Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PG&E Withdraws from US Chamber over Climate Change

Pacific Gas and Electric has created a major stir by its very public withdrawal from membership in the US Chamber of Commerce and condemnation of the Chamber's position regarding climate change. The announcement on Tuesday has been picked up and repeated by every serious climate related web site.

My reactions were submitted as a Green Talk column to my very local paper this AM and are scheduled to appear on Friday. You can read them now by clicking Read more.

The withdrawal came in a letter from PG&E Chairman Peter Darbee to the Chamber of Commerce, a portion of which appears on the PG&E web site. “We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.”

PG&E is not the first major corporation, nor even the first utility, to make such public withdrawal. Duke Energy has withdrawn from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy over that organization's opposition to climate change legislation. Some have even begun to advertise their actions, as S. C. Johnson has done, highlighting the fact that they have sought clean power for their manufacturing plants or Subaru with their zero-landfill automotive manufacturing plant in Indiana. They have found that these are good business decisions, not just publicity stunts.

Time after time we have seen national organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce take ideological positions that are at odds with facts and in doing so reflect a disdain for even the well being of their own membership.

Mis-information abounds, takes on a life of it's own and is repeated so often as fact that the original sources are so far down the trail of citings that they might never be found. Politicians, those who most loudly claim to have only the interests of their constituents at heart, allow their staffs to make up stories as long as they remain true to the ideology, never mind the facts. No one is worse at this than Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe whose previous chief of staff, Mark Marano, is now becoming the guru of climate change denial. The good Senator's mind has long been made up and facts will not change it.

Sadly, we have come to expect this of politicians. But, it has also entered the realm of journalism where the object lesson in non-objective writing is surely George Will and his blatantly erroneous columns on climate in the Washington Post. Not to be outdone, even the venerable NY Times falls for a similar trap, coming from their in-house climate maven, Andrew Revkin.

Revkin, in writing about the UN Climate Change Conference held Tuesday, was at best mis-leading when stating that the temperature has been comparatively stable for a decade. What he did not mention was that it was still the warmest decade on record. It is so easy to pick the facts to suite your explanation rather than making sure that your explanation fits the entire set of facts that we have, so far, discovered.

It would appear as if many expect the universe to be swayed by their ideological interpretations, much as they expect voters to react, to fall in line as soon as they trot out a litany of focus-group refined slogans. I wonder how many molecules of methane they had in their focus group.

It seems clear to me that the universe does not care about, is not swayed by, does not change it's course because of some senator's ideology. The world is what it is and seems rather immune to what we think. It is not, however, immune to what we do. Just as words have meaning, actions have consequences. So far, the actions of mankind have not generally been benign with regards to maintaining any ecological balance.

I could speculate as to how PG&E's actions will work out at the local level. When I was a member of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, one of the major corporations involved was PG&E. The Morgan Hill Chamber also has a good history of working with the City and other organizations toward creating a green business environment. I would hope that this continues, along with the assistance of PG&E.

This is the way that the world should work, but unfortunately does not. When we have local businesses making decisions to manage their business in such a manner as to work with the local ecology rather than against it we will probably have better outcomes, not only for the business but also for the entire world. That is not easy to do. It takes commitment, work and an open mind. There are a lot of people willing to do the hard work, but far fewer who maintain an open mind.

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