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US Climate Action Movement Could Squash ALEC Like Bug

Dozens of leading US companies hit Capitol Hill last month to advocate for climate action, and a new survey shows that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Remember back when the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council dominated the national discourse on climate change, and not in a good way? Well it did, and it was backed by more than a few leading US corporations. That may prove to be its undoing. In the latest development to underscore its waning influence, dozens of high profile US companies descended upon Capitol Hill last month to advocate for climate action, and a new Deloitte survey demonstrates there’s plenty more where that came from.

ALEC & Climate Action

ALEC is best known for its efforts to throw a monkey wrench into the works of renewable energy and other areas of climate action, but the well known “conservative think tank” (as described by Reuters) and “corporate bill mill” (as described by Sourcewatch) is also behind several other policy positions that are proving anathema to some of the biggest names in corporate America.

Comcast, for example, just cut ties with ALEC over its stance on net neutrality last month. The organization also previously lost corporate support over its role in the notorious “stand your ground” laws enacted in several states.

The bleeding has been ongoing since at least 2012, when Coca-Cola pulled the plug over ALEC’s position on climate change. Stand your ground legislation and voter identification legislation also factored into the company’s decision.

Google gave up in 2014, and ALEC lost Ford in 2016 after its position on climate action came into conflict with Ford’s sustainable mobility ambitions.

Even Exxon (or ExxonMobil, whatever they are now) eventually figured the relationship was too toxic to maintain. It removed itself from the ALEC membership roster in 2018, adding to a list of corporate defectors that now numbers more than 100.

Major US Corporations Back Climate Action

ALEC or no ALEC, the US business community began flexing its climate action muscles in earnest several years ago, pledging huge new clean energy buys in support of former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan during the run-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Clean Power Plan is now toast and US President* Donald J. Trump took the country out of the Paris Agreement, but US businesses are still demanding more renewable energy. That includes inventing new financial toolkits to access more renewables and leaning on utility companies to get more wind and solar into the grid mix.

On May 22, Reuters reported that representatives from dozens of US companies were meeting with members of Congress to “push for a tax on carbon emissions to fight climate change.”

That’s pretty much the opposite of ALEC’s position. Last year the organization issued a formal resolution under the following summary:

“…A carbon tax would have an immediate consequence of increased prices for gasoline and electricity with a costly impact on low-income families and businesses alike. Such a tax would also be inconsistent with the ALEC Principles of Taxation, because it would use the tax code as a means of manipulating consumer choices. For these reasons, the resolution concludes that ALEC should oppose a carbon tax at both the state and federal level.”

Cry me a river! The Reuters article mentions ALEC alums PepsiCo (quit in 2012), Johnson & Johnson (quit in 2012), Microsoft (quit in 2014) among those pushing for climate action through a carbon tax. Another report on the climate lobbying activity includes Nike, eBay, Exelon, Gap, Levi’s, and Mars among those participating.

Tesla, General Mills, and Nike also get a mention. None of these companies have been reported to be  a dues-paying member of ALEC in recent years, though in 2016 Tesla hosted an ALEC energy event (I know, weird right?).

For the record, BP (quit in 2013) and Shell (quit in 2015) have also come down in favor of a carbon tax.

ALEC Losing Influence

Meanwhile, a brand new Deloitte survey of 600 businesses indicates that US companies are responding to calls for climate action, regardless of ALEC’s position on the topic of climate change.

The survey also shows that businesses are in a good position to push ALEC out of the policy making picture, even more so than any pressure from the general public.

Deloitte contrasted the business survey with a concurrent survey of 1,500 residential electricity consumers. Deloitte found that consumers also “generally agree” on climate action and are interested in reducing their carbon footprint. However, Deloitte found a sharp difference between the two groups:

Residential consumers are circling in a holding pattern, sometimes stymied by costs (time- and budget-related) or by the complexity or lack of options, while businesses are moving resolutely forward, becoming more sophisticated, achieving success, and upping the ante.

How many businesses? Many! Deloitte found that “the percentage of businesses that reported allocating the highest degree of effort and resources to their resource management programs rose from 39 percent for 2016 to 67 percent for 2018,” and almost 90% had set formal or informal resource management goals. Here’s the money quote:

Eighty-four percent of respondents were aware of US and global climate change reports issued in late 2018 containing grave assessments.1 Nearly two-thirds of those familiar with the reports reviewed or changed their energy management strategies in response, and 83 percent of those increased their commitment.

Do tell! aside from that thing about doing the right thing, businesses are realizing value from lower costs, better performance, and improved resilience through climate action.

They are also sweeping through their supply chains to clean up carbon emissions. In other words, businesses are pressuring each other to get on the climate ball.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to the green investor group Ceres for some additional insights on the Deloitte survey from an investor perspective, so stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me on Twitter.

*Developing story.

Image: US Department of Energy.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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