Home > chamber of commerce, Coal, rent-seeking > Now Apple Computer leaves! One-track "King Coal" interests insist on steering the US Chamber of Commerce`s climate bus

Now Apple Computer leaves! One-track "King Coal" interests insist on steering the US Chamber of Commerce`s climate bus

The intransigence of a core of coal interests, in the face of a rebellion by firms that support legislative action on climate change, is threatening the status of the US Chamber of Commerce as the premier business council in the US, as now Apple Computer has quit the US Chamber of Commerce.

Apple`s departure, announced  on October 5 and effective immediately, came on the heels of departures in the past two weeks by the utility companies Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources and Exelon. In addition, Nike has quit the Chamber’s Board, and other members such as Johnson & Johnson have voiced strong opposition to the climate stance of the Chamber and asked that it not take public positions on this issue.

It`s not clear how closely the Chamber has polled all of its wide membership on climate issue, but it`s apparent that the Chamber`s rather hard-line stance is out of step with its Board members.  According to research by the NRDC (a mainline environmentalist group) in May:

the staff of the U.S. Chamber appears to be projecting the views
held by a tiny sliver of its board of directors – just four out of 122
members on the board.

The Chamber’s oft-stated views, which question the scientific
consensus on climate change and reject the need for federal regulation
to reduce global warming pollution, stand in sharp contrast to the
views expressed by 19 members of the Chamber’s board that support
federal regulations with goals to reduce total US global warming

You read that right: only 23 members of the U.S. Chamber’s board have a publicly stated position on climate change and more than 80 percent are not on board with the U.S. Chamber’s “Dr. No” position on climate policy action.

So who is in the minority that has shanghaied the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce on climate policy? Be prepared to be shocked!  Three of the
four climate are coal companies:  Peabody Energy, Massey Energy Corp.,
and CONSOL Energy.  (The fourth – Con-Way Inc. – is “a freight company and logistical services company.”)

As the WaPo noted, in response to prior defections,

Last week, the group’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, said in a
statement that his group supports “strong federal legislation” to
protect the climate. But he said legislation passed by the House of
Representatives — which would use a “cap and trade” system to lower
the cost of reducing emissions — was flawed because it does not
require other polluting countries to act and does too little to spur
U.S. investment in green technologies.

In response to Apple`s departure, a spokesman for the Chamber dissed the motives of the firms quitting the Chamber:

“While we’ll continue to represent the broad majority of our membership
on this goal, we recognize that there are some companies who stand to
gain more than others with the current options on the table.”

While this may be true for the utility companies, which are members of the USCAP organization and stand to gain free allocations of carbon allowances under the cap and trade bills under consideration, it is hardly so for Apple, Nike or Johnson & Johnson. And of course it distracts from the fact that the coal firms and their shippers – including Union Pacific, which richly compensates Union Pacific board member Tom Donohue, the President of the Chamber – benefit greatly from the status quo, to an extent and in a manner quite different from other Chamber members.

It will be interesting to see what will happen next at the Chamber of Commerce, and who will be next to leave.

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