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Chamber of Commerce Endorses Climate Legislation — For Real

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced its support for sweeping climate legislation. The announcement surprised everyone — including the Chamber itself — and was quickly revealed to be a hoax.

Well, today we’re seeing a repeat performance — only it appears genuine. The Chamber has posted a letter on its Website that it sent to the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — “outlining [its] continued support for strong federal climate change legislation.” The description is peculiar, given the Chamber’s unequivocal anti-cap-and-trade stance, but the message is nonetheless important:

The challenge of drafting comprehensive climate legislation is not “whether” to do something, but “how.” There are many good ideas out there that can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense and realistic foundation on which to craft a bill. The Chamber commends Senators Kerry and Graham for their recent New York Times editorial on the need for comprehensive climate legislation. The Chamber welcomes the call for a new conversation on how to address the issue, and believes their editorial can serve as a solid, workable, commonsense foundation on which to craft a bill.

If that seems absolutely game-changing … well, don’t get too excited. The letter continues:

The Chamber will continue to oppose bad policies that resemble the failed climate proposals of the past, such as bills that jeopardize American jobs, create trade inequalities, leave open the Clean Air Act, open the door to CO2-based mass tort litigation, and further hamper the permitting process for clean energy.

Which is basically code for: “We’re open to hypothetical legislation that liberal Democrats would never endorse, but we couldn’t possibly support anything resembling what’s actually been proposed.”

Still, you get the sense that the Chamber felt it was swimming against the tide. Its anti-climate legislation stance has led a number of its prominent member companies to leave the Chamber. Now, with a conservative Republican (Graham) getting behind the effort to reduce carbon emissions, the Chamber appears to have sensed it was the right time to shift its position.

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