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Chamber: We Want To Help On Climate Change -- Really!

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Newscom

In recent weeks, the Chamber has been battered by the defections of several members, citing the group's opposition to serious efforts to address global warming, and by a stunt by a group of activist pranksters, that drew further attention to the Chamber's position on the issue.

In the letter to the Senate, Chamber exec Bruce Josten writes:

The Chamber stands ready to work with Congress to resolve this issue in a bipartisan manner that recognizes regional differences, the state of the technology, and the compelling need for a solution that minimizes overall economic impact.

Josten praises a recent New York Times op-ed by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as "positive, practical and realistic." That op-ed called for "aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change," and said: "We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas."

But Josten warns:

The Chamber will continue to oppose bad policies that resemble the failed climate proposals of the past, such as bills that jeopardize American jobs, create trade inequalities, leave open the Clean Air Act, open the door to CO2-based mass tort litigation, and further hamper the permitting process for clean energy.

And of course, the Chamber commits itself to nothing here. So this is about optics, not substance. As a Sierra Club spokesman out it in an emailed response: "We need far more than words from them on this issue in order believe that they have genuinely decided to begin a more constructive form of engagement."

Here's the letter in full:

November 3, 2009

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Chairman
Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable James Inhofe
Ranking Member
Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes climate change is an important issue for this Congress to address. The Chamber stands ready to work with Congress to resolve this issue in a bipartisan manner that recognizes regional differences, the state of the technology, and the compelling need for a solution that minimizes overall economic impact. As your committee reopens discussion on a climate bill, the Chamber urges you to take steps to bridge the political and geographical divide that prevented the enactment of comprehensive climate legislation in 2003, 2005, and 2008, and appears to have stalled the current effort.

It is time to consider a different approach.

The challenge of drafting comprehensive climate legislation is not "whether" to do something, but "how." There are many good ideas out there that can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense and realistic foundation on which to craft a bill. The Chamber commends Senators Kerry and Graham for their recent New York Times editorial on the need for comprehensive climate legislation. The Chamber welcomes the call for a new conversation on how to address the issue, and believes their editorial can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense foundation on which to craft a bill. Many other important details are needed, but the Chamber agrees that the objectives outlined in that editorial, coupled with their clear recognition that "this process requires honest give-and-take and genuine bipartisanship," can move this important policy objective forward in a bipartisan manner that garners strong business community support.

Senators Kerry and Graham have set forth a positive, practical and realistic framework for legislation, one that echoes the core principles that the Chamber embeds in all of its communications on climate policy. The Chamber agrees with a great deal of the principles set forth by Senators Kerry and Graham, in particular that legislation should: minimize the impact on major emitters; reduce price volatility for consumers; protect global competitiveness; invest in renewable energy sources; take advantage of nuclear power; streamline the permit system; make us the "Saudi Arabia of clean coal" by fostering carbon capture and sequestration technology; commit to increased environmentally responsible onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration; contain consumer and intellectual property protections; protect against agency regulation under existing laws not written for greenhouse gases; strengthen the hand of our international negotiators; and increase our own energy security and energy efficiency.

Good ideas are not limited to Senators Kerry and Graham. Proposals by Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Baucus, Bingaman, Cantwell, Dorgan, Lieberman, Murkowski, Vitter and Voinovich (to name a few) all contain elements that can be used in conjunction with the Kerry-Graham proposal and the positive aspects of S. 1733, the "Clean Energy Jobs and Power Act," to craft a realistic, cost-effective and environmentally meaningful climate change bill.

Shaping a bill the Chamber, the broader business community, and a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate approve of will take significant effort. The Chamber will continue to oppose bad policies that resemble the failed climate proposals of the past, such as bills that jeopardize American jobs, create trade inequalities, leave open the Clean Air Act, open the door to CO2-based mass tort litigation, and further hamper the permitting process for clean energy. But the Chamber believes Senators Kerry, Graham, and the other named Senators have taken a constructive and positive stand on global climate change and energy security, rising above partisan politics and opening a real discussion on how to address this important issue. The Chamber has developed many other recommendations that would complement these approaches to strengthen our nation's energy security, power our economy, and create jobs, and protect the environment, and we welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these important issues.

Sincerely,

R. Bruce Josten

Cc: The Members of the United States Senate