Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thomas Donohue: Face of the 21st Century

In 1938, the year U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue was born, a new car cost $700 and a radio broadcast of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds caused mass panic as thousands of listeners were convinced aliens had really invaded. The first mass-produced personal computer, the 1981 IBM PC, was still 43 years away, and most American households had yet to take the plunge and buy a television set.

Another relic from this bygone era? Donohue's stance on global warming, symbolized by his Chamber's call for a latter-day "Scopes monkey" trial (the original was held in 1925) of global warming science. Indeed, Donohue's group has spent the last 17 years fighting the forward march of global warming science tooth and nail. It's a backward strategy that several of the Chamber's former members have called "antics," and one which has real scientists smacking their heads against the wall.

So imagine our surprise when we saw this letter from Donohue to Apple, Inc.'s Steve Jobs. As you might recall, Apple recently decided to quit its Chamber membership over climate change and took the opportunity to publicly flagellate Donohue for his science-denying antics. Highlights of the letter (via National Journal):

It is unfortunate that your company didn’t take the time to understand the Chamber’s position on climate and forfeited the opportunity to advance a 21st century approach to climate change.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

I would have hoped that Apple would have supported our efforts to improve environmental stewardship and keep Americans at work and our economy competitive. As the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, the Chamber is leading the way to support the innovation needed to transition to a lower carbon future, including the elimination of barriers to the deployment of clean energy technologies. Supporting innovation and technology is at the very heart of our efforts to combat climate change, and we will continue to fight for an approach that embraces their merits.

It is a shame that Apple will not be part of our efforts.
The Chamber's leading the way, you say? And Apple has forfeited the opportunity to advance American innovation for the 21st century? Then Businessweek must have really messed up -- twice -- when it named Apple "America's most innovative company" for the last two years.

No, the only thing the Chamber's "leading the way" on is opposition to any serious attempt to cut our carbon pollution, having led the charge against McCain-Leiberman legislation in 2003 and 2005, Leiberman-Warner legislation in 2007, and Waxman-Markey legislation in 2009.

And with an exodus of businesses from the Chamber coinciding with an announcement this week from 150 major U.S. companies in favor of clean energy legislation, Donohue's even missed the memo from his own constituency in the American business community.

Then again, maybe he was too busy readying his tinfoil hat for the tripod invasion.

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