October 26th, 2010

Policy update 10/26/10: One more week

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Next Tuesday's midterm election has major implications for federal climate and energy policy. Many key races will be decide by narrow margins. Polling suggests that the Republicans will pick up seats in both houses, but that only the House of Representatives is likely to change hands. Election Day is next Tuesday, November 2nd.

Climate in the Elections

A number of tightly contested races involve incumbents who support climate legislation and challengers who are emphatically opposed to climate action, or publicly cast doubt on climate science:

  • Climate champion Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) is defending his clean energy record in a district that historically favors conservative candidates. Perriello urges voters to look past short-term payoffs to the big picture of economic growth;
  • Arizona long-shot House candidate Jon Hulburd (D) is leading with a clean energy jobs message and catching up in the polls in the conservative 3rd district just north of Phoenix;
  • Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias has been criticizing Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for flip-flopping on his climate vote. Kirk supported the climate bill in the House, but then signed a pledge promising to oppose future climate legislation in order to win over an endorsement from Sarah Palin;
  • Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) is using Ken Buck's (R) statements about the uncertainty of climate science to illustrate how far from the mainstream his opposition is.

In every Senate race but one, Republican challengers are self-identified climate science deniers (all except Rep. Kirk in IL). Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room has compiled a list of key climate House and Senate races to watch.

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October 22nd

America flunks Climate 101


It should come as no surprise to the readers of this blog that education is a cornerstone of building a movement and, ultimately, getting strong action taken on an issue like climate change. Educating decision makers is extremely important, but with so much disinformation flying around, we also need to ensure that voters understand the problem more than adequately as well so they can hold their decision-makers accountable.

It seems that we lack that understanding though. A full 52 percent of Americans would flunk a (admittedly difficult) test on climate change. The full study from Yale also reveals that only 1 percent of Americans would receive an A. And climate change won't curve the test, I promise you. The full study, with an excellent executive summary, is worth looking over.

Some of the more interesting nuggets for me, as someone whose day job is climate change education (and who wants to see Congress address the issue immediately, or better yet, yesterday), involve our concept of what causes global warming. While 66% of Americans understand the greenhouse effect in concept, only 45% seem to understand that carbon dioxide traps heat. To  me, that's a major problem that a full majority of the United States doesn't understand the mechanism by which the Earth is warming. In fact, majorities of Americans believe that almost every other atmospheric problem we have, from the hole in the ozone layer to acid rain and aerosols (and, interestingly, the space program), causes global warming.

Nick Santos is a former 1Sky policy fellow and now works with The Environmental Consumer in California. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
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October 20th

Prop 23: An slick bid to kill green jobs


The title of Proposition 23 on California's November 2nd ballot reads: "Suspends Implementation of Air Pollution Control Law (AB 32) Requiring Major Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions that Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops to 5.5 Percent or Less for Full Year."

Wow ... that makes it pretty clear what Proposition 23 does without reading the entire text. The proposition would essentially kill AB 32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 because there is little chance that the unemployment rate will drop below 5.5% for a full year any time soon. With the urgent imperative to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avert climate catastrophe, killing -- or even delaying -- the implementation of AB 32 emission reduction targets is the last thing we want.

The proponents of Proposition 23 claim that jobs will be lost as a result of implementing AB 32. In fact, California has proven exactly the opposite to be true: the number of clean energy businesses and clean energy jobs has increased in California 45% and 36%, respectively, in the period between 1995-2008. This rate of growth is 10 times more than the state's average job growth rate.

Proposition 23 threatens California's more than 12,000 clean energy businesses and 500,000 people who are employed in clean energy occupations. With over $9 billion in venture capital funds, California's clean energy firms have received 60% of venture capital funds in North America. With these facts, one wonders why such a proposition is even on the ballot.

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October 19th

Policy update 10/19/10: Midterms 15 days away


In 14 days, the entire House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection. As a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, dirty money from big polluters is having a major effect on this year's elections. While big polluters attack climate champions with ads, new polling from NRDC suggests that voters are more likely to support candidates who voted in favor of the climate bill than those who did not. Last week The Obama Administration caved to pressure from Big Oil by lifting the deepwater drilling moratorium, but also took a step forward by cracking down on a massive new mountaintop removal coal mining project.

Dirty Money in the Election:

With large donors able to contribute unlimited amounts of money anonymously in this year's election, large PACs (Political Action Committees) have formed recently to campaign on behalf of specific candidates. Candidate contribution limits do not apply to these new 'super PACs' so long as they don't "coordinate" with candidates for elected office.

One example of a new super PAC is Alaskans Standing Together, which has spent $600,000 on ads this week on behalf of Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), over twice what her campaign has spent. According to a former adviser to presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ), "these new 'Super PACs' have opened the door to the clearest, easiest way to spend unlimited funds on an election . . .This is pretty much the holy grail that people have been looking for."

