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Friday, October 16, 2009

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You: S.F. Chamber of Commerce Won't Leave Global Warming-Denialist U.S. Chamber

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 3:35 PM

click to enlarge global_warming.jpg
People in fields such as petroleum, investment banking, or running chambers of commerce, know what it means to be blessed. They are embedded within industries that love to put on conventions and trade shows. Workers travel to distant cities, check into the Hyatt, mingle with people who went the same (or similar) college as they did, and, at the end of the day, hit industry-sponsored dinners and cocktails.

So it's easy to comprehend why the suits at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have retained membership in the global warming-denying U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite recent protest resignations by Apple Computer, PG&E, and Nike.

San Francisco Chamber vice president for policy Rob Black says that, despite pestering from a left-wing magazine, the local business association will stick to its policy of sending a couple of grand or so a year in dues to the U.S. Chamber. "We get the opportunity to meet with other chambers throughout the country, we get to share best practices throughout other communities, and this takes place at marketing events."

The San Francisco Chamber recently curtailed a program in which its small-business members were also given a complimentary U.S. Chamber membership. Black said this came about after a writer for San Francisco-based Mother Jones Magazine contacted local businesses as part of reporting for a series stories about the U.S. Chamber.

"They decided they wanted to start contacting all of our members saying, 'Why aren't you telling the San Francisco Chamber not to sign you up for the U.S. Chamber?'" Black said. "We weren't really even conscious of the fact our members automatically became U.S. Chamber members. When we figured that part out ... we just decided to discontinue that program."

Earlier this month high-profile companies such as Apple Computer, Nike, PG&E, and several other energy companies quit the Chamber in a public display of objection to the trade group's lobbying stance opposing polices aimed at combating global warming.

According to Mother Jones: The U.S. Chamber has been "threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it regulates greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that such a move would dramatically increase "the price of everything that uses energy." It has also questioned the fundamental scientific consensus around global warming, even proposing a public hearing on climate science that would be "the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 21st Century."

Though he has backed away from the Monkey Trial idea, Bill Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber's vice president for the environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, still asserts that the minority views of climate-change "whistleblowers" and skeptics are being ignored by policymakers."

Black, however, says the San Francisco group doesn't have immediate plans to leave the national Chamber. "We have a different set of principles than the U.S. Chamber. They don't control our policy positions and we don't control theirs. But there are important networking opportunities."

Black notes, however, that his group doesn't support the U.S. Chamber's views on climate change.

"We have a fundamentally different approach than the U.S. Chamber. We support market based cap and trade as the best approach for reducing carbon emissions. We think that San Francisco, and California, are uniquely positioned to benefit from that," Black said, in reference to the Bay Area's growing green tech industry.

Black also takes issue with the idea that his group pays dues to the U.S. Chamber merely for the trade shows.

"I run the public policy program for one of the only Chamber's of Commerce in

the country that has endorsed AB 32, cap and trade, and high speed
(electric) rail (and has never been to a trade show ;-)  Wait, I take
back the trade show thing, I did attend the American Carbon Forum here
in San Francisco last year..., but of course that was all about reducing
carbon," Black said.

What did they serve at the cocktail?

"I think it was some chicken buffet thing," Black recalls, and "oddly, lots of bottled water."

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Matt Smith


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