This week marks the first days of greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the beginning of the new Congress. The first phase of Clean Air Act regulation began on Sunday, January 2, a process that creates incentives for cleaner electricity sources such as renewables over older technology such as coal-fired power plants. Stage-managing for the 112th Congress will be the primary goal of the coming weeks.
The other day I was watching a collection of old Schoolhouse Rock songs with my son. On came "Energy," which I probably hadn't seen in 30 years. This video (see embeded at the end of this post) was made in 1978, and I was surprised how timely it is today.
Andy Silber is a astrophysicist, engineer, project manager, husband, father, and energy activist living in Seattle. Visit Andy's blog on Sustainable West Seattle. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
After two weeks of deliberations, delegates from around the world have come to a consensus on a series of accords called the "Cancun Agreements" that will set the stage for the next phase of international climate talks next year in in Durban, South Africa. Despite obstruction from the U.S., nations attending the conference came to a series of agreements that help move the world closer to the global deal that eluded last year’s summit in Copenhagen.
The dust from yesterday's election is settling and it's already clear that we're about to have the most pro-dirty energy Congress we've seen in a long time. As you'd expect, dirty energy companies and their allies are already spinning this election in the press as a rejection of climate and clean energy legislation.
This spin is outrageous, and it's our job to push back.
From where I stand it's very simple: Big Oil and Dirty Coal spent a fortune to swing this election, and last night they got exactly what they paid for.
If you remember nothing else about Election 2010, remember this: Big Oil and Dirty Coal have spent $70 million on energy-related attack ads this election cycle and put $20 million directly into the pockets of their allies running for Congress. That's on top of the $500 million they've already spent on lobbying in the past two years.
Now that they've bought themselves a new Congress more to their liking, big polluters will try to spin this election as an endorsement of dirty energy. But they can't change the fact that the American people overwhelmingly support policies that cut climate pollution and create new jobs in a clean energy economy. They can't spin away the strength of the climate movement, either. The 10/10/10 Global Work Parties showed just how big and vibrant the climate movement really is, while the defeat of Prop 23 in California showed how this movement can lead voters to vote their hopes, not their fears.
The battle for what will become the "conventional wisdom" in the press about yesterday's election is on-- and we can't allow Big Oil and Dirty Coal to spin this election as a legitimate victory for them. That's why we're asking all our supporters to write their local newspapers and tell them how big polluters bought this election -- and that it can't happen again.
Now that the election is behind us, many of us in the climate movement will focus much of our energy on pushing the Obama Administration and Congress to use the Clean Air Act to cut global warming pollution and jump start investments in clean energy. We will also push the Administration to support strong climate financing at the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Cancún.
I know that a Congress with so many more climate deniers and tools of dirty polluters is discouraging, but now is not the time for anyone in the climate movement to give up. I personally remember the dark days after the 1994 election, and how we banded together to defend the health of our environment and communities from dirty polluters and their friends in Congress. If we could do it then, we can certainly do it again by joining forces and fighting as hard as we possibly can.
Climate change is escalating even as we keep falling behind much of the world in the race to build clean energy economies. As a movement, we have no choice but to keep fighting. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
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!
How could a four-day work week after Labor Day and with the Senate in recess still feel so full? Could we possibly have much to talk about? Actually, we always have a lot to talk about, and this week it’s about contemplating the movement, direct action against mountaintop removal, pondering the failure of a comprehensive climate bill, and a wrap on Bill McKibben's excellent solar adventure.
It's the end of my first week as 1Sky's new Campaign Director, and I wanted to take some time to tell you about our future plans together.
But first I want to thank my predecessor Gillian Caldwell for her amazing leadership over the past three years. Her work has made the climate movement stronger than ever.
As I step into this new role after three years at 1Sky, I recognize that we face major challenges to solve the climate crisis. Extreme weather events like the record worldwide heatwave and the floods in Pakistan show that we're running out of time to act. Disasters like the BP oil spill and the West Virginia coal mine explosion remind us that dirty energy is as dangerous as ever. At the same time, the Senate has failed to enact comprehensive climate legislation; Congress is drowning in dirty energy money and crawling with lobbyists; and our president hasn't been the fierce advocate we hoped for on climate.
If you're feeling a strong urge to crawl under the covers, I don't blame you -- we've all felt discouraged before. But this isn't the time to give up -- it's time to fight back.
So let me tell you where we stand: 1Sky will not back down -- and neither will I. We won't stop fighting for the changes we need to make our planet safe and build a clean energy future. And we will not lie down and let Big Oil, Dirty Coal and their cronies hijack our democracy and our future with their dirty money.
Here's how we want to work with you in the coming months:
Fight Dirty Coal: Coal power plants are the largest source of global warming pollution in this country, so we have to take the fight to them. We're going to defend the Clean Air Act from assaults by Dirty Coal and their allies. In fact, we'll fight to make it stronger and use it to cut climate pollution. We'll also keep exposing the corrupt influence of Dirty Coal money in our politics.
