Olimometer 2.52

EnergyIconThe U.S. Chamber of Commerce is actively working against energy policies that would safeguard public health and the environment, such as rules to curb greenhouse gases that cause climate change, limits to offshore drilling, and standards to provide more oversight of fracking companies. The U.S. Chamber instead backs policies and politicians that would expand the use of oil and other fossil fuels, enriching some of the trade association’s biggest donors. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for putting “the science of climate change on trial.” The U.S. Chamber’s positions on energy and climate change have caused a number of businesses to leave the group.


Fighting progress
As evidenced by the January 2014 release of its so-called “Energy Revolution” agenda, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce advances policies that benefit some of the biggest dirty energy companies in the world. Instead of supporting measures that would boost clean energy and energy efficiency, the U.S. Chamber promotes measures that would keep America anchored to the fuels of the past.

The U.S. Chamber’s 2014 efforts to get rid of the decades-long crude-oil export ban, for example, would increase profits for Big Oil, reduce U.S. energy security and increase prices for consumers. Additionally, further global reliance on oil will intensify carbon pollution--exacerbating climate change--while setting back the world’s progress in embracing cleaner fuels and renewable sources of power, and other long-term solutions needed to rectify the problem of climate disruption.

The U.S. Chamber’s support of nuclear power expansion would similarly profit major corporations by sticking ratepayers with the tab and increasing risks of poisoning our water and food sources and leaving a legacy of contamination for current and future generations of Americans. 
Whose agenda?
As it does in other areas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a way for major corporations to attack environmental safeguards without having to associate their names with those attacks. The U.S. Chamber keeps its full membership secret, but in 2012 alone, energy intensive and polluting industries that stand to directly benefit from the U.S. Chamber’s deregulatory proposals contributed at least $5 million of the $11 million voluntarily disclosed by companies (out of $189 million in total revenue) to fund the Chamber’s work. The actual totals likely are much more, as this includes only those companies that voluntarily disclosed.

The U.S. Chamber’s board of directors includes seven companies that heavily use or sell dirty energy: Southern Company (one of the largest utility companies in the country, with the two facilities emitting the most greenhouse gases in the country), Black Hills (runs the oldest operating surface coal mine in the U.S.), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (owned by Warren Buffett, hauls enough coal to generate roughly 10 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S., paid $140,000 for a chemical spill it failed to report and transports volatile fracked oil, which has caused train explosions), Phillips 66 (deals in natural gas liquids and petrochemicals; was No. 4 on the 2013 Fortune 500 and the second most polluting energy company on the Political Economy Research Institute’s Toxic 100 Air Polluters list), Consol Energy, Inc. (the leading producer of high-BTU bituminous coal in the U.S. and the country’s largest underground coal mining company), Dow Chemical Co. (the fourth most air-polluting company, and a major pesticides producer) and ConocoPhillips (the third-largest oil company, with a long rap sheet of offenses against workers and the environment, and itself an active lobbyist and political spender).

In early 2014, the Chamber filed an amicus brief in support of BP's effort to re-open a class action settlement it agreed to in 2012 for the compensation of thousands of American small businesses damaged by the company's Deepwater Horizon spill. BP is a foreign company and had already agreed to the settlement - but BP is also a bigger company, with deeper pockets, than the small businesses damaged by its environmental recklessness.
Parting ways
In September 2009, three major energy companies – PG&E, PNM and Exelon, the largest electric utility company in the country – left the Chamber over its opposition to climate change legislation (though Exelon has since made at least one donation to the Chamber). Apple also left over climate change; “Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in that effort,” Apple said in a statement. Nike left the Chamber’s board of directors the same month, prompting the New York Times editorial board to write, “The United States Chamber of Commerce’s web site says the group supports ‘a comprehensive legislative solution’ to global warming. Yet no organization in this country has done more to undermine such legislation.”   In July 2013, Skanska USA, an arm of Swedish construction giant Skanska, left the U.S. Chamber, saying, “Sustainability is one of Skanska’s core values. And we will not be a part of an organization that supports the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), which harbors the American Chemistry Council and opposes the implementation of a new, stronger LEED certification program (LEEDv4).” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards are the worldwide gold standard for sustainable building, but chemical companies at the U.S. Chamber pushed it to oppose strengthening the program.

When in comes to energy, the U.S. Chamber focuses on enshrining the status quo: blocking regulations that promote clean air and water, promoting expansion of centralized fossil fuel production and transportation systems all benefit entrenched interests at the expense of cleaner and more efficient, sustainable rivals.