James L. Jones' Energy Views Worry Some Environmentalists

Published on
by
the Los Angeles Times

James L. Jones' Energy Views Worry Some Environmentalists

James L. Jones is Obama's new national security advisor. But he leads an institute that has challenged global warming.

by
Tom Hamburger

National Security Adviser nominee retired Marine General James Jones (L) pauses while speaking as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama looks on during a news conference in Chicago December 1, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

WASHINGTON -
When President-elect Barack Obama introduced James L. Jones Jr. as his
national security advisor Monday, he emphasized the retired Marine
general's understanding of "the connection between energy and national
security."

Obama
sees that as a plus, but some environmental groups and global warming
activists view Jones' environmental record with suspicion.

Jones
will not be responsible for environmental policy, but he has said
energy is a vital national security issue. It affects domestic economic
stability and international geopolitical relationships, particularly in
the oil-rich Middle East.

Jones sits on the board of Chevron
Corp., and since March 2007 has been president and chief executive of
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, which
has been criticized by environmental groups.

"They have a
reprehensible record," said Frank O'Donnell, the outspoken leader of
Clean Air Watch, of the institute led by Jones.

The institute
calls for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production,
nuclear energy and clean-coal technology, in addition to investment in
renewable and alternative energy sources.

O'Donnell criticized
institute reports under Jones that challenged the use of the Clean Air
Act to combat global warming and the right of states, such as
California, to impose environmental standards that go beyond those set
by the federal government.

"Since global warming is a security
threat, this selection raises a real eyebrow," O'Donnell said in an
e-mail. "Will Jones be predisposed to compromise the new
administration's environmental agenda, both at home and in the
international arena? . . . Stay tuned."

O'Donnell said the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce had "the worst track record" of any business
advocacy group when it came to global warming.

Chamber officials dismissed concerns that they represented extreme pro-industry views on climate change.

"If
you look at our reports, one thing you will see is balance," said David
Chavern, the chamber's chief operating officer. "The general is a
balanced, rational guy. That will serve him well as national security
advisor."

The nonprofit institute is an arm of the chamber, the
country's leading business lobby. Chamber officials declined to reveal
the budget or who finances the institute.

Today, an institute
executive will hold a chamber-sponsored discussion about global warming
featuring Lawrence Solomon, the author of a book questioning whether
there is a scientific consensus on climate change.

The book,
"The Deniers," will be the subject of a teleconference, which will
include a scientist from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change taking
the opposite view. The discussion will be moderated by Stephen Eule,
who works with Jones at the institute.

Many environmental
advocates contacted Monday were reluctant to discuss Obama's selection
of Jones. Previously, environmental scientists from the Natural
Resources Defense Council and other organizations have knocked the
chamber and the institute. The chamber opposed global warming
legislation backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John W. Warner
(R-Va.).

Daniel Lashof, director of the Natural Resources
Defense Council's climate center, said Monday that in its official
statements "the institute failed to make a clear call for action on
global warming." But he said Obama had "made such a call, so I am not
concerned that Obama is going to change his position on that."

In
a "transition plan for securing America's energy future" prepared for
Obama, the institute called for laws that would promote nuclear power,
encourage drilling on federal land and offshore areas under a
moratorium. The report also called for Congress to make clear that the
Clean Air Act would not be used to regulate greenhouse gases, and to
make sure that federal rules preempted state regulations, a
long-standing position among business organizations.

Those two
points were of some concern to California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who
coincidentally urged the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to
use the Clean Air Act to take action against global warming.

"After
eight years of foot-dragging, it is time for the EPA to reverse its
shameful inaction on global warming and use its authority under the
Clean Air Act to combat dangerous climate change," Brown said in a
letter to the EPA.

In an interview, Brown said the appointment
of a chief executive of an organization that opposed his viewpoints was
not terribly concerning.

"You want to have talent and wisdom
among your advisors, and [Jones] is bringing some key qualities" to the
Obama administration, he said. Still, "the federal government has been
a laggard for decades, and the last thing we want to do is destroy the
innovative contributions of states like California. The labs of the
state innovate often in the face of congressional paralysis."

In
a speech last fall introducing an institute report, Jones acknowledged
the conflicts that emerged when energy policies were set.

"Energy
is a vital national security issue," he said in remarks posted on the
institute's website. "Every industry, think tank and advocacy group has
its interest, but everyone is going to have to step back and look at
the bigger picture. The institute believes that an affordable, diverse
and secure energy supply is fundamental to our security and to the
expansion of economic opportunity and prosperity. We are equally
convinced that this energy can be secured while making further progress
in the fight for environmental quality and significant contributions to
the management of climate change."

Asked about the concerns
expressed by environmental advocates, an Obama spokesman referred to
the president-elect's statements at the Monday news conference
introducing Jones and other members of the national security team.

"I
assembled this team because I'm a strong believer in strong
personalities and strong opinions," Obama said. "I think that's how the
best decisions are made. One of the dangers in a White House, based on
my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group think, and
everybody agrees with everything and there's no discussion and there
are no dissenting views. So I'm going to be welcoming a vigorous debate
inside the White House. But understand, I will be setting policy as
president."

 

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