Push the President: As a candidate, Barack Obama made climate and clean energy a priority; as president, his record has been mixed. Obama has pushed through the biggest investments ever on clean energy and is working to crack down on the biggest climate polluters through regulations -- but he hasn't made passing a climate and clean energy bill a high enough priority, and it shows. We're going to support the President where he's making progress and push him hard where he isn't, including his promises to provide climate assistance to developing nations and shut down subsidies for dirty fossil fuels.
Grow the climate movement: The movement has grown dramatically in just a few years, but too many Americans still sit on the sidelines. The only way we'll beat the billions of dollars that polluters spend every year buying votes in Congress is with a massive grassroots movement to hold our leaders accountable. We will help lead the charge to grow the movement in the months ahead.
This renewed push for climate action starts now with the Global Work Parties taking place around the world on Sunday, October 10, 2010. 1Sky is working with our ally 350.org, which is taking the lead around the world to organize local events that will show our leaders what people can do in their own communities to deal with climate change: plant trees, hold bike rides, install solar panels, make homes more energy efficient, and so on. Sign up here to plan your own event or find a 10/10/10 work party in your area.
I'm also interested in your opinion of the campaign and where we go from here. What's needed right now to win on climate and clean energy? What are we doing right? What can we improve? How can we help you become a more effective advocate to create the change we need? Please send me your thoughts and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share your thoughts with me on Twitter and talk with me directly on Facebook. This campaign is about empowering you to take action, so we take your opinions very seriously around here.
Despite the challenges we face, I know we can win. The climate movement keeps growing and getting stronger. More and more Americans understand what's at stake and want our leaders in Washington to take action. We're ready to keep fighting for a safer planet and a clean energy future -- and we're ready to win. Let's get moving.
By Janelle Corn, Ph.D. See bio at the end of this post. -- Luis
What happened to climate change and
clean energy legislation in the U.S. Senate last month? Why did legislation
that would have ensured Big Oil pays when it screws up disappear? Steve
Kretzmann , director of organization Oil Change International, wondered too:
As Congress begins August recess,
those of us who care about America’s addiction to oil, climate change,
and a clean energy future have been scratching our heads, wondering
why, after historic levels of pressure we can’t even pass an oil spill
response bill, not to mention a real clean energy or climate bill.
The site’s objective is to increase
awareness (and outrage) of the massive amounts of influence-buying money
pouring into the U.S. Senate. The Hill ran this quote from Krutzmann at the site launch on August 10:
If you’re wondering
why Congress can’t do anything meaningful to end our oil addiction
or stop climate change, the enormous amounts of money revealed on DirtyEnergyMoney.com provide some of the answer.”
From members of the 1Sky Board of Directors: Jessica Bailey, KC Golden, Bracken Hendricks, Bill McKibben, Billy Parish, Vicky Rateau, Gus Speth and Betsy Taylor
As we find ourselves surrounded by the tatters of the climate debate in the U.S. Congress, it seems fitting to take a moment to step back and ponder where we go from here. While the blogosphere is buzzing with assignments of blame for the failure of the Senate to act, we are much more concerned about how we move forward with urgency and clarity of purpose. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury to pack our bags and go home as the Senate did only moments ago. We just staggered through the hottest six months in recorded history worldwide. People everywhere are being impacted by the damage we have done through decades of carbon loading, and it is clear that our ailing planet will not sit idly by as our political leaders have done.
In reflecting, we find ourselves returning to the founding principles of 1Sky when we formed in 2007: We must redouble our efforts to unite American society across all divides in an unyielding call for action on the scope and scale of the enormous challenge and opportunity we are confronting. We are galvanized by the understanding that the political, human rights and economic repercussions of climate change transcend the ‘environmental issue’ label, and present a nation-wide challenge requiring a unified response. As United States citizens, we understand our moral and ethical responsibility to act with resolve – both as members of a global community, and as the leading per capita emitters of global warming pollution. We must succeed in building a nationwide movement that changes the politics of what is possible to deliver what is necessary; our very lives depend on it.
The central aspirations of our campaign as embodied in the 1Sky Solutions which have been endorsed by more than 600 allied organizations nationwide continue as our north star:
Reduce global warming pollutionat least 35 percent below current levels by 2020, and at least 80 percent by 2050.
Create 5 million green jobs and pathways out of poverty by rebuilding and refueling America with a comprehensive energy efficiency mobilization including immediate investment in a clean-energy infrastructure.
Re-power America by imposing a moratorium on new coal plants that emit global warming pollution and replacing dirty fuels such as coal and oil with 100 percent renewable energy.
But what lessons can we learn from the last three years, years in which the advocacy for action on climate change was better funded and coordinated than ever before? We all had high hopes, and the debate was closer to center stage than it has ever been. But in the end, we are left largely empty-handed.
We feel it is imperative to pause, ask tough questions about what went wrong and why we as a community failed to achieve our aspirations, and – more importantly - to look carefully at what is most needed given the new legislative and political landscape. Toward this end, we are holding a retreat in mid-November with key allies, organizers, 1Sky staff and board, but also with leaders from other sectors to help us see in fresh ways, and to explore what role 1Sky can best play as we move into the next chapter.
As we prepare for the strategic discussions we will be having, six key lessons strike us as salient and worth offering now for discussion and debate. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we are committed to grappling with the tough questions and to road-testing solutions. Our thoughts at this time: