It started with electric companies: Pacific Gas & Electric in California, Exelon in Chicago and Philadelphia. They let it be known that they disagreed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most influential industry groups in Washington, over its stance on climate warming. And they were quitting.
We reported on this after the PG&E defection. Now they've been joined by a few more companies — including Nike (from the Chamber's board of directors) last week, and, yesterday, Apple.
"Apple is committed to protecting the environment," reads a letter to the Chamber from Catherine A. Novelli, Apple's vice president for worldwide government affairs. "We strongly object to the Chamber's recent comments opposing the EPA's effort to limit greenhouse gases." The company sent ABC News a copy of the letter; look HERE.
Among other things, a Chamber executive suggested in August that there be a "Scopes trial of the 21st century." That's what William Kovacs, the chamber's vice president for environmental regulation, was quoted as telling the Los Angeles Times. It "would be evolutionism versus creationism. It would be the science of climate change on trial." (The Times piece is no longer posted…but a Boston Globe editorial says the chamber "went completely off the rails" with that comment.)
Keep in mind, of course, that Apple is a company that doesn't exactly burn a lot of fossil fuels. It has an interest, with its iPods and iPhones, Macs and iTunes, in burnishing a sleek, clean public image. It has now posted its so-called carbon footprint — and reports that 53 percent of its environmental impact comes from the public (i.e., you) plugging all those shiny electronics into the wall. Apple may have made its name with the Macintosh, but it's big on green Apples.
By the way, Al Gore is on Apple's board, though neither he nor the company would comment on whether he was at all involved in Apple's decision.
Nike, on the other hand, is on the Chamber's board — and says the Chamber sets a lot of policy without telling its own board members. Nike isn't quitting the chamber the way the other companies are, but it is leaving the board, with less-than-kind words: "their recent action challenging the EPA is inconsistent with our view that climate change is an issue in need of urgent action."The Natural Resources Defense Council, a major environmental group, has been following this issue, and sent two links; look HERE and HERE.
Late today, the Chamber's CEO, Thomas Donohue sent this letter to Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs:
Dear Mr. Jobs:
"I am sorry to learn of Apple's resignation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is unfortunate that your company didn't take the time to understand the Chamber's position on climate and forfeited the opportunity to advance a 21st century approach to climate change.
"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. Furthermore, we believe that Congress should set climate change policy through legislation, rather than having the EPA apply existing environmental statutes that were not created to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This is also the stated position of the President and Congressional leaders.
"Your letter states that "Apple is committed to the environment and the communities in which we operate around the world." So is the Chamber but we are also committed to preserving the competitiveness and prosperity of the communities and businesses in our nation.
"While we do support legislation to address climate change, we oppose legislation such as the Waxman-Markey bill that numerous studies show will cause Americans to lose their jobs and shift greenhouse gas emissions overseas, negating potential climate benefits. An effective climate change response must include all major CO2 emitting economies, promote new technologies, emphasize efficiency, ensure affordable energy for families and businesses, and defend American jobs while returning our economy to prosperity.
"The American business community that we proudly represent is the single largest investor and innovator in clean energy solutions and remains committed to a strong economy and clean environment. We continue to remind the public and policymakers that it has been the private sector that has developed the innovations that we now take for granted, from the personal computer to the medicines that keep us healthy. The Chamber believes that the business community will continue to be the catalyst for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we support efforts to tackle climate change in a way that will strengthen our economy, protect American jobs, and benefit our environment.
"Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. The Chamber supports an international agreement that will set realistic and achievable goals, ensure global participation, protect intellectual property rights and remove trade barriers to environmental goods and services.
"I would have hoped that Apple would have supported our efforts to improve environmental stewardship and keep Americans at work and our economy competitive. As the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, the Chamber is leading the way to support the innovation needed to transition to a lower carbon future, including the elimination of barriers to the deployment of clean energy technologies. Supporting innovation and technology is at the very heart of our efforts to combat climate change, and we will continue to fight for an approach that embraces their merits.
"It is a shame that Apple will not be part of our efforts."