By Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, and Zaid Jilani
With the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, taking place this December, the world is looking to the U.S. to provide decisive leadership to tackle climate change. The U.S. Senate, which has been caught up in a fierce health care debate, hopes to approve climate change legislation before the U.N. conference. One of the biggest roadblocks to passing global warming legislation is the intense lobbying effort by various industry groups that have adopted extreme right-wing positions on the issue. These organizations include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Yet many U.S. businesses that do not hold global-warming denier views have started to revolt against the extremist positions — which are based more in ideology than business sense. Several major businesses, such as the nation’s largest utility company, have left these business alliances altogether, and others are working in coalitions that are fighting to curb climate change.
THE UNRAVELING OF THE CHAMBER: One of the most prominent ideological opponents of efforts to fight global warming is the Chamber of Commerce, which has had a long history of climate change denial. In 1992, the Chamber sponsored a cross-country tour by global warming denier Pat Michaels to “refute the global warming warnings.” Most recently, Senior Vice President William Kovacs called for a new “Scopes Monkey Trial” that would put “the science of climate change on trial.” Additionally, its president, Tom Donohue, is on the board of serial polluter Union Pacific, which has paid him millions of dollars since 1998. Many businesses, “fed up” with the Chamber’s extremist position on the environment have left the organization in recent weeks. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) — a massive energy provider for northern California — was the first to leave, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the business federation. In a letter to the Chamber, PG&E chairman Peter Darbee wrote that the Chamber has been involved in “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these [climate] challenges.” Soon after, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Exelon, the nation’s largest utility, also left the Chamber, citing similar concerns. Most recently, shoe giant Nike decided to leave its board (but retained its membership in the Chamber), saying it “fundamentally” disagrees with the Chamber’s lobbying efforts against climate change legislation. Other business federations, such as ACCCE, have also faced their members’ ire. Recently, utility giant Duke Energy quit ACCCE over differences with “influential member companies who will not support passing climate legislation in 2009 or 2010.”
A POSITION BASED IN IDEOLOGY: The opposition to aggressive climate change legislation by business federations like the Chamber and ACCCE is based in right-wing ideology, not realistic concerns about the economic impact of climate change legislation. While the Chamber has continually attacked the clean energy and global warming legislation being debated in Congress as “economically disruptive” and has said that it would “strangle the economy,” the truth is that clean energy legislation has the potential to create millions of new jobs. Even the conservative National Association of Manufacturers — which has in the past sponsored global warming denier rallies — admits that the House’s Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act could create as many as 20 million new jobs by 2030. A study by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute found that ACES and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act could create a net gain of 1.7 million new jobs. As Richard Trumka, the new president of the AFL-CIO, has said, there is no conflict between the cutting carbon emissions and protecting job growth. He told an audience at the Jobs, Justice, and Climate conference last month, “If we take on climate change at scale, we will create jobs at scale. For every $100 billion invested in a green economy, we create 1 million new jobs.”
