What Happened to the Chamber I Once Knew?

I remember a time when the Chamber of Commerce worked to bring new businesses and good jobs to American communities. These days, however, the national organization seems more interested in blocking ingenuity than fostering it.

The National Chamber of Commerce recently kicked off an ad campaign tied to 21 Congressional races. Many of the ads address health care reform, but several focus on energy. The ads assail candidates who support renewable power, cars that go father on less gasoline, and other clean energy solutions. And they applaud candidates who favor the same fossil fuels that have dirtied our air for centuries.

Just to be clear: Every single one of the attack ads targets Democrats, and all the positive ads back Republicans.

Positioning America as the leader of the 21st century clean energy market should be a shared national goal, but the Chamber of Commerce has revealed once again it views clean energy as a partisan lightening rod.

For the sake of politics—or the fossil fuel sector—they are rejecting the enormous economic opportunity presented by clean energy. The U.S market invested $55.9 billion in clean energy technologies last year according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. You would think that kind of growth in the midst of a recession would earn some respect within the chamber.

Instead, chamber leaders ignore it and discount the jobs that come with this investment. It’s as if they were saying that the more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry or the more than 80,000 in the wind industry don’t embody the values of entrepreneurialism, prosperity, and growth that the Chamber of Commerce used to represent.

This may come as no surprise to those who know the chamber for refusing to accept climate science, but I knew the chamber in a different light.

My father was active in the Chamber of Commerce in the small, conservative town where I grew up. Like local chambers everywhere, it was dedicated to making our community grow and prosper. It wasn’t interested in blocking national energy policy or pretending to know more about science than scientists. It simply worked to support existing businesses in the area and attract new ones.

In those days, the chamber helped make the American Dream happen for people. Now its representatives in Washington act like a shadow group dedicated to obstructing innovation and progress. This makes them blind to real advances happening in communities across the country. More than 150,000 Americans, for instance, have jobs manufacturing clean cars. They work for 300 different companies at facilities in 43 different states.  Most of them are building cars and using technologies that weren’t even available 10 years ago.

That’s the kind of opportunity my dad would have welcomed in our town. But these days, the national Chamber of Commerce wants to undermine it and any policies that would encourage it.

It seems committed to turning clean energy into the third rail of politics for this cycle. It has promised to be more involved in this election cycle than they were in 2010, when it spent more than $33 million on federal races.

Money like that gives the chamber real power, but I believe the American Dream is more powerful. I think most voters will see that real jobs, real growth, and real innovation will do more for their communities than the chamber’s obstruction.

 

 

 

Day One

Recently Mitt Romney rolled out two new ads touting what he plans to do on his first day on the job if elected President. Both are filled with some lofty goals to say the least, with the scariest part being that he may actually believe he accomplish all these tasks on day one.

For the sake of time, I will set aside the ad mentions of overturning the Affordable Care Act and introducing tax cuts/reforms and just focus on two of the big hitters, approving Keystone Pipeline and repealing job killing regulations.

In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural activities, these ads want us to believe that Mitt Romney will make approving the Keystone Pipeline and the repeal of regulations his top priorities. So even with all the other issues facing our country, he’s going to make building a pipeline that transports dirty tar sands oil from Canada, through highly sensitive areas of our country, to the already endangered Gulf Coast his first act as President? And as his next act he will repeal all the regulations he deems job killers? Will there be any regard for considering that some regulations are good, can actually create jobs and are meant to keep us safe? And the really pressing question, will this be before or after he picks out his power tie and presidential cufflinks for his ceremonial walk down Pennsylvania Avenue?

On one hand, these ads are hard to believe and can probably just be chalked up to campaign rhetoric and the willingness to make promises, which probably can’t be kept (especially since Congress doesn’t care about “Day One” or “Day Three Hundred”).  In fact, the only way he could probably make this kind of promise happen is if he pays for it to become a reality. 

The scary thing is that he could. These ads could be plausible because Romney is seeking counsel from the likes of Harold Hamm. Hamm, who serves as Romney’s top energy advisor, is the billionaire chairman and CEO of Continental Resources. And, just one month after assuming his role as energy advisor, contributed nearly $1 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC. Raising legitimate questions about his influence with candidate Romney and how those ties could benefit his company.

The saying goes “you are who you associate with.” For Mitt Romney this seems to be not only true, but could become our reality if he is given a day one. 

