Racism allegations mar Senate hearing on clean energy economy
Thursday’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on climate change blew up into an argument over race between Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
NBCC’s Harry Alford was invited to speak at the hearing titled, “Ensuring and Enhancing U.S. Competitiveness while Moving toward a Clean Energy Economy.” He appeared to have been invited by the panel’s Republican members, as he was the lone voice speaking against the climate bill that passed in the House last month. In his opening statement, he claimed to be representing the “black community.”
Alford made his opposition to the bill very clear, citing a study his group recently released that predicts the bill would cause a $350 billion decline in GDP and the loss of 2.5 million jobs — which, by the way, doesn’t gibe with figures put together by the Congressional Budget Office or the Environmental Protection Agency. He also said the bill would be especially harsh on small and minority-owned businesses.
But when Boxer submitted for the record that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) this week approved a resolution stating that the group supports climate change policy, Alford became livid. He said:
All that’s condescending, and I don’t like it. It’s racial. I don’t like it. I take — I take offense to it. As an African-American and a veteran of this country, I take offense to that. You’re quoting some other black man — why don’t you quote some other Asian or some — I mean, you’re being racial here. And I think you’re getting on a path here that’s going to explode, in the post …
We’ve been looking at energy policy since 1996. And we are referring to the experts, regardless of their color. And for someone to tell me — an African-American, college-educated veteran of the United States Army — that I must contend with some other black group and put aside everything else in here. This has nothing to do with the NAACP, and really has nothing to do with the National Black Chamber of Commerce! We’re talking about energy. And that — that road the chair went down, I think is God awful.
So, Alford would like to be the voice of all African Americans on climate change policy, but bristles at the suggestion that other black groups are in fact in support of action on climate change.
Alford conceded that addressing climate change “should be a no-brainer,” but he called for an energy plan that expands the use of oil, gas, and coal. Befuddling? Perhaps not, when you note that Alford’s group has received $350,000 from ExxonMobil since 2003 and Alford has a history of offering up climate skeptic talking points.
Exxon’s most recent disclosure form shows it donated $75,000 to the group in 2008 [PDF]. The group has received at least $40,000 from the charitable arm of Exxon each year for the past six years. As the Guardian recently reported, Exxon also continues to fund climate-change deniers despite the company’s pledge last year to stop funding any group “whose position on climate change could divert attention” from the need for clean energy.
Wondering who belongs to the NBCC? Well, so is everyone else. The group refuses to disclose the names of its members to “protect their privacy.” The group is a 501(c)3 non-profit but it does not disclose its funders on its website.