Clean Energy Advances Despite Washington’s Worst Efforts

Tea Party leaders like to paint clean energy and climate action as issues that matter only to elite Democrats living in coastal cities. This claim would come as a surprise to the 38,000 autoworkers building fuel efficient cars in Michigan, the 80 companies involved in the wind supply chain in Iowa, and the more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry across the nation.

But even if the Tea Party isn’t interested in genuine opportunities for job growth, it can’t ignore where the latest climate action is coming from: Texas and GOP statesmen.

Both are wellsprings of conservative values, and when Texas residents and Republican elders start talking about clean energy and global warming, it’s time for moderate lawmakers to listen.

As of October 1st, Austin, Texas became the largest city in the nation to rely entirely on renewable energy to power all of its facilities. The city of Houston still purchases a larger amount of renewable energy, but Austin leads the way in meeting all of its energy needs from clean sources. City officials said they pushed for these changes because they wanted to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality for residents.

Governor Perry may still live in Denialville, but the rest of Texas has joined the global community. The state is converting its West Texas wind into power and money, and it now gets 8 percent of electricity from renewable sources. As Van Jones says: that’s not hippy energy, that’s cowboy energy. And it reflects rangeland values of independence, resourcefulness, and putting a resource to use instead of wasting it.

A growing number of luminaries in the Republican Party share those values. Earlier this week, the National Journal reported on a quiet campaign among elder GOP statesmen to call for climate action.

John Warner, the former Virginia senator and former Secretary of the Navy, is a senior advisor for the Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate Change and he has been speaking at military bases to draw attention to the security threat posed by climate change and oil dependence.

George Shultz, President Reagan’s Secretary of State and an advisor on President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, is also a member of Pew’s climate project. Shultz says Republicans can no longer ignore evidence coming from places like the ice cap in the Arctic. He says people like climate deniers like Perry are “entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to the facts.”

Shultz wields a considerable amount of influence. Last year, when Texas oil companies funded California’s Proposition 23 to defeat the state’s global warming law, Shultz told the National Journal his response was: “We’re not just going to beat these guys, we’re going to beat the hell out of them. We conducted a vigorous campaign. It was a lot of fun.”

And it was wildly successful. Californians defeated Prop 23 by a ratio of 2 to 1. More people voted on Prop 23 than on anything else on the ballot, including the gubernatorial and Senate races, and even counties that backed Republican candidates shot down Prop 23.

Men like Shultz and Warner—along with Former Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC), Former Representative Sherry Boehlert (R-NY), and others—share the goal of making our nation strong, secure, and independent. They know the politicization of environmental issues is a recent phenomenon, and they are not afraid to say fighting climate change should be part of the Republican platform.

I admire these leaders; I only wish their campaign wasn’t so quiet. I want to see them on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. If they make their voices louder, they will help create the political space for Republican candidates to start confirming climate science and advocating climate action.

Right now, the Tea Party has the megaphone. People like Rick Perry are yelling that climate change doesn’t exist and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is shouting that Congress must dismantle the Clean Air Act and rob the EPA of its authority to set limits on carbon pollution. This would upend a law signed by President Nixon signed and strengthened by President George H.W. Bush. It would also endanger the health of millions of Americans.

This overheated rhetoric is pushing our nation into a more disrupted and more dangerous climate. We have to bring it back from the brink. I remember back in the 1980s, my mom watched infomercials in which Susan Powter would shout: Stop the Insanity.

Cities like Austin, Texas, and leaders like George Shultz and John Warner are adding much needed sanity to the climate debate. They remind us that protecting our nation from climate change and putting Americans to work in the clean energy sector are not elite, partisan issues. They are the building blocks of the 21st century.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

The Success of Proposition 25 in California

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

Until 2011, California’s budget process followed a very unfortunate pattern. Democrats, who control the legislature, would propose the general outlines. California’s budget required a two-thirds supermajority to pass it in the legislature, however, which Democrats do not have. So any budget would need Republican support.

