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Another one bites the dust: Exelon leaves climate-denying chamber

Hear no evilThanks to its climate change denying ways, the US Chamber of Commerce can now count another one of its members as an ex-member.

Speaking today at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s national conference, John W. Rowe — chairman and CEO of Exelon — announced his company would not be renewing its membership in the chamber because of the organisation’s increasingly strident opposition to meaningful action on climate change.

Last week, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Chairman and CEO Peter Darbee sent a letter to the US Chamber saying his firm would withdraw because of “fundamental differences” over climate change. Shortly thereafter, the Public Service Company of New Mexico announced a similar decision.

In his speech today, Exelon’s Rowe said “inaction on climate is not an option.”

“The carbon-based free lunch is over,” he said. “But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible. Putting a price on carbon is essential, because it will force us to do the cheapest things, like energy efficiency, first.”

Rowe also expressed support for legislative action on climate change.

“If Congress does not act, the EPA will, and the result will be more arbitrary, more expensive, and more uncertain for investors and the industry than a reasonable, market-based legislative solution,” he said.

Rowe said Exelon utilities ComEd and PECO plan to spend $290 million per year over the next five years on energy-efficiency and demand-response programmes. The plan aims to help customers reduce their energy use by more than 3.7 million megawatt hours and cut peak load by 388 megawatts.

The Exelon 2020 initiative aims to reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2020. In April of this year, Exelon announced it had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 per cent from 2001 to 2008.

Rowe first testified before Congress on the potential effects of carbon emissions in 1992.

An opponent of pending climate change legislation on the premise that it’s “anti-business,” the US Chamber of Commerce also questions the validity of climate change itself. Last month, chamber officials called for a Scopes-like “monkey trial of the 21st century” on climate science. Without any apparent irony, William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, said the public trial would be “evolution versus creationism.”

(Kovacs later noted in a blog post, “My ‘Scopes monkey’ analogy was inappropriate and detracted from my ability to effectively convey the Chamber’s position on this important issue.”)

The opposition by some business interests to climate change action has heated up dramatically in recent months. Earlier this summer, US Congressional investigators found at least 14 instances of forged letters against climate change action that were sent to legislators. Purporting to come from a variety of women’s, minority and senior organisations, the letters were in fact sent by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

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