Chamber of Commerce continues its clean-air SCARE campaign
September 22, 2008 - 11:48am ET
Popular This Week
Also Worth Reading
As you may be aware, Senator Boxer’s Committee on Environment and Public Works plans a hearing tomorrow on the topic of “regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.”
As you know, both the majority Democrats and minority Republicans get to call witnesses. We want to focus on the organization represented by one of the minority witnesses, the United States Chamber of Commerce. (Less needs to be said about another minority witness, Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Marlo’s a nice fellow and not that many years ago – after we finished debating on CNN – he was privately bemoaning the lack of a threat of government regulation on global warming. After all, what good is an anti-government rabble-rousing organization without the looming presence of the federal bogey-man?)
Now, on to the Chamber of Commerce. You may have heard of its most recent scare campaign about greenhouse gases. In an effort to frighten Congress into taking away Environmental Protection Agency authority over greenhouse gases (in other words, to reverse the big Supreme Court decision) the Chamber has been running about contending the EPA could soon be cracking down on churches, donut shops and melon farms!
How credible are these dire predictions? Is the donut really about to become an endangered species? Perhaps here is where history should be our guide.
For the Chamber has a proud legacy of hyperbole, hysteria – and downright inaccuracy – when it comes to clean air requirements. In fact, the Chamber has been waging rhetorical war against the Clean Air Act for almost four decades. A couple of examples perhaps should suffice to enable us to evaluate the current scare campaign.
In 1971, a year after passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, the Chamber predicted the law would lead to “collapse of entire industries” – including oil and automotive. http://www.earthportal.org/?p=80#1970AD
This was later seen as a classic example of industry hyperbole – especially because the Clean Air Act has actually led to the creation of scores of thousands of highly skilled jobs. (See, for example, at http://www.meca.org/galleries/default-file/motorvehicleindustryfact%2001... )
But the Chamber was only warming up. In the mid-1970s, it opposed the entire concept of limiting air pollution in already-clean areas.
Yes, under the Chamber’s approach, areas such as the Grand Canyon would have been left completely unprotected from air pollution.
As Time Magazine noted, the Chamber claimed that clean-air restrictions would "mandate undeveloped areas into eternal poverty." (Time Magazine, Monday, Jul. 11, 1977 )http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:nuE_g7RmCKcJ:www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,919086,00.html+%22chamber+of+commerce%22+clean+air+and+muskie&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=18&gl=us
Boy, doesn’t this silly rhetoric sound familiar? Once again, the Chamber was left with egg on its face.
Let’s jump ahead to 1997, when the Clinton EPA under Carol Browner was seeking to update and strengthen clean air standards for smog and soot. The Chamber was a leading voice in opposition, asserting that tougher clean air standards amounted to a “travesty” and were “about selling a political agenda in an empty green bag.'' http://pubs.bna.com/NWSSTND/IP/BNA/den.nsf/SearchAllView/A74305CF0D2F714... (As the late comedian Anna Russell used to tell her audiences while describing the plot of a Wagnerian opera , “I’m not making this up you know.” )
Ah, but the Chamber wasn’t done with that issue. You may recall that in the litigation over those clean air standards, the Chamber asserted the Clean Air Act was unconstitutional! Justice Scalia, never to be confused with some left-leading judge, wrote a unanimous opinion slapping down the Chamber’s whacko assertions. http://www.blm.gov/nstc/air/pdf/010227A.PDF
Yes, unfortunately the Chamber has assailed other clean-air controls in the most recent decade. It opposed limits on toxic mercury from power plants, claiming that was simply an “attempt by extreme environmental groups to hinder economic growth and force jobs overseas.” www.progressiveregulation.org/articles/ELR_Mercury.pdf
Even more recently, the Chamber has opposed new smog and soot standards. You may recall that Chamber Vice President Bill Kovacs vowed a “royal fight” against tougher smog standards. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html
You may note that the Chamber did win at least a partial victory in that “royal fight” because the Bush administration ignored science and covertly considered costs when setting those standards. And so now the Chamber would have us believe the EPA would run wild, putting limits on donuts?! Please.
Of course, the Chamber also ran silly knockoff Harry-and-Louise style commercials against the ill-fated Lieberman-Warner climate legislation. http://www.uschamber.com/press/ads/advocate_climatechange.htm
Well, we could probably find other examples, but these should suffice. After all, how many times can you get away with crying wolf? These guys don’t exactly have the Bracewell Giuliani level of sophistication.
When it comes to clean-air controls, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce always seems to favor hysteria over fact. Its current campaign should be dismissed as just one most scare tactic aimed at keeping those membership dues rolling in.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future