Jones, which reports today that:
Getting called out for such “semantic tricks” is the least of the Chamber’s problems these days.
The Huffington Post reports that MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, the holding company owned by multi-billionaire Ronald Perelman, is debating whether to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its extreme climate position and recent “Scopes Monkey Trial” challenge to the EPA over the Clean Air Act.
The Chamber has been losing members – real members out of its actual 300,000 or less total – at a rate of several each week lately. Apple was the most recent in a string of high-profile defections including Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources, Nike, Levi Strauss & Co. and PSEG.
The exodus has weakened the Chamber’s credibility on the Hill at a critical time when business leaders are descending on Washington to lobby Congress to pass strong climate and energy legislation. Pete Altman at NRDC’s Switchboard blog has compiled a running tally of editorials from around the country criticizing the Chamber’s intransigence on climate change in a post titled “The U.S. Chamber’s Continuing Climate Credibility Crisis.”
Apple became the fourth company in recent days to completely sever ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the business lobby’s backwards stance on climate change.
In a letter to the Chamber obtained by the New York Times, Apple states [PDF]: