November 2, 2009

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Is Hurting U.S. Competitiveness

What do Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources, Apple, and Nike all have in common? In the last month they all dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the group's stance on climate-change legislation.

Sadly, the Chamber's COO told the Wall Street Journal that these defections will not change the Chamber's misguided positions, including constant carping about the potential costs (almost always overstated) of climate change and calling for a mock "trial" on the science of climate change.

Here's why the Chamber is out to lunch. First, tackling climate change is good for business and improves the competitiveness of our industries and the country as a whole. And, oh, on a related note, the Chamber is increasingly out of step with its own members — because they do see how going green will help their businesses.

As so many companies already know, climate legislation will help our nation's businesses stay competitive on the global stage. But don't listen to me, listen to mega-venture capitalist John Doerr and GE's Jeff Immelt. The two staunch capitalists wrote a powerful op-ed in the Washington Post that laid out the series of crises we face: economic, climate, energy security, and now a "competitiveness crisis." As they put it, "this crisis is particularly evident in America's worldwide standing in the next great global industry, green technology."

Their evidence: One in ten of the world's biggest solar and wind companies are based in the U.S. We're falling behind China, Germany, and others fast. Their solution, in part: "Send a long-term signal that low-carbon energy is valuable. We must put a price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions." With the right price signals, we invest, innovate, and move off of fossil fuels (and stop sending $700 billion every year in oil payments to countries that don't like us — but that's a separate story).

And with the right policy in place around the world, according to HSBC, climate change-related products and services will be a $2 trillion market by 2020. That's a big pie to compete for. But without the right price signals here in the U.S., we can't compete. It's as simple as that.

[See the rest of this post, and the always interesting comments whenever climate change comes up, here on Harvard Business Online]

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