Will Our Leaders Follow the Support for Climate Legislation?

I’ve said before that there is diverse support from all kinds of constituencies for comprehensive climate and energy legislation. And today that support is on greater display than ever before, with a new round of ads displaying an impressive 90+ logos of businesses, associations and interest groups that support climate legislation. The ad includes several new 'faces' including Google, Nike and Timberland.

UPDATE: As The Hill reports,

The companies involved in the effort include Google, Nike, Honeywell, and Ford Motor Co. In total, 97 companies, environmental groups and labor unions signed the ad. The ads will run in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, and Florida, states represented by members whose support is thought to be critical to climate legislation. 

According to the press release, the participants on the ad represent considerable strength, per a few different metrics:

  • Organizations and companies listed employ/represent 11 million American workers;
  • Companies listed on the ad had revenues of over $2.5 trillion in 2009;
  • The businesses on the ad are but a sample of the 3,000 businesses that support climate legislation and are listed at American Businesses for Clean Energy.

In addition, the ad represents a wide range of constituencies. In addition to businesses, there are labor groups including Blue Green Alliance, Steelworkers, Boilermakers, LiUNA, SEIU, AFL-CIO, Utility Workers;  faith and faith-based groups including the Christian Coalition, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Evangelical Environmental Network, business associations/coalitions like the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and ABCE, and national security/vet groups Truman National Security Project and Operation Free.

But back to business: why, when some groups like the US Chamber of Commerce have been serious foot-draggers, are so many companies (and growing) calling for action? The ad text reads:

How will America take back control of its energy future while enhancing our national security?

When will the U.S. economy regain its competitive edge instead of letting other countries corner the emerging global clean energy market?

How can we get the U.S. back on track by creating American jobs in the new low-carbon economy?

How can we protect our natural resources and future generations from climate change?

These are the questions we’re asking our policy makers as America faces a once-in-a-century opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions and become the world’s leader in a burgeoning clean energy economy.

We are a broad and diverse group of leading businesses, environmental organizations, national security experts, veterans’ organizations, labor unions and faith-based groups.

We believe it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to unite behind bi-partisan, national energy and climate legislation that increases our security and limits emissions, as it preserves and creates jobs.

It's a question of American leadership.

Many of these economic themes were also the focus of National Economic Council Director Larry Summers’ comments to a conference of energy company executives, analysts, and wonks yesterday as he articulated the five reasons he considers climate legislation to be essential for the economic health of the US. As my colleague Dan Lashof explains, Summers argues that climate legislation will create jobs, spur innovation, strengthen our international competitiveness, increase investor confidence and reduce the need for fossil-fuel subsidies and increase the role of market-based approaches to cutting pollution.

Of course, all the sound arguments for clean energy and climate legislation aren’t necessarily enough to overcome the determination of entrenched dirty energy interests to keep us from moving forward. Witness for example, the polluter-friendly group FreedomWorks, which joined American Petroleum Institute’s “Energy Citizens” coalition that used oil-company employees as props in rallies complaining about climate legislation, among other tactics my colleague Michael Oko described on his blog.

Will Congress listen to dirty energy voices like those, or to the diverse constituencies that support a better future for America?

That is indeed, a Question of Leadership.