Video from fall 2009 shows oil billionaire David Koch (pronounced 'coke') presiding over an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) strategy meeting, where paid organizers, funded by Koch himself, list how many tea party rallies they were responsible for organizing. In the past Koch and his spokespeople have denied his involvement with the tea party, but this footage shows his intimate connection with the organizational structure of the "astroturf" portion of the tea party movement.

How will the House Climate Vote affect Candidates?

The unprecedented influx of money into the November election is taking its toll on many candidates who voted in support of climate action in the House last year. Conventional wisdom in an election would suggest that taking votes in support of President Obama's legislative agenda is what is hurting vulnerable Democrats, but new polling data from NRDC suggests otherwise on the climate bill specifically.

Voters prefer candidates who voted in favor of a climate bill by an average spread of almost 20% in 21 of nation's most competitive congressional districts: Jerry McNerney (CA); Betsy Markey (CO); Alan Boyd (FL); Suzanne Kosmas (FL); Alan Grayson (FL); Leonard Boswell (IA); Debbie Halvorsen (IL); Phil Hare (IL); Frank Kratovil (MD); Mark Schauer (MI); Carol Shea-Porter (NH); Dina Titus (NV); John Hall (NY); Steve Driehaus (OH); Mary Jo Kilroy (OH); John Boccieri (OH); Paul Kanjorski (OH); Patrick Murphy (PA); John Spratt (SC); Tom Perriello (VA) and Steve Kagan (WI).

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EPA Authority Tackles Big Coal and MTR


Just two weeks ago, many groups like 1Sky joined the Appalachia Rising! rally in Washington, D.C. to call for an end to mountaintop removal mining. Last week, a big announcement related to mountaintop removal mining in coal country showed again why we need EPA authority to protect our air, land, and water in the absence of real clean energy legislation from Congress.

The EPA announced that the agency recommended a withdrawal of the Clean Water Act permit for the Spruce Fork No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia. The agency's press release stated,

The Spruce mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed in Central Appalachia, and would result in the destruction of 2,278 acres of temperate rainforest and the burying of 7.5 miles of streams in the Spruce Fork sub-watershed."

The EPA also says of the mine on its website:

The EPA has reason to believe that the Spruce No. 1 Mine, as currently authorized, could result in unacceptable adverse effects to fish and wildlife resources."

Mountaintop removal opponents like the ILoveMountains coalition praised last week's recommendation, but also called on their supporters to ask their senators to sponsor the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696), an important bill to sharply reduce mountaintop removal coal mining and protect clean drinking water:

While this news is great for the communities adjacent to the mine, there are hundreds of similar communities being polluted and poisoned every day by other mountaintop removal mining operations.

It's just one step, but a welcome one. We're amazed to see so much coming out of the EPA this year, but it's happened in the absence of new, comprehensive legislation to tackle these issues. Without these kinds of EPA rulings and recommendations under the authority of laws like the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act, there are few laws we have in place to stop Dirty Coal and protect our families and resources.

But coal has a lot of resources to fight back. The recent attacks on the Clean Air Act in the Senate and House make it too obvious that coal is out to end any regulation that stops their dirty energy practices and it shows how much money they funnel towards Congress to keep them up. Last week's announcement was another step in the right direction from the EPA, one we're hoping Congress will follow.

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October 15th

Weekly roundup 10/15/10: More pics and stories from 10/10/10 (VIDEO, PICS)


This week we're keeping the roundup tightly focused on the 10/10/10 Global Work Parties. Unfortunately the mainstream media largely decided to ignore the event. And can you blame them? Hundreds of thousands of people in 188 countries and all 50 states organized and attended more than 7,300 events in what amounted to the largest climate grassroots mobilization in history -- that's all. Really, how is that news?

Snarkasm aside, clearly it's up to us as a movement to tell this story. Which is why we've been collecting pics and stories of 10/10/10 events from our organizers and supporters all week -- and they've been pouring nonstop. You can enjoy the eye candy neatly compiled in this slideshow, but below are some stories and pics we wanted to highlight.

Veronica Butcher Shingleton in North Carolina sent us this delicious video and report:

1Sky NC focused around the Raleigh area (commonly known as the Triangle) at six sites: East Raleigh, South Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Wendell , and Louisburg. At each location folks gathered for a potluck lunch featuring local foods and then went to work side by side seeding, weeding, or harvesting at a local Community Garden or an Organic Farm. We picked this action because, in dealing with the climate crisis, we have to rethink the way we produce food on the planet -- moving away from industrial agriculture powered by fossil fuels, and towards small-scale, local, organic farming. Food is part of the problem but it is also part of the solution.

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10/10/10 Story: SACE'S Global Work Parties in Florida (VIDEO)


What does the date 10.10.10 signify? To some merely a symmetrical date of repeating numbers; to others a very lucky and auspicious date to hold weddings and cultural events.

For hundreds of thousands of people at 7,347 events organized in 188 countries, 10.10.10 was’s Global Work Party to get to work seeking solutions to the climate crisis. Citizens from nearly every country in the world joined together to dig at local farms and community gardens, install solar panels, plant trees and carry out other community-improving and energy-conserving projects. These actions were meant to send a clear message to our political leaders: “if we can get to work, so can you!”

