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commerce1This morning, several major media outlets, including Reuters and CNBC, reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had decided to abandon its opposition to pending climate legislation, throwing its support behind the Kerry-Boxer bill that would establish a tough carbon trading system. Not surprisingly, the news turned out to be a hoax.

[UPDATE: The perpetrators of this little stunt have been unmasked. They are The Yes Men, a liberal group that has psyched people out with such creations as the Fake New York Post and the Fake New York Times. Almost all of this pranks involve impersonating heartless corporate spokespeople and pretending they have all of a sudden grown a conscience. Of course, they didn’t prompt any such sea change, though they did make Chamber rep Eric Wohlschlegel pretty blue: “It is a very sad day,” he said.]

Why would the Chamber pull a total 180 on policies that it stubbornly stuck by after the departure of several of its top-tier members — Apple, PG&E, Exelon and Nike? Yes, the White House has recently been exerting more pressure on the organization to change its tune, but president Tom Donohue sounded pretty resolute when he said that the Chamber wouldn’t be wavering.

Of course, it didn’t help that the faux press release spelled Donohue’s name wrong. A rookie’s mistake for an anonymous group that went as far as to provide a real phone number leading to a voicemail for “Erica Avidus at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” as well as links going to an exact replica of the Chamber’s web site (with a different domain name).

Claiming that Donohue made remarks today at the National Press Club in support of the Kerry-Boxer legislation, the statement also quoted Chamber spokesman Hingo Sembra as saying that any bill that passes “should include a stiff carbon tax and correspondingly strong incentives for industries we wish to foster.”

It also said “the Chamber announced an immediate moratorium on lobbying and publicity work opposing climate legislation.” The email came from press@chamber-of-commerce.us, which is different from the media contact information provided on the association’s web site.

When VentureBeat called the Chamber for comment on this story, the spokesman at the media center confirmed that the email is a hoax, that the Chamber is aware of it, and that the organization has in no way changed its stance on climate change or the legislation it is lobbying against.

The ersatz web site provides the full text of Donohue’s “speech” at the Press Club, reprinted here below:
Thank you very much, Sheila, and good day to everyone.

Today’s momentous decision indeed comes after a difficult period – a very long one.

In business, as in life, we sometimes don’t look ahead. We seize the day while forgetting the year.

Let’s remember Lehman Brothers, a committed, solid member of this Chamber, who in the interest of short-term gain scuttled a century. They ate lamb, but were left without wool when the cold, hard winter set in.

We must learn from the past, so that we can manage the future.

Climatologists tell us that if we don’t enact dramatic reductions in carbon emissions today, within 5 years we could begin facing the propagating feedback loops of runaway climate change. That would mean a disruption of food and water supplies worldwide, with the result of mass migrations, famines, and death on a scale never witnessed before.

Needless to say, that would be bad for business.

We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business. We need business more than we need relentlessly higher returns.

A number of prominent and long-standing members have recently left the Chamber over our opposition to climate legislation. Numerous others have expressed their dissension, and a number of local Chambers have done so as well.

Today, we’re finally taking their cue. There is only one sound way to do business: that’s to support a strong climate-change bill quickly, so that this December in Copenhagen, President Obama can lead the entire business world in ensuring our long-term prosperity.

The Chamber believes that if we do not help to prepare a strong climate change bill for the President, we will face a new foreclosure crisis, due once again to the shortsightedness of a few, and their quest for immediate lamb at the expense of long-term wool.

But this time it won’t be only the poor who will find themselves foreclosed on. Sure, they’ll be first – in fact, climate change already ravages the developing world.

But that’s only the start. This foreclosure crisis will affect all of us, and there will be no business too big to fail.

The Kerry-Boxer Bill is a good start to a strong climate bill, and the Chamber will work with Senators Kerry and Boxer to strengthen it.

And it does need strengthening. Cap-and-trade depends complex market mechanisms and big government oversight, and where it’s been implemented, it’s had very mixed results at best.

The Chamber seeks a solid business solution – one that requires much less intervention, and has a proven track record. What we need is a carbon tax. Only thus will we be able to compete against Physics and create an environment where the best company wins and the best solution dominates. A carbon tax will mean new blood for Free Enterprise, and a fertile new foundation for long-term business prosperity.

The Chamber also calls on President Obama and the U.S. Congress to cease subsidizing old and failed technologies like the so-called “clean coal” hoax, and to incentivize tried and true clean technologies in their stead.

The Chamber expects to welcome back companies that have recently defected over our climate stance. But we also expect to reevaluate our relationship with other members – who continue opposing climate legislation, or who stymie progress through greenwashing and other stalling tactics. Corporate Social Responsibility just won’t cut it anymore, folks – Mother Nature means business, and we do too.

We at the Chamber will put the full weight of our organization behind achieving these goals. The very future of business hangs in the balance.

Thank you. I will be happy to take any questions.

And just for kicks, here’s Fox News reporting the original story before news of the hoax became widespread:


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