The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the enemy of the human race

A new television ad says that proposed climate change legislation would transform the American way of life. Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

Published December 4, 2007 10:40PM (EST)

In a new television advertisement, two freezing Americans are shown bundled up in winter clothes from head to toe, while inside their own home, and even under the covers of their own bed. The husband fries his breakfast eggs over a candle and is forced to jog, along with a horde of other fully dressed, briefcase-wielding salary slaves, in the middle of the street to work.

Blame it on the environmentalists, says the United States Chamber of Commerce, which paid for the ad. Passage of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade climate bill, says the Chamber, "will usher in a Dark Age for America."

In the notes accompanying the posting of the ad on YouTube the Chamber claims the Washington Post reported that "this bill will require a wholesale transformation of the American way of life. Your electric bill will double. 3.4 million Americans will lose their jobs. American GDP will decline by $1 trillion. And American consumers will be forced to pay as much as $6 billion to cope with carbon constraints."

I'd love to see the purported Post piece thus referenced, because, oddly, on Oct 21, the Washington Post endorsed the bill, observing that "neither the United States nor the planet can afford" any more delay on climate change. This is a position that much of the world agrees with, and ultimately, no matter how loudly the Chamber and other paid corporate lackeys for the energy industry kick and scream, they will be dragged into compliance. The rest of us will cheer for "a wholesale transformation of the American way of life." That would be a good thing. More people should jog to work!

It might be worth recalling that the cap-and-trade system that effectively cut emissions of sulfur dioxide from U.S. power plants by 40 percent from 1990 levels was also criticized by industry on the grounds that it would raise prices for consumers. There were some costs -- according to an excellent recap by the San Francisco Chronicle, "the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that complying with the SO2 cap-and-trade law costs "utilities and consumers about $1 billion to $2 billion a year." But that's only 25 percent of what was originally predicted.

Putting in place an effective cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions will be more complicated and likely will cost a pretty penny. Of course, the costs of not doing anything at all could easily be much greater. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, apparently, doesn't think too highly of hedging one's bets and preparing for the future. They'd rather resort to infantile scare tactics that insult the intelligence of the American public.

They would be wise to pay attention to what just happened in Australia. A country that had enjoyed 16 straight years of economic growth just bounced a prime minister, John Howard, who had been in office for 11 years. The universal conventional wisdom is that Howard's head-in-the-sand attitude toward climate change enraged the electorate. The sitting prime minister even managed to get kicked out of his own seat in parliament, which he had held for 33 years. That takes some doing!

So go ahead, watch the ad. But don't pull your hair out. Chuckle. These jokers are really beginning to make themselves look silly.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works