As the year kicked off, climate change
and clean energy advocates were teased with the prospects of another
jobs bill centered on clean energy provisions and the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman
climate bill. The jobs bill was rumored to include the HomeStar program,
which would fund a massive energy efficiency retrofit program (the best
bang for the buck in reducing emissions), while the climate bill was
rumored to include a full carbon cap.
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.
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!
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;
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;
By 1Sky blogger Andy Silber. See Andy's bio at the end of this post. -- Luis
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.
Senators return from the Independence Day recess today with a packed schedule awaiting them. Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid (D-NV) will be working with committee chairs this week to chart a path forward on clean energy legislation in hopes of attracting 60 votes.
The packed legislative calendar and upcoming November elections make July a crucial month for addressing clean energy and climate legislation. Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration remain committed to pivoting off of the oil disaster in the Gulf and passing a clean energy bill, but a concrete legislative package has yet to emerge in the Senate.
Earlier this week, legendary West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away. It is unlikely that an environmental organization would have written positively about a pro-coal senator, but in recent years the late Senator Byrd realized the toll that the coal industry was taking on the environment and his beloved West Virginia. Robert C. Byrd, who once fought hard for coal mining and against regulating it in his early years, had an epiphany:
The industry of coal must also respect the land that yields the coal, as well as the people who live on the land. If the process of mining destroys nearby wells and foundations, if blasting and digging and relocating streams unearths harmful elements and releases them into the environment causing illness and death, that process should be halted and the resulting hazards to the community abated.
The Senate returned from recess on Monday and, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), discussing energy-related legislation is at the top of their agenda. The BP spill has the potential to transform the energy debate in Congress. Leadership in the Senate and the White House have an opportunity to pivot off of the BP spill and drive our energy policy in a new direction.
I really, really wish I didn't have to lead today's roundup with more on the BP oil disaster, but since the oil spill is now in its 46th day, I'm afraid I have no choice. I also wish I didn't have to nag you again about Lisa Murkowski (R-Exxon/BP/Shell/etc.) and her seek-and-destroy mission against the Clean Air Act, but you deal with the senators you have, not the ones you wish you had. Thankfully it's not all doom-and-gloom in Roundupville: this week we heard some of the strongest language in favor of a comprehensive climate and energy bill from President Obama than we've heard in awhile.
By 1Sky blogging working group member Andy Silber. -- Luis
Breaking news: Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has just been awarded "The Cheney" -- an award given to the politician who comes up with the
most bald-faced lies on energy issues. The award is named after former Vice President Dick
Cheney, who was incapable of NOT lying about anything related to energy policy.
Murkowski won for her attempt to repeal
the EPA's “endangerment finding", which showed that
carbon dioxide emissions are a threat to human health and the environment. Her
award-winning lies fall into two categories: