The Skywriter

Blog Archives

Prop 26: "Stealth Initiative" to Undermine CA's AB32


California’s ballot initiative Proposition 23 has received a tremendous amount of public attention and financial support from both sides over the past few months. Prop 23 would suspend implementation of the state’s AB32 climate change law that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 until unemployment falls below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. Thanks to the large coalition of investors, politicians, and influential figures that have sided with the ‘No on Prop 23' campaign, it appears as though the measure to prevent climate progress in California has little chance of passing.With the majority of Prop 23 funding coming from two Texas-based oil companies, namely Tesoro and Valero, gaining support to reject this blatant effort by out of state big oil to stop carbon regulation has been relatively easy to do.

While the public has been focused on efforts to stop Prop 23, an alternative “stealth initiative”  filed as Proposition 26 has gone practically undetected by comparison. Prop 26 would effectively derail AB32's carbon reduction mechanisms such as the renewable energy standard and cap and trade program by amending “the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority -- rather than the current simple majority -- to enact any regulatory fees by declaring them taxes,” reports The proposition officially named “the Stop the Hidden Taxes Initiative” but commonly referred to as the ”Polluter Protection Act” is being spearheaded by Big Oil, along with tobacco and alcohol companies, to essentially strip away the funding needed to effectively run AB32. Most notably, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would find it almost impossible to raise the necessary fees needed to implement auctioning, monitoring and reporting systems needed to run an effective cap and trade program if a supermajority vote from the Senate was required.

By Christopher Porto, cross-posted from Carbon Capitalist.
Share |

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.

Share |

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.
Share |

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.
Share |

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.

Share |

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.

Share |

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).

Share |

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.

Share |

Why voting matters for the climate movement


Who owns our democracy: Big Business or We the People?

Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there's been an unprecedented amount of outside spending during the 2010 mid-term elections, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups. Right-wing groups have spent $169.2 million so far -- up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 8.5). Analysis from Center for American Progress notes that more than $68 million of outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like Big Oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.

It’s impossible to look past the corporate influence in this election cycle -- brought on by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- from big polluters and climate science deniers. It's glaring even at the state level: Out of eight Northeast states with contested governor's races, only Vermont has a race where both candidates affirm climate science. Anti-climate candidates in these key states could roll back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or state renewable energy standards.

There’s no sugarcoating the chances for future comprehensive climate policy in the next two years. In fact, we anticipate an all-out attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act by several House and Senate members.

But anger and despair can’t lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement. Why?

  • Recent polling consistently shows an 11-point spread against California Proposition 23. Getting the vote out in California is crucial to defeating both Prop 23 and Prop 26 at the polls and widening a margin that only a month ago favored Big Oil.
  • Climate champions like Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) are all committed to pushing for climate-related legislation next year. Waxman told Politico: "I think the issue is becoming more and more serious and people are realizing it, which I hope will increase the pressure on the Congress to take the actions we need to.”
  • Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room outlines 15 House races and six Senate races where climate heroes are running against climate deniers. These are races in which candidates need to hear that climate is still an issue.

More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we’re doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!

Share |

Weekly roundup 10/29/10: Pre-election edition


Election Day is only 4 days away, and it shows: We're inundated with polls, predictions, and pre-election ads that move further away from civility and credibility the closer we get to November 2nd. What's an exhausted and exasperated climate activist to do?

The answer: Do NOT tune out. This election is critical to the future of climate solutions in this country and, indeed, the world. Our Campaign Director Liz Butler recorded another LizCast today discussing why all of us who care about climate need to vote on Nov. 2:

Liz also published a great blog on Huffington Post today about the unprecedented amount of money that corporations are pouring into this election, and why climate advocates need to show up at the polls to fight back:

Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.

. . . . .

But anger and despair can’t lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement.

. . . . .

More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we’re doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote.

The climate blogosphere is following this election very closely, looking to answer two questions: how will climate affect the election, and how will the election affect climate? Brad Johnson at the Wonkroom is following House and Senate races where climate champs are locked in tough fights for reelection. In terms of the House:

The Republicans in these races not only stand against comprehensive climate policy, like nearly all the rest of their party, they proudly proclaim that the overwhelming evidence of the threat of greenhouse gas pollution is a “hoax,” a “religion,” and “crap.” The sitting representatives, many in conservative districts, are climate activists who were the swing votes in favor of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009, recognizing that our economy and environment are mutually threatened by our dependence on fossil fuels.

As for the Senate:

A Wonk Room analysis finds that there are six key Senate races for climate action, in which a strong vote for climate runs a serious risk of being replaced by a global warming denier. Of the 37 U.S. Senate races this fall, 36 involve Republican candidates who are global warming deniers or oppose climate action (Vermont’s Len Britton is a possible exception). Hard-right Tea Party challenger Christine O’Donnell knocked out climate activist Mike Castle (R-DE) last night, leaving a GOP slate of conspiracy theorists and know-nothings angling for the United States’ highest legislative body.

In addition to these races, there's a push in California to defeat two propositions on the ballot that would severely hurt California's booming clean energy tech industry and deal a blow to our efforts to cut climate pollution across America. You can read more about Prop 23 and Prop 26 on our blog, but if you live in California the most important thing you can do is vote against both of them on November 2. Even the Governator says so:

What would help is if we are now successful in beating back the Texan oil companies, the same players that have been there for decades ruining everything. You know, trying to get rid of our light rail in 45 cities. And so now the important thing is we push back, wipe out Proposition 23. And in doing that, it will be one of the first times in a long time where oil companies — rich people that have polluted the world, who have enriched themselves in doing that — have been pushed back. And it will be that momentum.

Speaking of the Governator, here's an anti-Prop 23 ad featuring Oscar-winning director James "I'm king of the world!" Cameron and his most famous "actor":

Even before the election, climate commentators are already having conversations about where climate goes after a less than fruitful year. Dave Roberts at Grist has been looking for a term for people who care about climate change and clean energy that will bridge the partisan, cultural and other divides that keep them from pulling in the same direction. The winner? Climate Hawks:

First and foremost, it doesn't carry any implications about The Truth. It doesn't say, "I'm right, you're wrong. I'm smarter and more enlightened than you." Instead it evokes a judgment: that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response. By definition, everyone must make such judgments on their own. Rather than being a Manichean choice -- you get it or you're stupid -- it becomes about values, about how hard to fight and how much to sacrifice to defend America and her future. That's the right conversation to be having.

Yes, I'm well aware that "hawk" has militaristic overtones. Trust me, when it comes to matters military I'm a DFH of the old school. But lefties shouldn't be precious. The health of Mother Earth just doesn't move that many people. For better or worse, more Americans respond to evocations of toughness in the face of a threat.

In foreign policy a hawk is someone who, as Donald Rumsfeld used to put it, "leans forward," someone who's not afraid to flex America's considerable muscle, someone who takes a proactive attitude toward gathering dangers. Whatever you think about foreign policy, is that not the appropriate attitude to take toward the climate threat? Does it not evoke a visceral sense of both peril and resolve, the crucial missing elements in America's climate response?

The term is already taking off on The Twitter so it might stick after all. Thoughts?

In other news, looks like the hard work and sacrifice of anti-mountaintop removal (MTR) activists is paying off in a big way:

The rising tide of scientific evidence — and public protest — against mountaintop mining looks set to claim its first major victory. By the end of this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to revoke a permit allowing mining company Arch Coal to extract coal from the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. This would be the first time a permit for the controversial mining practice, long suspected of causing environmental damage, has been vetoed by the agency.

We still have a long way to go to eradicate this barbaric mining practice, but it's good to see that all this on-the-ground activism is bearing fruit!

Finally, a gratuitous shot at BP because, well, they deserve it, courtesy of South Park (probably NSFW, especially if you work for an oil company or at API).

PS: A couple of snarky guys with TV shows are having a rally this weekend ...might be pretty sane to check it out.

Share |