MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce bills itself as the voice of business. But when it comes to climate change, business no longer speaks with one voice. This week, Apple announced it's quitting the chamber. It joins a handful of other high-profile defectors, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: In a letter addressed to the Chamber of Commerce president, Apple said it supports government regulation of greenhouse gases, adding, it's frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort. The chamber opposed the cap-and-trade climate bill that passed the House earlier this year. It also fought against the EPA's recent effort to regulate greenhouse gases.

Apple said it would prefer the chamber take what it calls a more progressive stance on climate change. Since it would not, Apple decided its course was to resign its membership immediately. A company spokeswoman declined to comment. But Pete Altman of the Natural Resources Defense Council called it an embarrassing rebuke for the chamber to lose Apple.

NORRIS: This is a company that is seen as an innovator, that is seen as a company that really can see around the next corner and figure out where they need to be. And I think that for a company like Apple to leave the chamber really underscores the fact that the chamber is way behind the curve here.

HORSLEY: In a similar move, Nike announced it's quitting the chamber's board of directors, although not its basic membership. And three big utilities: PG&E, Exelon and PNM Resources have said they're dropping out of the chamber altogether in protest of its climate change position.

Some of the defections may reflect these companies' own business interests. Utilities that rely heavily on nuclear power, or that have made big investments in alternative energy, could profit from a cap-and-trade system. New Mexico-based PNM Resources still gets most of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. But PNM spokesman Don Brown says his company supported the House bill and was disappointed when the chamber opposed it.

NORRIS: We've been a member of the chamber for eight years. We had hoped to work within the chamber to influence other members and influence the chamber's position itself. But it became clear to us over time that that wasn't going to happen.

HORSLEY: The Chamber of Commerce didn't return NPR's phone calls today. But in a statement last week, said it does support strong federal legislation to address climate change. The chamber said it opposed the House bill because it's not comprehensive and doesn't include a binding international agreement.

HORSLEY: iQuit.

NORRIS: At times the chamber holds a very antiquated, outdated view of business.

HORSLEY: Some businesses may support climate change legislation because it helps their bottom line, others because it's part of their marketing strategy. And still others because they feel some kind of regulation is inevitable, and they'd like the predictability that comes from getting it over with. Pete Altman at the Natural Resources Defense Council says the chamber's high-profile defections will make a difference.

NORRIS: The chamber has lost its voice on this issue. When the chamber goes into an office now, the staff and the members are going to know that (unintelligible) chamber is not speaking for the entire business community.

HORSLEY: And that could be important as the debate over climate change moves to the Senate.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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