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U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Who's in Charge Over There?

Reading an article from The Hill about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "recent" stance in favor of more fossil fuel development, I couldn't help but wonder if the Chamber's top energy official, Karen Harbert, might have been replaced by a parakeet.

In predictable style, the heavily conservative lobbying group called upon lawmakers to stop pursuing policies promoting development of "nascent" technologies like solar and wind, and instead deregulate the oil and gas industry, even going so far as to suggest that last year's Gulf disaster was an anomaly and that further regulation was unnecessary. In fact, the conversation was so predictable that the words "regulate" and "tax," if taken out of the vernacular, would seemingly render the U.S. Chamber's representatives completely incapable of speech. After reading the article, the parrot-like screeching of Ms. "What spill?" Harbert keeps ringing through my inner ears.

This country needs to stop wind and solar development like it needs another war to fight (don't give the U.S. Chamber any ideas...). 2010 saw China leapfrog the U.S. in wind power installments, and is likely the hottest year on record (despite a La Nina effect that kept the North American Pacific Coast cold and wet most of the year), continuing a trend that somehow seems to continue to appear "happenstance" to those unconcerned about such things, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the new Republican House majority.  Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, for example, newly appointed Chairman of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee of the full Appropriations Committee, called the Environmental Protection Agency the "scariest" agency of the Federal government. Not the warrantless wiretapping CIA or the secret prisons where we torture political prisoners...no. The scariest is the agency that aims to keep our drinking water drinkable.

Terrifying, isn't it?

What's to be done? According to Jeffrey Hollender, co-Founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, this is exactly why we need an answer to the U.S. Chamber...one that actually represents U.S. business and community interests, rather than just a subset of special interests that makes oodles of money extracting and burning fossil fuels.

There are a variety of interesting alternatives emerging to counter the U.S. Chamber's thinly veiled representation and support of the stone age economy of nonrenewables. One is the American Sustainable Business Council, which Mr. Hollender himself helped spearhead a mere 18 months ago, and which now include 65,000 member businesses. These are all businesses fed up with the lack of representation in the U.S. Chamber for Main Street America. Another is the Green Chamber of Commerce, which this year is expected to form chapters in several new states.

Evidence of the erosion of support for the U.S. Chamber continues to pile up, which hopefully, eventually will help diminish the group's lobbying power. New Hampshire's Chamber withdrew last year, "Disgusted" by the U.S. Chamber's actions. As have Nike, PG&E, Apple, and several other large corporations withdrawn from its Board. But of course, as long as Massey Energy (remember the coal mine disaster last year in West Virginia? Yep, that was Massey--regulations for worker safety apparently break the company's back financially, but somehow they keep coming up with money to give to the U.S. Chamber) and Glenn Beck keep pouring money into the U.S. Chamber's coffers, they'll continue to lobby against progress.

And that's bad for all of us. Even those with the vocabulary of a parakeet, whether they know it or not.


Scott Cooney is author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com, through which he teaches workshops to help people start green businesses both online and in person. Free 2 hour Introduction to Green Entrepreneurship Web Class Course January 25th. Sign up here.

Join Scott on TwitterFacebook’s Green Business Owner group, or the LinkedIn group by the same name.

Scott Cooney headshotScott Cooney

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector. In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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