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April 30 2011

20:12

Business Groups Lobby EPA to Drop Gas Emission Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only been regulating greenhouse gas emissions for four months, but business groups are already tired of the increased oversight. According to new reports, some of the largest business groups in America are fighting back, urging the President and Congress to strip the EPA of its new authority.

The powerful business group known as the Business Roundtable is trying to convince the White House that the EPA does not need to be involved with the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, at least not right now. The Roundtable insists that imposing new standards for emissions will hurt their industries and impose what they consider unfair costs on member corporations. In addition, the Roundtable claims that these new standards would plunge our economy back into another recession and cause massive job losses, as corporations attempt to recoup their expenses of “going green” by firing employees.

The Business Roundtable’s sentiments on the new EPA standards have been echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as Congressional members from both major political parties.

The Business Roundtable is made up of business leaders from all types of corporations doing business in America. Members include Exxon, General Electric, Southern Company, and various other energy, manufacturing, defense, banking, and pharmaceutical companies. According to investigative journalist David DeGraw, the Business Roundtable is the most powerful business lobby in America, and has their hand in almost every piece of legislation that effects a member of the Roundtable:

The Business Roundtable is the most powerful activist organization in the United States. Their leaders regularly lobby members of Congress behind closed doors and often meet privately with the President and his administration. Any legislation that affects Roundtable members has almost zero possibility of passing without their support.

For three major examples, look at healthcare and financial reform, along with the military budget. The healthcare reform bill devolved into what amounts to an insurance industry bailout and was drastically altered by Roundtable lobbyists representing interests like WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson…Almost every aspect of financial reform has been D.O.A. thanks to Roundtable lobbyists representing the interests of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, Master Card and American Express…The drastic rise in military spending is also a result of Roundtable lobbyists pushing the interests of large military companies like Boeing and Bechtel, along with the largest oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, Hess and Chevron.

So what do these companies do in order to ensure that they receive special favors from their friends in Washington? Again from DeGraw:

On financial reform alone, those representing Wall Street firms gave “$42 million to lawmakers, mostly to members of the House and Senate banking committees and House and Senate leaders.” During the 2008 election cycle, they gave $155 million: $88 million to Democrats and $67 million to Republicans. Keep in mind, this is the spending on just their financial reform initiative. When it came to health reform, they gave even more.

To be sure, these business interests are not used to being told “no.” So why is the Roundtable so upset about the EPA’s new standards? After all, they not only acknowledge the fact that global climate change is real and poses a significant threat, but they also give the appearance that they are working to help solve the problem. Their objection stems from the fact that it will cost them money to meet the new EPA guidelines, and this group doesn’t like spending money, unless it is to purchase a politician.

The EPA says that meeting the new guidelines will cost the industries represented by the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a combined $90 billion over the next ten years, a hefty price tag no matter how you slice it.

But what about the flip side? What happens if these industries continue with business as usual?

While that $90 billion ten-year price tag seems lofty, it pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion that experts predict it will cost us if we do nothing to control emissions by the year 2100. In the interim, the U.S. will end up spending $3.8 trillion over the next several decades just to combat the damage that has already been done. Having at least a moderate understanding of mathematics, it is clear that $90 billion is significantly less than $3.8 trillion.

But for American businesses, it is all about what’s happening today – the future be damned. And Congress doesn’t appear to be helping. Last year, a climate bill that would have reduced emissions failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Congress, and the new Republican-controlled Congress recently defeated another attempt to reduce emissions.

President Obama has made it clear that he will veto any bill that comes across his desk attempting to curtail the EPA’s new authority, but seeing as how the Business Roundtable is actually considered one of his closest allies, and given his penchant for compromise, EPA's mandate to protect the public from global warming pollution might well get scuttled this year.

Let's hope President Obama remembers the message he got first hand from youth climate activists he met with at the White House during PowerShift 2011 earlier this month. Otherwise, we're in for an expensive future.

