By Arthur Neslen, Climate Home News
Changing from an energy system powered by fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy takes long-term planning, innovation...
By Dan Zegart, originally published at Climate Investigations Center
In a last-minute legal maneuver, the National Association of Manufacturers is trying to extricate itself from a closely-watched federal climate lawsuit 18 months after it won a legal battle allowing it to intervene in the case.
What do large companies do when they want to lobby against climate change and carbon mitigation measures without looking publicly like they're pro-pollution? According to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, they hide behind trade groups.
Groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have essentially become puppets for the positions of the ventriloquist corporations they serve. Companies often position themselves publicly to suggest they support action to address climate change. But those promises are regularly contradicted by the lobbying activities of trade groups they are part of, such as the chamber, that fight against such policy action.
The Union of Concerned Scientists report, Tricks of the Trade: How Companies Influence Climate Policy Through Business and Trade Associations, doesn’t introduce this concept — organizations like 350.org have been calling out companies for their membership in the anti-science U.S. Chamber for years now — but its authors Gretchen Goldman and Christina Carlson take a deep, analytical look at the memberships of various trade orgs and dig into survey data from the companies to find some glaring contradictions.
In other words, we all know the names of the corporations, and the corporate leaders, who have sought to undermine public understanding about global warming—for instance, by supporting think tanks that misrepresent the science and, in some cases, literally launch attacks against top scientists.
But you don’t hear as much about the companies that kinda waffle on the issue. That maybe give a little money to conservative think tanks, but also support lots of environmental groups. That donate to politicians on both sides of the climate battle, and sometimes take apparently contradictory stances on the issue: either on the science, or on what we ought to do about it.
A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, though, appears to catch some of them in the act.
The UCS sought to analyze the influence of corporate America on the debate over climate science and climate policy. So it sampled a large group of S&P 500 companies that involved themselves in two major climate policy events of the past few years: Either they commented on the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gas emissions (pro or con), or they donated to the 2010 battle over Proposition 23 in California (either for or against the ballot proposition).
This yielded a sample of 28 S&P companies, including many expected names—ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Valero—but also some surprises (Nike). Then, UCS drilled down further by examining a host of other actions bearing on climate change that these companies have taken.
After more than 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally set federal limits on how much mercury pollution power plants can release into the atmosphere. The fact that the power industry has been able to dump unlimited amounts of mercury and other toxics into the skies (and eventually into the ocean and tuna) without penalty for so long is mind-boggling.
Unless, that is, you ask industry groups and their friends in Congress, who are already parroting the same talking points they bring out every time a new pollution control appears – despite the fact that the Clean Air Act turns out to be a bargain for America over and over again.
With a week to go before the U.S. midterm elections, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has released a great interactive map that shows who’s been bankrolling efforts to halt clean energy efforts and back the anti-clean energy reform agenda. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections, the election terrain has become a dizzying display of corporate muscle and dollars. Perhaps most dizzying is how easy it is for Big Oil and special interests to hide behind benevolent-sounding front groups, and how difficult it now is for us to know whose interests are shaping the elections.
In this midterm election, Democratic-aligned groups have been outspent by an astounding 7 to 1 margin, and Republican-aligned groups have flooded the nation’s airwaves with a flurry of ads. According to CorpWatch, they have spent over $300 million, five times as much as they did in 2006.
CAP’s stats come from a Repower America report that shows the companies and organizations spreading misinformation about clean energy and climate change. 13 organizations have injected $68.5 million in 2010 alone into fictitious TV ads designed to spin clean energy legislation. Since August alone, they’ve pumped over $17 million into their efforts.
CAP’s report offers a state-by-state breakdown of the top donors, and follows the money to the source. And it’s not pretty. The stakes for a clean energy future are high as oil and coal groups spend more and more helping climate-denying candidates run in tight races.
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.
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.
Despite taking their licks in the press lately, the Chamber of Commerce and the coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) have something to celebrate today.
A new poll released by the Pew Research Center has found the number of Americans who believe that pollution is causing climate change declined 20 percent over the past two years. Only 57% of Americans believe there is solid scientific evidence that the global climate is warming.
Some pin this decline on the economy, arguing that Americans have other things to worry about and climate change has drifted off their radar screen.
But, as I explained to the Guardian newspaper today, “a big part of this problem is this campaign to mislead Americans about climate science. This is a very sophisticated group of people who know how to create doubt and confusion and they have done a very good job of it.”