BUSINESSES SUPPORT CLEAN ENERGY: Although some of the traditional business federations have lined up behind climate change denier positions, businesses that recognize that they can grow by tackling global warming have started to come together in newly formed groups to lobby for aggressive legislation to curb greenhouse gas pollution. One such group is the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). Formed in 2007, USCAP is a unique effort that has brought together traditional environmental groups — like the National Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense — with business allies such as PG&E, General Motors, Duke Energy, and Siemens. In January of this year, USCAP released the “Blueprint for Legislative Action,” which calls on Congress to pass legislation to cut carbon pollution to curb the detrimental effects of climate change. A number of other companies, including Nike and Sun Microsystems, have formed the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP). Leaders from the high-tech industry formed the Clean Economy Network to “accelerate progress toward a clean, low-carbon economy.” Indeed, as the Washington Post reports, companies have started to “see climate change as [a] barrier to profit,” because the damage that global warming will cause will severely hurt businesses in the long run. “If we don’t move now, it just becomes more expensive, more complicated, and a bigger risk,” Brad Figel, director of government affairs at Nike, said at a recent Capitol Hill briefing. The Climate Disclosure Project recently released a report that found that 52 percent of the S&P 500 companies have set emissions-reduction targets, an increase from 32 percent last year. While some industry groups continue to tout an extremist line on climate change, it’s clear that many businesses are moving towards aggressively tackling the issue, not denying that it exists.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS — SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES MILLIONS FOR ABSTINENCE-ONLY EDUCATION: Keeping with a campaign pledge “not continue to fund abstinence-only programs,” President Obama’s 2010 budget cut funding for “Community-Based Abstinence Education” and several other abstinence-education programs. But in a 12 to 11 vote on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would provide $50 million a year through 2014 to fund these programs. With the votes of Democratic senators Blanche Lincoln (AK) and Kent Conrad (ND), the amendment basically reinstates “the controversial Title V program, which offered $50 million per year to states for abstinence education, but prohibited them from tapping the funds for other sex-ed subjects like contraception.” Another measure offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) — which would make money available for education on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases — also passed, and the two measures will now have to be reconciled. The Senate Finance Committee’s vote comes as school districts in Texas are moving away from abstinence-only education, admitting that it hasn’t helped reduce teen pregnancy rates. Hatch also introduced an amendment to restrict the ability of private insurance to compensate for abortions, but it failed in a 10-13 vote. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “[A]s a woman, I find it offensive” that he would even propose such an amendment.
“Critical talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions began” today “between Iran and the five members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany and the European Union.” The U.S. and its allies are “hoping to draw Iran into a serious negotiation that will open up the country to serious nuclear inspections, suspend Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and reassure its neighbors that its intentions are peaceful.”
An article in the Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal, “argues forcefully” for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The article, which was reviewed by the office of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, says that “after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly.”
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) has proposed a “third way” that “could provide the blueprint for compromise” on the public option. Carper “wants to allow states to individually decide whether to create a private-insurance competitor such as a government plan and a nonprofit insurance cooperative, or to open up state-based insurance pools for government workers to every resident.”
The second-highest-ranking U.N. official in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, was fired yesterday after he “wrote a scathing letter accusing the head of the mission” there “of concealing election fraud that benefited the campaign of the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai.” Galbraith told Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin that he was fired after his boss in Kabul, Kai Eide, “told the U.N. leadership ‘he goes or I go.'”
After initially pledging to bring forward a resolution condemning Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) for his facetious but accurate remarks about the Republican health care plan, “House Republicans changed course on Wednesday and decided not to move forward with” it.
Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from the company in December, becoming the “one of the most prominent financial executives to lose his job because of the financial crisis.” Analysts say that Lewis had become a “distraction” since the bank’s takeover of Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial Corp., and he leaves “amid intensifying state and federal investigations.”
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said the Obama administration will need to enact a consumption tax to deal with the budget deficit. “The presumption that we’re going to be able to resolve this without significant increases in taxes is unrealistic,” he said.
Seven weeks before it will be released, Sarah Palin’s book — Going Rogue: An American Life — has shot to the top spot on Barnes & Noble’s website. “The forthcoming book has also vaulted up Amazon.com’s bestseller list, currently holding the No. 3 spot just behind Glenn Beck’s ‘Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government.'”
Joseph Romm, editor of the influential Climate Progress blog and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has been named by Time magazine as one of its “Heroes of the Environment 2009” and the web’s “most influential climate-change blogger.” Congratulations, Joe!
And finally: On the show “Mad Men,” Betty Draper is fighting with state government over an Ossining, NY water tower. But yesterday, the real-life Betty Draper — actress January Jones — was actually on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers about shark advocacy. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) excitedly put up a picture of himself with Jones on Twitter: “Great meeting & tour of the Capitol with January Jones, who is an advocate for sharks. I’m a huge fan of Mad Men!” Jones noted that McCain jokingly “scolded” her “because in the latest episode, Betty met with a lobbyist!”