April 27 2011

18:38

Response to Criticism of Cooperation Between Business and Mainstream Environmentalism


Criticism of Cooperation Between Business and Mainstream Environmentalism is UnwarrentedSome radical environmentalists are harshly critical of the increasing levels of cooperation between environmental organizations and major corporations. These extremists believe that the only way we can address the climate change crisis is through a revolution which overthrows the entire capitalist system.

This revolutionary rhetoric was reiterated in an article published on Saturday, April 23, 2011, by Cory Morningstar in the Huttington News. In an article titled “1Sky Unveils the New 350.org: More $ — More Delusion,” Morningstar claims that corporate support for the major environmental organizations is part of a global conspiracy by the “elites” to hijack grassroots environmentalism.

Morningstar’s attack on environmental NGOs includes well respected organizations like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and 350.org. Morningstar points to the April 6, 2011, announcement that 1Sky and 350.org have officially merged.

The Green Market (of which I am the founder) did not escape Morningstar’s conspiratorial musings. He rails against 350.org and its The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me campaign stating:

“350.org revealed its first order of business – that of business. In 2011, The Green Market website published an article titled 350.org and Business. The website promotes the 350 campaign to ask businesses to leave the US Chamber of Commerce in response to climate change; however, it neglected to critically analyze why such a campaign can only fail.”

The truth is the campaign has actually been a great success with some of the most widely recognized brands joining over one thousand businesses of all sizes in saying no to the US Chamber of Commerce and its anti-environmental agenda.

Morningstar has a different interpretation, in his view this “incrementalism dooms humanity to failure.” Although there is an urgent need to respond rapidly, an accelerated form of ‘incrementalism’ may be the most efficient method of implementing the most effective broad spectrum changes.

Morningstar continues:

“No matter how many businesses leave the Chamber, they will still be doing what they do…destroying the environment for the sake of profit…it will provide nothing of consequence to the solution set. It’s nothing less than delusion, if not a crime against humanity, that those who understand the science actually believe such campaigns are helpful beyond our psyches.”

Despite Morningstar’s contention, the 350.org campaign is helping to build momentum which encourages ever larger numbers of businesses to adopt serious sustainability initiatives. Although Morningstar may believe that the climate scientists are delusional, there is a certain logic to accepting the conclusions derived from experimentation over ideologically driven rants.

350.org supports regulation, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and greater taxation for the wealthy, but Morningstar manages to convince himself that the real agenda is “keeping the wealth and power in the hands of a few.” He goes on to say, “As long as the elites control the non-profit industrial complex we will never defeat the climate crisis.”

Morningstar even dismisses proposed US climate change legislation as “completely inadequate and focused on false solutions and commodification of Earth’s final remaining natural resources.” Although legislation is unlikely before 2012, assigning a value to the earth’s resources and attaching a price to pollutants like carbon is an efficient means of slowing anthropogenic climate change in the near term.

At its core, Morningstar’s tirade calls for a revolution against what he refers to as the “ruling elite” which apparently now includes mainstream environmentalism. As he explains in the article:

“…institutions such as 1Sky, are manufactured and funded to serve the system and create a false pretext of dissent. And as long as such organizations refuse to focus on and examine the fundamental relationship between green capitalist logic and ecological disaster, they simply serve as nails in the coffin of humanity and nothing more than brilliantly executed distractions that allow us to embrace the comfort of denial…1Sky and all of the other interconnected heavily funded organizations are little more than convenient messengers for the ruling classes who continue to excel in ensuring ‘all the ducks are in a row’. Nothing is left to chance.”

Although some would have us believe otherwise, the very system which created the ecological nightmare we are facing is also our best hope for the future. The rapid growth of the green economy offer the only viable solution, the revolution that Morningstar advocates is a nightmare within a nightmare.

Morningstar portrays 350.org’s founder Bill McKibben as having created “the world’s most heavily funded token movement tightly controlled by world’s most powerful ruling classes.”

