Image: Wonk RoomCross-posted from the Wonk Room.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for the end to billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for the oil and gas industry, and a national commitment to double low-carbon electricity by 2035. “Raising taxes on the industry that fuels our lives shows a profound detachment from our energy and economic reality,” former Bush official Karen Harbert, president and chief executive officer of the chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, lashed out. Harbert further attacked the president’s proposal for being too “ambitious“:
The president’s proposed ‘clean energy’ mandate would entail a more ambitious restructuring of the country’s power sector than even those in the his party have proposed. This mandate could require us to increase our non-hydro renewable generation by more than 700% and more than double our nuclear power, while virtually eliminating from the country’s most available, proven, and economic domestic energy resource-coal. [Emphasis mine.]
Harbert somehow thinks that making America into the world’s clean-energy leader is a bad idea.
In actual “energy and economic reality,” the oil and coal industries are killing Americans, weakening our economy, and destabilizing our planet. Pollution from burning coal and oil kills at least 20,000 Americans a year. Oil company profits are soaring — ConocoPhillips up 46 percent to $1.9 billion, Chevron up 72 percent to $5.3 billion — on rising prices that are sucking the lifeblood out of the economic recovery. Even Dr. John Felmy, American Petroleum Institute’s top economist, admits that raising taxes on oil companies could create 2 million American jobs.
Furthermore, the fossil-dominated chamber continues to blindly ignore the existential threat of climate change. Our polluted climate is already causing death and misery on an unprecedented global scale. If anything, President Obama’s clean energy plan may be insufficiently ambitious. The simple facts are that the United States needs to join the rest of the world in rapidly eliminating the unconstrained use of fossil fuels. As the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook describes, in a “climate friendly” scenario “the power sector is largely decarbonized by 2035.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce needs to starting facing reality — or at least properly rename Harbert’s program to the Institute for 19th Century Energy.