Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don’t view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding “town hall meetings” in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America’s energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America’s best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act-the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives-in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.  

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.  

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators’ schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites – Republican or Democratic.

Continue Reading...

Lessons from the "Enlightened Eight": Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment and Not Get "Tea Partied

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Only eight Republicans – we'll call them the “Enlightened Eight” – voted “aye.” These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party? You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now. Instead, they're all doing fine. In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the “tea party” (or otherwise). Instead, we have two – Castle and Kirk – running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others – Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith – running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three “Tea Party” candidates. One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that “Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes.” So, did this work? Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two “Tea Party” candidates – Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte – who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue. According to Biamonte, cap and trade “is insidious and another tax policy… a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble.” You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack. Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger – Alan Bateman – by a more than 2:1 margin. Bateman had argued that “Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty.” Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8. This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as “the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade.” Thibodeau also called cap and trade “frightening,” claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home. Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade “is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change… written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar.” We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it. The proof is in the primaries.

Continue Reading...

Oily Apologies vs. Clean Energy Momentum

It is yet another big week for clean energy. The President is having a group of bipartisan senators over to discuss how to get a clean energy bill moving that addresses the source of the gulf spill. One guy who won't be attending is Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) after he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the “tragic” mistreatment his company has suffered. Here are Barton's now infamous words:

“I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown.”

That's right, forcing BP to pay for the damages it has caused is not justice, it's a “shakedown.” Incredible.

In response, numerous lawmakers from both parties expressed strong disgust at his comments. Unfortunately, that irritation didn't extend to everyone as a few seemed to share Barton's perverse perspective, in which BP is the victim and the rest of us are the perpetrators. Or something.

For instance, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called the $20 billion escrow account a “redistribution of wealth fund.” That's right, according to Bachmann, forcing BP to pay for the damages it caused is some sort of socialist scheme. As for the tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents who depend on fisheries and tourism for their livelihoods? In Bachmann's world, apparently, they deserve nothing. “Let them eat cake,” perhaps?

Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and his Big Oil buddies continued to block legislation aimed at eliminating the $75 million liability cap on BP for economic damages stemming from the oil disaster that it caused. Apparently, protecting the mega-profits of a giant oil company is priority #1 for Inhofe et al, even as tends of thousands of Gulf Coast residents see their lives and livelihoods crumbling around them. Priorities, priorities, I guess.

Look, I am all for open markets and free enterprise. But, in addition to the chance to make enormous profits, doesn't doing business in a responsible manner also entail owning up to your obligations, not to mention your egregious mistakes? I mean, if I run up a bill on my credit card, I have to pay it. If I walk into a store and start smashing up the merchandise, the “Pottery Barn rule” is highly likely to kick in – “you break it, you buy it.” In fact, I would go so far as to call this a basic principle of doing business. In Senator Barton's world, in contrast, the “Pottery Barn rule” only applies to the “small people,” not to multibillion-dollar corporations like BP.

In the face of this heart-breaking and rage-inducing catastrophe, we don't need business-as-usual from Big Oil Barton and Company. Instead, we need something bold and transformational. We need comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that will break our addiction to oil, transform our economy, enhance our national security, and guarantee that oil disasters like this one never happen again.

Fortunately, even as a few lawmakers are busy apologizing to BP, others are hard at work trying to put America on a safer, cleaner path. Last week, Democratic senators held a caucus meeting on clean energy and climate legislation, and tomorrow they will hold another one. President Obama's get-together is Thursday. These gatherings are important, as they will help determine the Senate's path forward.

I am hoping that the meetings don't yield anymore ridiculous quotes a la Barton or Bachmann. My fingers will be crossed that after all the lawmakers have had a chance to be heard, they will move beyond rhetoric and lay out their plans for passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation this summer. Because action is what we need now from our elected representatives. If they fail to take that action, they will owe us all an apology.

Continue Reading...

Five Reasons Clean Energy Trumps Tea Party Slogans

Sometimes I think America is the proverbial child-star-gone-bad of nations: we have a crippling addiction, but we still won't go to rehab.

We are hooked on burning dirty fossil fuels like cavemen, and no matter how many times we hit rock bottom — deadly coal mining accidents, the uncontrolled oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and American soldiers risking their lives overseas — we won't embrace the safer, smarter, cleaner path of renewable energy.

Change shouldn't be this hard.

That is the message behind a new ad campaign launched by NRDC's Action Fund this week. The ad urges senators from both sides of the aisle to put America back in control of our energy future.

Americans want change: a recent poll found that seven in ten Americans think clean energy legislation must be fast-tracked in the wake of the catastrophic Gulf oil spill.

Yet our elected officials haven't delivered the clean energy that voters want. Too many lawmakers fear that if they vote for a clean energy future, they will fall prey to populist mood swings come November. But they are mistaken and here is why:

1. Support for clean energy and climate action is not a flash in the pan. President Obama made clean energy one of the three planks of his platform. His energy policies have been vetted, reviewed and fleshed out through the longest presidential campaign in history and into his administration.

And all the while, clean energy has remained popular with American voters. So much so that Tea Party candidates now talk about it themselves. Most of their claims are bogus, but it is revealing that they haven't left clean energy on the cutting room floor.

2. Tea Party candidates are like the streaker at a football game. They get a lot of attention for their bold, rebellious positions, but after you get a closer look, you want to turn your head away. Their catchphrases simply don't hold up to scrutiny, never mind a 24-hour news cycle.

Rand Paul sounded good in his 30-second campaign spots, for instance, but just days after he won the primary, he started saying business owners should be allowed to kick people of color out of their establishments. After seeing Paul on The Rachel Maddow Show or Sarah Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric, viewers start to realize that Tea Party slogans don't always make for sound governing policy.

3. The Tea Party is today's rebranding of conservative Republican voters. It baffles me that people talk about the Tea Party as if it were something new, when in fact it is just the latest packaging of the radical right.
We have seen this before and we know how it ends: people who identify with the radical group of the day are people who already vote and who will continue to vote for the most conservative candidate. This is not a new batch of voters up for grabs, and therefore, there is no point in pandering to them.

4. Angry voters may scream the loudest, but that doesn't make them powerful. It is human nature to pay attention to the loudest person in the room, but that doesn't mean you have to like them. The official Tea Party page on Facebook has only 200,000 fans. The “Can this poodle wearing a tinfoil hat get more fans than Glenn Beck” Facebook page has 280,453 fans.

Right now, every politico is trying to figure out how to win in November, and some are getting distracted by the noise of the radical right. The truth is that these people have been angry for a long time and they will be angry long after lawmakers leave Congress. It is how they live their lives. And while they have extra visibility right now, it looks like most elections will be decided on issues particular to each state, not Tea Party anger.

5. People will vote for lawmakers who create jobs, growth and security. In the end, winning elections and governing the nation is about making people's lives better. Passing clean energy and climate legislation will do that. It could generate nearly 2 million jobs, put America at the forefront of the global clean energy marketplace, strengthen national security and reduce dangerous pollution.

Now is not the time to be bullied. It is the time for lawmakers to stand up and put America on a path to a cleaner, better future. This kind of change isn't hard at all.

<!– amazon items –>

Continue Reading...
View More...