According to Morningstar,

“If we truly want to save some resemblance of a livable planet for our children, we must confront and reject the non-profit industrial complex, who in reality, cannot and will not bite the hand which feeds them – the hand upon which they depend, in order to continue to exist.”

It is important to follow the actions of corporate and organizational interests closely as there are undeniably many who are working to subvert the process of greater transparency, responsibility and accountability. However, the growing relationship between business and the “non-profit industrial complex” as Morningstar calls them, drives the green economy and benefits the environment. It is nothing short of absurd to dismiss the business community’s pivotal role in carbon reduction.

Morningstar’s Marxist-Lenninist rants reduce the war against climate change to class conflict, but his revolutionary zeal is unproductive and does nothing to solve the dire crisis we are facing. We have seen this tired rhetoric before, and as we look back on the arc of history we see that anti-capitalist regimes are the polar opposite of a panacea.

If we are to make the kind of environmental changes we need to see in the time frames we have, we will have to use the mechanisms in place. Environmental organizations have a crucial role to play getting carbon below a safe threshold and the most expedient way of inducing this change is through the mechanism of capitalism.

_______________________________________________

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, enviro-politics and eco-economics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find Richard on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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October 26 2010

12:32

Money Talks: Big Oil & Special Interests Bankroll Anti-Clean Energy Efforts on the Campaign Trail

With just over a week to go before the U.S. midterm elections, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has released a great interactive map that shows who's been bankrolling efforts to halt clean energy efforts and back the anti-clean energy reform agenda.  After the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections, the election terrain has become a dizzying display of corporate muscle and dollars.  Perhaps most dizzying is how easy it is for Big Oil and special interests to hide behind benevolent-sounding front groups, and how difficult it now is for us to know whose interests are shaping the elections.

In this midterm election, Democratic-aligned groups have been outspent by an astounding 7 to 1 margin, and Republican-aligned groups have flooded the nation's airwaves with a flurry of ads.  According to CorpWatch, they have spent over $300 million, five times as much as they did in 2006.

CAP's stats come from a Repower America report that shows the companies and organizations spreading misinformation about clean energy and climate change.  13 organizations have injected $68.5 million in 2010 alone into fictitious TV ads designed to spin clean energy legislation.  Since August alone, they've pumped over $17 million into their efforts. 

CAP's report offers a state-by-state breakdown of the top donors, and follows the money to the source. And it's not pretty.  The stakes for a clean energy future are high as oil and coal groups spend more and more helping climate-denying candidates run in tight races. <!--break-->

One such battleground is in California where out-of-state Koch Industries and Texas Oil companies Tesoro and Valero are funding a campaign to ensure that the domino 'effect' of the clean energy economy does not sweep across America.  To date, Big Oil and special interests have invested over $10 million into the campaign, $1 million alone on TV ads.  The vast majority is from out of state interests including Koch Industries who don't want to see similar laws passed in other states.  Speaking of the Kochs, Charles Koch should debate Cal State Los Angeles student Joel Francis on Prop 23 instead of hiding behind his multi-billion dollar oil and chemical fortune. 

The Yes on 23 and "California Jobs Initiative" aren't the only Orwellian-sounding organizations bankrolling anti-clean efforts on the campaign trail.  Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, the Committee for Truth in Politics, National Taxpayers UnionClub for Growth Action, and American Crossroads GPS are also funding television ads to prevent progress on clean energy and climate legislation. 

In addition to Astroturf groups, a number of industry trade organizationss have donated handsomely including the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers.  In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, claiming to speak for business, has funded $3.8 million in energy-related ads as part of its anti-climate legislation lobbying agenda.  ThinkProgress recently reported that much of their funding is from foreign corporations, including the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company and Bahrain Petroleum Company.  Why are they helping fund the U.S. midterm election? 

So, though the midterm elections are days away, CAP's report shows that the winners have in many way already been chosen.  Big Oil and special interests have scored a major victory over actual citizens since the Citizens United ruling, and now, instead of money talking, we need to be talking about the money. 

November 19 2009

20:57

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