WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday applauded companies that have quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because they disagree with the business group's climate change policy.
"I think it's wonderful," Chu told reporters at a solar energy event on the National Mall. He said companies that left the Chamber object "to foot dragging, to denials" and realize that efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses are "part of our economic future in the United States."
Chu said other companies should quit the group if the Chamber does not recognize the business opportunities presented by taking aggressive action against global warming.
But he also urged the Chamber to change its position.
"I would encourage the Chamber of Commerce to realize the economic opportunity that the United States can lead in a new industrial revolution," said Chu, a supporter of alternative fuels and strong regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Technology company Apple Inc resigned from the Chamber on Monday. Last month three big power utilities, Exelon Corp, PG&E Corpand PNM Resources Inc, said they were leaving the Chamber.
Other companies have criticized the Chamber, which has pushed for public hearings to challenge the scientific evidence of man-made climate change.
The group now says it does not plan to dispute the science behind global warming. But Chamber President Tom Donohue defended his group's climate change position and told reporters the companies that left faced an "orchestrated pressure campaign" by environmental organizations.
"It's pretty clear because we've heard it from our own companies that a number of environmental groups are trying to apply some pressure on Chamber companies to apply pressure on us to change our views" on climate legislation passed by the House of Representatives, Donohue said at a press conference.
Donohue said his group supports crafting U.S. climate change legislation and an international agreement to fit its views of compatibility compatible with strong economic growth. He said the climate bill the House of Representatives passed in June does not meet this criteria.
Donohue downplayed the significance of four companies quitting the 300,000 member Chamber, and said the group will continue to oppose climate policies it views as too onerous.
"We're not changing where we are. We're going to be very responsive to people's questions," he said. "But we thought long and hard about what was important here and we're not going anywhere."
Senate Democrats unveiled their version of the bill last week that built on the House legislation.