SACE staff and members were involved in numerous projects throughout the Southeast including community garden projects in Oxford, MS and the Raleigh-Durham region in NC. Through 1Sky Florida, a joint project of SACE and 1Sky, we helped to coordinate or support numerous projects in Florida, including a tree-planting project on the campus of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, FL.

Cross-posted from our friends and 1Sky Allies Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) -- blog by Jennifer Rennicks, SACE's Federal Policy Director.
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October 14th

Obama's climate schizophrenia


The last few days have been something of a roller coaster for the climate movement. On Sunday, October 10th, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the U.S. and around the world to work on fighting climate change and push our leaders to do the same. Then on Monday, the Obama Administration announced the lifting of the offshore drilling moratorium that was put in place in response to the BP oil disaster.

The contrast was stark: A global movement demanding that their leaders get serious about climate change and building a clean energy future, while the President of the United States sends a very public signal that it's back to business as usual -- essentially an endorsement of the dirty energy sources that have us over the climate barrel.

There's no denying that President Obama has accomplished a lot on climate in two short years, including his recent decisions to put solar on the White House next spring and the approval of two major solar power installations in the Southwest. But when the President abruptly reverses one of his most visible responses to the BP oil disaster just three weeks before Election Day, it's no wonder the American people are confused about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to transition to clean energy sources immediately. They look to the President for leadership -- and right now, they're getting very mixed signals.

It's no mystery who's behind this decision. Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and their allies have spent more than $990 million to influence the current Congress and to elect a whole slate of climate deniers and shills for big polluters this November. Monday's announcement of the lifting of the moratorium is yet another example of just how hard these dirty fuel companies are leaning on our leaders and why we need to push back.

In the face of this Administration's climate schizophrenia, the 10/10/10 Global Work Parties were a critical reminder to our leaders in Washington that the climate movement is alive, growing, and ready to keep fighting. Hundreds of thousands of people attended at least 7,347 events in 188 countries and all 50 states -- the largest climate grassroots day of action in history. One day of action won't solve the climate crisis, but on 10/10/10, we showed our leaders that Big Oil and Dirty Coal are not the only game in town.

The 10/10/10 Global Work Parties were just the start of a movement-wide push on President Obama to fulfil his promises to the international community in Cancún during COP16 this fall -- even as we support him when he comes through on climate, as when he decided to put solar on the White House. But more importantly, we'll keep pushing him to provide the American people with clear, consistent leadership on climate and energy. When it comes to climate, this one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach just won't do.

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October 13th

Policy update 10/13/10: Obama gets to work in time for 10/10/10

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This week, thousands of people across the globe got to work for's 10/10/10 Global Work Party. Even President Barack Obama stepped up and joined the fun, committing to install solar panels on the White House roof next spring. Despite the groundswell of grassroots support for "getting to work," dirty money continues to have an unprecedented influence on the midterm elections.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Congress resumes (tentative)

Solar on the White House

The Obama Administration made an important symbolic gesture last week by announcing plans to install solar panels on the White House in the spring of 2011. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told an audience of federal employees: "Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America's commitment to a clean energy future."

In addition to approving a symbolic solar installation on the White House, the Obama Administration announced the approval of two major utility-scale solar power installations on public lands in the Southwest.

Together, these two projects could produce up to 754 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power 226,000 – 566,000 American homes, support almost 1,000 new jobs, and offset about one-and-a-half traditional coal plants.

In addition to approving new solar installations, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the final lease approving the 468 MW Cape Wind project, the nation's first offshore wind installation, off the coast of Massachusetts.

10/10/10 Global Work Parties

This weekend, climate advocates worldwide gathered together and held "work parties" to celebrate climate solutions and send our political leaders a simple message: "We're getting to work—what about you?" All told, there were 7,500 events in 185 countries, including approximately 2,000 U.S. events in all 50 states. Events were attended by elected officials who pledged to "get to work."

Events were diverse. Students in Iraq installed solar panels at the University of Babylon, and in Oakland residents threw a party at the site of a new organic garden. Click here for more event examples and here to see photos of various events.

President Nasheed of the Maldives one-upped President Obama by personally installing solar panels on the roof of his residence as a symbol of his commitment to clean energy. Here's video:

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Eye candy from 10/10/10 Work Parties (PICS)


We'll have much more about the hugely successful 10/10/10 Global Work Parties, but for now just sit back and enjoy the climate action eye candy we've been receiving since Saturday. Be sure to share them on Facebook, Twitter and any other social networks using our handy "share" bar on this page.

Do you have pics from a 10/10/10 work party to share? Here's how:

  • Add your photos as attachments, making sure not to exceed individual photo size of 10MB (and keep in mind your own email service's attachment size limit!).
  • Include your city and state in the subject.
  • Please include a description of your event -- we're always looking for compelling stories from the grassroots!
  • Send your email to

We'll add more photos and stories from 10/10/10 soon -- stay tuned!

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