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US Chamber of Commerce Dismayed at Breakaway Clean Energy Group

By Gloria Gonzalez | Sun, 15 August 2010 21:01 | 0

More than two dozen local chambers of commerce in the US will join forces to advocate for market-based mechanisms to price carbon, much to the dismay of the national US Chamber of Commerce.

The Chambers for Innovation & Clean Energy (CICE), led by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, is being organised under five core principles, including that businesses must be part of the solution to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and that market-based solutions produce the best results.

The group’s main objective is to work with federal legislators to shape a carbon reduction programme that sends clear signals to the market about where to invest R&D dollars, said Rob Black, vice-president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber.

“That’s different from what I’ve heard from the US Chamber, but we think that is an essential part of driving investment in that area,” he said.

The organisation has not expressed a preference for a particular approach such as cap and trade or a carbon tax although that could change in the future, Black said. “At this stage, I think we’re fairly agnostic what approach that is,” he added.

Pending carbon regulation from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was a major impetus for the group’s formation and its advocacy of federal legislation, Black said. “We’re fearful the regulatory approach by EPA will not take into account the market in an appropriate way,” he explained.

The organisation will officially launch in the next few weeks after the individual chambers have their public policy committees and boards sign off on their involvement, Black said.

But their efforts have drawn criticism from the US Chamber of Commerce, which sent a letter in late July to local chambers that accused CICE of being established by environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council, not an organic movement led by the San Francisco Chamber.

“Ironically, their indirect purpose appears to be undermining the US Chamber’s and the business community’s leadership on this vital issue,” said Winthrop Hallett, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the US Chamber’s board of directors.

In the past year, several companies have allowed their US Chamber memberships to expire because of its stance on climate legislation, including utilities Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources, while Nike resigned from the Chamber’s board of directors.

But the US Chamber is not standing in the way of climate action, Hallett argued. The organisation has called for Congress to pass a climate bill over the past 18 months and was the business community’s lead negotiator on the bill developed by senators John Kerry (D-Mass), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn), he said. Graham later dropped out of the group because of a dispute over immigration reform.
But the US Chamber is also one of the petitioners suing the EPA over its endangerment finding, which paves the way for the agency to regulate GHGs.

When it comes to legislation, it is not unusual to see different factions of an organisation or industry advocating for different things, said John Juech, vice-president of policy analysis at Garten Rothkopf, a Washington, DC-based energy consulting firm.

“A bill like this is extraordinarily complex, subject to intense lobbying and horse trading,” he added. “It’s false to say there’s broad, overarching consensus.”

By. Gloria Gonzalez

Source: Environmental-Finance

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