Friday, October 9, 2009

National Taxpayers Union: Big Tobacco Apologists Shift to Clean Energy Attacks

When you follow the clean energy and climate debate as closely as we do here at R?S?, you hear quite a bit of heated (and inaccurate) rhetoric. So it takes quite a lot to truly shock us.

But that's exactly what happened when we read The Hill this morning, finding such an entirely over-the-top, foaming-at-the-mouth editorial by Pete Sepp with the National Taxpayers Union that we really had to re-consider our belief that we've seen everything. The whole piece is worth a read for its absurdity, but we'll give you the bottom line, according to Sepp:

When most in Washington are focusing on the health care debate, we would be foolish to forget about the other looming nightmare for taxpayers across America: cap-and-trade, more appropriately termed the National Energy Tax. The latest example of this is the Boxer-Kerry bill entitled the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act,” which if passed would condemn taxpayers to poverty and the American economy to oblivion.
Beyond repeating the proven lie that the clean energy and climate bill would cost American households $1,761 a year, Sepp really takes it to a whole new level with his doomsday sermon of condemnation and economic "oblivion."

Intrigued by Sepp's clear bid to steal the crown from our current King of the Climate Crazies, we dug a little deeper to figure out exactly where he's coming from on this issue. Turns out, the National Taxpayers Union once defended Big Tobacco with the same chutzpah as their defense of Big Oil today.

It's a journey that took us all the way back to the 1970s, when the tobacco industry faced a growing threat to its business-as-usual practices (like marketing to children) that were lining their pockets while creating a public health disaster in America. With a growing number of health professionals and policymakers pushing for regulations on where and how tobacco could be marketed and consumed, Big Tobacco pursued a strategy that should strike followers of the current clean energy debate as eerily familiar:

1. Deny and attack the science showing that smoking is a major health hazard.
2. Fund lobbying groups and think tanks that will then release statements and studies about the health hazards of tobacco.
3. When those statements and studies come out, point to them and say "Look! This proves everything we've been saying in our own defense!"

Besides trying to muddy the waters by spreading false information, another constant in the campaign against regulating Big Tobacco has been the National Taxpayers Union, a lobbying group and think tank that fought taxes and restrictions on the sale of tobacco products tooth and nail. According to documents that are now part of the public record as part of numerous court cases against Philip Morris International (PMI), the company funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Taxpayers Union to develop the group as a "strategic vehicle" for pushing its anti-regulation agenda for Big Tobacco.

So what does any of this have to do with the clean energy and climate debate, you ask? Among the NTU's major corporate supporters now -- to the tune of $50,000 a year -- is ExxonMobil, according to the company's own site. That would be the same ExxonMobil that has invested heavily in support of a misinformation campaign designed to spread lies and fear about the clean energy and climate bill.

Sound familiar? Essentially, the National Taxpayers Union is now doing for Big Oil what it did for Big Tobacco: spreading lies and misinformation to stop reform and keep corporate wrongdoers from paying their fair share to clean up the mess they've created.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inhofe: Companies Backing Clean Energy Reform Are "Corporate Prostitutes"

Looks like James "Truthiness" Inhofe has struck again.

The science-denying Oklahoma Senator most recently gained attention in the clean energy debate with his plans to embarrass the U.S. at the Copenhagen climate conference in December. Now, he seems to have smart American businesses in his sights, telling conservative talk show host Steve Malzberg exactly what he thinks of the more than 150 businesses who this week called on Congress to pass clean energy and climate legislation:

"You can find a few corporate prostitutes out there that stand to make a whole lot of money on this thing," Inhofe told conservative radio host Steve Malzberg today. "What they're trying to do is to intimidate Congress into passing it."
Attacking companies for deciding that clean energy is good for business is a strange position for Inhofe, himself a former real estate developer and insurance executive. In the U.S. Senate, Inhofe's record has been decidedly pro-Big Business, voting repeatedly against closing corporate tax loopholes.

Indeed, the only corporate buck James Inhofe seems to oppose is the buck companies make by admitting the obvious: global warming is a clear and present danger, and businesses that support clean energy legislation and sustainable energy policies will do much better than those that don't.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Was Actually For A Carbon Cap, Before I Was Against It...

Let's play a game of guess who's responsible for each of the following quotes.

Nov. 2005:

In opening remarks to a clean-energy conference in [redacted], [Clean Energy-Loving Politician] said the first-of-its-kind agreement, under which [redacted] and eight other states could be required to cut power plant emissions by 2020, will not hurt the economy, as some have charged. He argued that it would spur businesses to develop clean- and renewable-energy technology to market worldwide.

''This is a great thing for [redacted]," [Clean Energy-Loving Politician] said, his strongest endorsement of the pact to date. ''We can effectively create incentives to help stimulate a sector of the economy and at the same time not kill jobs."

Oct. 2009:

"A cap and trade program... will have a devastating impact on hard-working American families and on our economy as a whole. This cap and trade bill represents an enormous, hidden tax on the American people and American businesses, and it must be defeated."

If you guessed former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, high five!

Back when he was Governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported a cap-and-trade system in which his state and others would place a mandatory limit on carbon emissions. Said the Boston Globe at the time:

Governor Mitt Romney signaled his support yesterday for a regional agreement among Northeastern states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite opposition from power companies and other business interests that have been lobbying the administration against the plan.

In opening remarks to a clean-energy conference in Boston, Romney said the first-of-its-kind agreement, under which Massachusetts and eight other states could be required to cut power plant emissions by 2020, will not hurt the economy, as some have charged. He argued that it would spur businesses to develop clean- and renewable-energy technology to market worldwide.
That's a pretty strong stand in favor of cap-and-trade, coming from the same Mitt Romney who just this week sent an email to supporters of his political action committee seeking to raise money off his opposition to the cap-and-trade proposal currently making its way through Congress.

Apparently when you're Mitt Romney, your hair may be solid, but your positions on key issues shift with the wind.

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.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Far From the Tree: Apple Quits Chamber Over Climate Antics

Joining a growing exodus, Apple Inc. has quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the lobby group's anti-clean energy antics, specifically citing its opposition to EPA greenhouse gas limits and its call for a Scopes-monkey trial.

In a letter to embattled Chamber President Thomas Donohue, Apple's VP for Government Affairs Catherine Novelli takes the Chamber to task (via the New York Times):

We strongly object to the chamber's recent comments opposing the E.P.A.'s effort to limit greenhouse gases...Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort.

We would prefer that the Chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in address the climate crisis. However, because the Chamber's position differs so sharply with Apple's, we have decided to resign our membership effective immediately.

For those of you following along at home, that makes four companies that have quit the Chamber outright, another that's quit the Chamber's board, and two more (plus the San Jose local Chamber) that have sharply criticized Donohue's antics.

A complete accounting of the exodus is available via NRDC:

Quit US Chamber: Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, Apple.
Quit US Chamber Board: Nike.
Says Chamber doesn't represent their views on climate: Johnson&Johnson, General Electric, San Jose Chamber of Commerce.
Feeling bad for Donohue? You can always gift him this very appropriate video on iTunes for only $1.99!