On Climate Change, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Is Full of Hot Air

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has decided to pick a fight with Apple over climate change. This started after Apple quit the chamber this week and made it clear that it was doing so because it thinks the people running the chamber are a bunch of imbeciles when it comes to climate change. Yesterday, in an incredibly brazen move, the head of the chamber struck back, firing off a letter in which he criticized Apple and said the chamber really does care about climate change, and that Apple just didn't take the time to listen to its plans. (My colleague Daniel Stone blogged about the squabble earlier today here on Techtonic Shifts.)

Money quote from chamber president Thomas Donohue in his letter to Apple: “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."

See, this is the new strategy from the climate-change obstructionists. Instead of saying climate change is a bunch of hooey and threatening to put climate science on trial, as the chamber was trying to do only two months ago, now they're playing a more sophisticated game—one that comes straight out of Orwell. It goes like this: gee whiz, we really are sooo concerned about climate change, we're really serious about it, and we have all these great ideas about how to address climate change, and we really want to study the issue and embrace change and lead America into the 21st century ... blah, blah, blah. But really what they want to do is drag their feet and make sure nothing gets done.

Don't believe me? Since they decided to pick a fight on this issue and call out Apple, let's take a look at who these people at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce really are. Because who knows? Maybe they're right and Apple is wrong. Maybe the chamber really is leading the fight to address climate change.

We could start with chamber president Donohue himself, who before joining the organization "served for 13 years as president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, the national organization of the trucking industry," and who currently is a director of Union Pacific Corp., a railroad. Ahem. 

The board of directors includes Robert Milligan, who is "chairman of M.I. Industries, an animal and meat protein processing company based in Lincoln, Nebraska," serves on the National Association of Manufacturers, and is "international president of CBMC, a Christian marketplace ministry to business and professional leaders in 90 countries around the world." There's Thomas Bell Jr., who has ties to Ralph Reed and Fred Thompson and is a director at AGL Resources, a natural-gas distributor. And there's Steve Van Andel, who runs Amway and whose family funded the Van Andel Creation Research Center, which is trying to prove that creationism is real and evolution is wrong.

The chamber's "senior council" includes Jeffrey Crowe of Landstar Systems, a big trucking company, and Gerald Shaheen, who is a group president of Caterpillar, responsible for the group that makes "mining and construction equipment."

The chamber's regional vice chairmen include David E. Kepler of Dow Chemical, John Hopkins of Fluor Corp., which built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and Larry Liebenow, who used to run a textile company.

So far, pretty green, right? But wait. This organization's green credentials just keep getting better.

On the management team there's R. Bruce Josten, the head of government affairs for the chamber, whose accomplishments include creating the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth, which sounds kind of progressive until you read that its Web site is registered to the American Gas Association and its members include the American Petroleum Institute, the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, the Association of American Railroads, the Association of Oil Pipelines, and dozens of oil and gas and other energy companies. Yeah. It's one of those organizations, the kind that sound as if they do one thing but really do another—like when the tobacco industry creates the "Healthy Lung Alliance" or the health-insurance industry creates the "Helping American Families Foundation."

There's Thomas Collamore, who was a honcho on the Friends for Fred Thompson Committee and before that spent 14 years as head flack at Altria Group—which you might know better under its previous name, Philip Morris Corp. Yes, he was flacking for Big Tobacco—he's the real-life version of the guy in Thank You for Smoking. Before that he was chief of staff and assistant secretary of commerce in the George H.W. Bush administration.

There's Rolf Lunberg Jr., who worked for well-known green advocates Bob Dole and Trent Lott, and also served in the first Bush administration. There's Arthur Rothkopf, who served in the first Bush administration, in the Department of Transportation. There's William Kovacs, the chamber's "issue expert" on energy and the environment, who in 2002 said all this hysteria about climate change was just a bunch of hooey and environmentalists were just like Chicken Little, running around screaming that the sky is falling. He also contributes articles to the Heartland Institute, whose causes include disputing global warming and "defending smokers" (read: tobacco companies) from the "propaganda and exaggeration of anti-smoking groups." I am not making that up.

But here is the real gem of the bunch: Karen Alderman Harbert, the director of the chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. She was a big shot in the Department of Energy during the super-progressive George W. Bush administration and is not loved by environmentalists. Before her stint at the DOE, Harbert "worked for a developer of international infrastructure and power projects valued at more than $9 billion in countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America." Ahem.

In case you want more, you can watch this video in which Harbert explains her super-progressive views on energy, which include drilling more oil in the U.S., using more natural gas, and digging more coal. Because it's all about finding a way not to "impose unmanageable burdens on America's families and America's businesses."

Translation: drill, baby, drill.

Did Apple really misunderstand the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and where it stands on climate change? Seems as if it  understood the chamber just fine.