You know the US Chamber of Coal (sorry, "Commerce") must be getting desperate for good-will ambassadors when it has to deploy Don "I'll Shoot You" Blankenship to defend its extremist rhetoric on climate change and policy.
Yes, this is the same Don Blankenship, Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, the fourth-largest coal company in the US, who threatened to shoot an ABC reporter seeking an interview and who last December went on a bizarre rant about climate change and conspiracy theories suggesting that climate legislation would be the equivalent of helping Osama Bin Laden and creating Chinese-communist style control over the US. If you have not watched the latter video outtakes, don't deny yourself the opportunity to see full-fledged climate denial in all of its glory!
So why are they letting Blankenship loose as the face of the US Chamber? Well he's on the board of the US Chamber of Commerce and his company, along with Peabody Energy, is among the few companies on the Chamber board with which the Chamber's extremist and obstructionist climate stance is aligned. Blankenship, by the way, is also one of the "secret" members of the Board of Directors of ACCCE, the coal-booster group, as I mentioned a few days ago.
This makes Mr. Blankenship one of the few company leaders willing to defend the Chamber's position on climate change. Ok, enough setup. What pearls of wisdom is Don Blankenship bestowing on us all? And, is he helping?
Well, for one, he isn't helping the US Chamber's desperate attempts to whitewash its nearly-twenty year history of denial of the climate science. (Of course, the problem might be that the Chamber hasn't sent the new talking points to the board members who have seen too many of their presentations on the science.) Anyway, as Blankenship told the NY Times a few weeks ago:
"A lot of coal-using utilities seem to be on the wrong side of this issue," Mr. Blankenship said in an interview this week. "How can they be so confident that man is changing the world climate?"
In an oped piece published today in The Hill, Blankenship helps even less. He argues that many companies actually don't buy the science but are going along with the climate debate because they fear government harassment if they express skepticism. Blankenship says
"The truth about global warming alarmists in the business community who say Congress must pass laws immediately to stop the planet from warming is that they are driven more by pursuit of profit than pursuit of science and real atmospheric temperatures. These companies lie for profit and at the expense of American families' budgets, American's homeland security, and the quality of the world's air and water."
Ok, big fella. Next time I want to visit upside-down world I know where to go: Massey Country. Are we to believe that Massey energy is a company driven by something other than profit? This is the company that has led the charge to decapitate as mountains as quickly possible in Appalachia, as ACCCE explained, because those states need more flat space. My colleague Rob Perks has discussed Massey and mountain-top removal here, here and here, focusing on the devastating impacts on local communities, many of which have been torn apart by Massey's thirst for coal and profit.
But, as Blankenship says, "The truth is the truth and lies are lies." Of course, he then repeats some thoroughly debunked claims about renewable job creation in Spain that have been packaged to sound like truth, so maybe he's not sure which are which.
On that note, we should circle back to Peabody - one of the other two companies on the US Chamber board that have a public position opposing climate legislation (out of about 116.) Peabody's Fred Palmer defended the Chamber's policy-making process to Greenwire a few weeks ago, saying
"I have never seen an instance where there has been an effort to limit debate and discussion," said Fred Palmer, senior vice president of government relations for St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, the world's largest private coal company. He is a member of the chamber's board of directors. "To the extent people feel their voice is not being heard at the chamber, it's not the chamber's fault."
Of course, Fred Palmer is an advocate of questionable value. As he said on camera several years ago, when he was head of the Western Fuels Association (which is also a member of ACCCE),
"You're doing God's work. Every time you turn your car on, and you burn fossil fuels and you put co2 in the air you are doing the work of the Lord. That's the system, that's the ecological system we live in."
Really, watch it here. It's the first 30 seconds of this video. And, yes, it does remind us of that scene with Ned Beatty in the movie "Network," where Peter Finch is advised against messing with God's plan for network television.
Its an interesting perspective, but not one that is shared by an increasingly active campaign by faith organizations seeking out highlight the harm that global warming is already doing to the world's most vulnerable people. It's a powerful ad that you should check out.
I'm not sure these are advocates that are going to help solve the Chamber's problem. Not when Don Blankenship's other explanation of opposing climate legislation: "Certainly, domestic energy companies like Massey can't withstand much extra scrutiny..."
Don, neither can the Chamber's defenders.
US Chamber's Climate Credibilty Crisis Counter:
Quit US Chamber over climate: Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co*, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Mohawk Paper.
Quit US Chamber Board over climate: Nike.
Companies that say the US Chamber doesn't represent their views on climate: Johnson&Johnson, General Electric, Alcoa, Duke, Entergy, Microsoft, Toyota(?), Royal Dutch Shell, Seventh Generation.
Local Chambers distancing themselves from the US Chamber: San Jose Chamber of Commerce, Greater New York Chamber of Commerce.
Editorials and columns noting that the US Chamber is damaging its reputation and credibility: BusinessWeek, PRWeek, Fortune Magazine's Marc Gunther, Newsweek, LA Times, Washington Post.
* UPDATE 11/12/09: Levi-Strauss informed us that the company did not leave the US Chamber over climate concerns, as Greenwire had reported.