By Janet Pomeroy
One of the major themes in President Obama’s State of the Union speech was the need to maintain our economic strength by out-innovating other nations. “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives,” he said. “It is how we make our living.” The president put green innovation at the center of a strategy for “winning the future,” and committed to doubling our country’s clean energy production in 25 years.
Leading renewable energy companies, economists, businesses, and environmental groups have said they believe Obama’s vision is practical and attainable, yet the U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes an opposing view. According to a February 2 New York Times article, The US Chamber claims that it is unrealistic and “impossible.” It’s just an example of the Chamber’s latest stance in favor of an old, tired economy.
The U.S Chamber’s opposition to congressional measures addressing climate change led Pacific Gas and Electric, Exelon Corporation, Apple, and other major corporations to withdraw their memberships. Observing that there was “no outlet for changing the policy” on climate change, Nike resigned from the Chamber’s Board of Directors. In 2009, Duke Energy cut contributions to the Chamber because of its efforts to discredit climate science.
Obama’s recent meeting with the U.S. Chamber appeared cordial enough on the surface, but surely he knows that the Chamber does not represent the companies that will carry his vision forward. The U.S. Chamber’s policies not only sabotage environmental protection, but work against the interests of many businesses. Large corporations that have embraced social responsibility are separating themselves from this 100-year-old lobbying group, and are benefiting by making innovation synonymous with environmental protection.
They have also formed their own organizations. Nike, along with corporations such as Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks and Timberland, founded Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP); members now also include The Gap, Target, and eBay. Other national organizations representing the growing number of companies that are both pro-business and pro-clean energy include: the Green Chamber of Commerce, B Lab (certifier of B Corporations), and the American Sustainable Business Council.
Meanwhile, the US Chamber seeks to perpetuate an obsolete, dirty-energy economy that suffocates innovation and alienates its own members. We have seen livelihoods destroyed by oil spills, lives lost in mining disasters, countries torn apart by war, all as a direct consequence of our dependence on a fossil fuel economy. If the U.S. Chamber has its way, we will continue down that road and we will continue to lose ground to countries like China in the race to a clean energy market.
To put it in perspective, China is, at this moment, investing billions to become the world’s clean energy superpower. We cannot sit back and let that happen.
I believe that most businesses realize this. Which is why I urge American businesses to take a stand and support Obama’s clean energy plan. A clean energy future is not just good politics; it’s good for business. And it’s critical to our survival.
Janet Pomeroy holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from Dominican University of California’s Green MBA program, and is the President of the Green Chamber of Commerce, based in San Francisco, CA.