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Cap-and-Trade: The Real Deal from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Shannon Arvizu | Monday November 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

mp_main_wide_USChamberOfCommerce452The U.S. Chamber of Commerce may actually have a better idea than a cap-and-trade bill for cutting emissions. And, contrary to popular opinion, they do recognize climate change and the need for clean tech development.

This past week I interviewed Dan Letourneau, the Communications Director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as part of a clean car web radio show called the EVCast. What I learned was quite surprising, given the amount of negative attention the Chamber has been getting lately from environmental groups and the green media.

It appears that the main reason the Chamber opposes a cap-and-trade bill in Congress is because it believes that it will not do enough to help businesses incorporate clean tech into their operations. It has issued an official statement detailing its position and has created an affiliate Institute for 21st Century Energy to develop what they call a “common sense energy strategy.” Letourneau remarked that the Chamber has, in fact, proposed 88 different policy recommendations to Congress that reflect real-world approaches to helping businesses curb emissions.

So – what is the real deal here? Is this just a facade to cover up prior opposition to clean energy…or does the Chamber have a valid point? As I’ve written on TheCleanDeal, a climate treaty should work directly to implement clean technology in the market place. A “cap-and-trade” bill does not necessarily lead to mass market clean tech outcomes. In fact, under Europe’s carbon market system, it has often been cheaper to buy credits than invest in clean tech to reduce GHG emissions.

Putting a price on carbon seems to make sense, at first, as a way to rationalize ecological concerns into the economy. However, the reality is that it is a “round-about” way to actualize climate change goals. An effective climate policy should work directly with businesses to find ways to conserve energy and develop and deploy clean technology. This is what the Chamber is also proposing.

After talking with the Chamber’s representative, I believe they have some valid points that are worth considering…but can the Chamber regain its climate credibility? After the multiple waves of bad publicity in the green scene, it may be difficult for the Chamber to get some traction in this discussion once again. As for the groups that have been active in pointing fingers, it is in their best interest to really understand what a cap-and-trade bill accomplishes at the end of the day. It would also help to understand what an organization’s real position is before making claims to the contrary.

Shannon Arvizu is a Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Sociology at Columbia University. Her work looks at the strategies of hybrid organizations in influencing industry-wide practices in the U.S. automotive field. You can find her on www.misselectric.com and www.thecleandeal.com.


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  • DCTJ

    The Chamber has been attacked tirelessly and has endured strong pressure to change its stance on cap and trade. It is nice to see an article discussing the Chamber’s real position, not one made up by people trying to force them to support the legislation. Cap and trade is bad for American business, and the Chamber should stand against it. Write your Congressmen and let them know that you do not support this terrible legislation either at http://tiny.cc/cPjkx.