 

 

 

Enough is Enough, Why Some Ad Campaigns Go Too Far

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been speechless. As a professional communicator, that’s probably a good thing. However, when the following headline: Heartland Institute compares belief in global warming to mass murder, reached my inbox this morning, I sat staring at my computer screen, with my mouth gaping, completely at a loss for words. Seconds later, after finally recovering from my initial shock, the words “now I’ve seen it all” came to mind.

While the Heartland Institute is known for its outlandish propaganda against climate change, this is a new low and might I say ill-advised attempt to win over the hearts and minds of Americans. A recent poll from the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion shows that 62% of Americans believe climate change is real. This number is significantly higher than polling from just two years ago. The trend is linked to respondents acknowledging their own personal experiences as the main reason they believe the earth is warming.

Aside from the fact that solid scientific evidence and public opinion are not on their side, the Heartland Institute decided to plow ahead with comparing the majority of Americans (myself included) to Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Charles Manson (a mass murderer) and Fidel Castro (a dictator) in their new ad campaign in Chicago. If, like us you don’t really identify with those notorious figures, you’re in luck. Future ads may feature Osama bin Laden. Seriously. I wish I was making this up.

There comes a time in all political discourse that someone must say “enough is enough” and this simply “goes too far.” The Heartland Institute should be ashamed of this type of extremist gamesmanship, which as the NRDC Action Fund previously blogged, “No one actually wins this kind of game. Instead, we end up with one big loser: the American people.”

What the American people want and need is a real dialog about how we can work together to invest in clean energy, while protecting our precious resources and the health of our kids. It’s time we all drew a line in the sand and told the likes of the Heartland Institute to stop these types of outlandish ads. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voldemort Leads Oil Industry Trade Group

It is never good when your leader is compared to Lord Voldemort, the evil “Dark Lord” of the Harry Potter series. Yet, that’s how one oil industry insider describes Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute (API) according to a recent Washington Post profile.

The Post profile details Gerard’s long history as an anti-environmental, pro-pollution advocate. He previously worked for for Sen. James A. McClure, one of only 11 senators to vote against the overwhelmingly bipartisan and popular Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He then worked for the National Mining Association and the American Chemical Coalition, two groups not exactly known in Washington for their strong advocacy of worker and public health.

Now Gerard has taken the helm and steered API toward a less factual, more political advocacy agenda. The group has already bought at least $4.3 million in broadcast ads this year. These ads tend to target politicians who dare suggest that drilling should be done safely or that innovative clean energy startups might need tax breaks more than highly profitable oil companies. API’s advocacy often hides in small print attached to groups with more appealing names like “Energy Nation,” “Energy Citizens,” “EnergyTomorrow,” “Vote4Energy,” or the “Coalition for American Jobs.”

Just like Voldemort, Gerard is a formidable foe. He’s got powerful allies and strong weapons (in Voldemort’s case, magic; in Gerard’s, lots of cash) on his side. But - spoiler alert - in the end, Harry Potter and the powers of good defeat Voldemort. It’s a reminder to clean energy advocates not to give up. In the end, we too can defeat You-Know-Who.

 

Voldemort Leads Oil Industry Trade Group

It is never good when your leader is compared to Lord Voldemort, the evil “Dark Lord” of the Harry Potter series. Yet, that’s how one oil industry insider describes Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute (API) according to a recent Washington Post profile.

The Post profile details Gerard’s long history as an anti-environmental, pro-pollution advocate. He previously worked for for Sen. James A. McClure, one of only 11 senators to vote against the overwhelmingly bipartisan and popular Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He then worked for the National Mining Association and the American Chemical Coalition, two groups not exactly known in Washington for their strong advocacy of worker and public health.

Now Gerard has taken the helm and steered API toward a less factual, more political advocacy agenda. The group has already bought at least $4.3 million in broadcast ads this year. These ads tend to target politicians who dare suggest that drilling should be done safely or that innovative clean energy startups might need tax breaks more than highly profitable oil companies. API’s advocacy often hides in small print attached to groups with more appealing names like “Energy Nation,” “Energy Citizens,” “EnergyTomorrow,” “Vote4Energy,” or the “Coalition for American Jobs.”

Just like Voldemort, Gerard is a formidable foe. He’s got powerful allies and strong weapons (in Voldemort’s case, magic; in Gerard’s, lots of cash) on his side. But - spoiler alert - in the end, Harry Potter and the powers of good defeat Voldemort. It’s a reminder to clean energy advocates not to give up. In the end, we too can defeat You-Know-Who.

 

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