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


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:

A Big Year for Dirty Money

Well-documented analysis of lobbying expenditures, ad buys, and campaign contributions have demonstrated that the oil, gas, coal, and electric utilities have spent over $990 million to influence the politics of the 111th Congress. The Center for American Progress found that between 2009 and June of 2010, dirty energy industries bankrolled $543 million worth of lobbying.

According to data collected by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, the oil, coal, natural gas and electric utility industries have spent $432 million on television advertising between 2009 and July 2010 (not counting radio, print or web ads). BP alone spent over $96 million in advertising the months following the disaster in the Gulf. That's three times what they spent last year, an average of $5 million per week.

Direct contributions to current members of Congress total over $14.8 million between 2009 and June 2010. These donations have continued to increase since June, and are expected to top last election cycle's dirty energy contribution total of over $21 million. In California, the dirty energy-supported Prop 23 has attracted over $9 million in dirty energy money so far, mostly from a handful of Texas oil companies.

This August, the LA Times estimated that the top 15 conservative front groups were ready to spend an unprecedented $300 million to influence the midterm elections. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest collection point for corporate contributions, has increased its November election budget from $35 million in the 2008 elections to a projected $75 million this year -- and that may end up being even higher.

This election has attracted a flood of "unaccounted for" donations spent via front groups like the Chamber of Commerce or Americans for Prosperity, which allow their donors to remain anonymous. Regulations stripped away by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allow opponents of climate action to stealthily attack candidates who have been strong on climate issues without consequences for their public image.

Climate on the Campaign Trail:

Embattled U.S. Senate candidate Governor Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been repeatedly attacked by the powerful coal interests in his state. In a new TV ad, the governor literally "takes aim" at "the cap and trade bill," literally shooting a copy of the bill with his rifle, thus proving his allegiance to the coal industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) simultaneously.

In response to the increase in candidates denying climate science, Dr. Michael Mann wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post pointing out that science has a significant stake in this election:

My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public. They are hurting American science. And their failure to accept the reality of climate change will hurt our children and grandchildren, too.

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