Republicans would then make a series of demands for their support, demands which Democrats would find unacceptable. The two sides would then be stuck at an impasse. This would last for months, until finally (long after the deadline) some type of compromise would pass. The whole process would then begin anew the next year.

In 2011 all this changed. California passed its first on-time budget since 2006. This budget was only the sixth budget in the last twenty years which has been on-time. The accomplishment is all the more substantial given that it happened in the middle of a recession. In the past, budgets passed before the new fiscal year only during the good times – when revenues were much higher than spending.

Proposition 25, which passed in 2010, is responsible for all this. The proposition did two things to improve the process. Firstly, it annuled the supermajority requirement. From now on, budgets only require a simple legislative majority to pass (like forty-seven other states). No longer can a small minority hold the budget hostage until they get what they want.

Secondly, the proposition permanently took away legislative salaries for every day that the budget was late. Previously pay had just been delayed, not permanently taken away.

This part of the proposition turned out to be a lot more important than anybody thought it would be. At first the clause had just been put in there as a way to sell the proposition to voters. But the threat of permanently losing one’s pay has turned out to be a very powerful incentive for state legislators to pass a budget.

All in all, Proposition 25 has turned out to be an enormous success.

Nevertheless, there is one more reform which California must enact. California still requires a two-thirds supermajority in order to raise taxes. Neither party has this supermajority, although the Democrats are coming close to it.

The problem with this stipulation is very similar with the problem that until this year assailed California’s budget; it enables a small minority to hold the popular majority hostage (by refusing to allow revenue increases) until the minority gets what they want. In 2011 this happened; Democrats were unable to get a single Republican to agree to new revenues. So the budget is composed entirely of spending cuts, especially to California’s university system. Why is your college tuition going up? Because California Republican legislators refuse to allow the budget to be balanced any other way.

Still, a very imperfect budget is much better than no budget at all. Proposition 25 deserves to be commended for accomplishing that.

 

 

What It’s Like To Be A Republican Legislator in California

I recently had the opportunity to visit California’s State Assembly and watch the legislature in action. I think this opportunity provided me a deeper understanding of the problem ailing California politics.

The first thing to know is that, if you’re a Republican legislator in California, you are always, always losing. The Democratic Party always sets the agenda. Then a Democratic Assemblyman will introduce a bill. Sometimes the bill is uncontroversial – something like National Mitochrondria Day. Other times the bill is heatedly partisan.

When the bill is partisan, the Republicans will stand up and argue against it. They will be heated. They will be angry – indeed, Republican legislators generally have a much angrier tone than their Democratic counterparts. They will talk about how the Constitution is being violated, how America’s Founding Fathers would look aghast at the bill, how America is a country of liberty, and how the bill is infringing upon America’s freedoms.

And then, when voting time comes, the Republicans lose. The bill they so hate inevitably passes. This is because California is a Democratic state, and the Democrats therefore have a majority. The result is that day in, day out Republicans are losing. They lose every single time. They spend every single minute in the legislature losing.

Except on one issue. California, you see, requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes (and, until recently, to pass the budget). There are barely enough Republicans in the chamber to deny Democrats the two-thirds majority.

So here, on this one issue, a Republican legislator can win. And what an important issue! Taxes and budgets, after all, are the most important priority for any state.

The California Republican Party blankly refuses to allow tax increases of any kind. Not a dollar, not a dime, not a cent. It never, ever cooperates with the Democratic Party.

It probably feels very good, too, for Republican legislators so tired of losing all the time. How immensely satisfying it must feel for a California Republican legislator to win a victory. Republicans can even tell themselves that they’re doing the state good, since high taxes are of course what’s ruining California.

What’s really hurting California, however, is the legislative gridlock that results from the Republican Party’s refusal to compromise. The party knows that California is a Democratic stronghold, so it will never hold power. But because California requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes (and, until recently, pass a budget), Republicans can be hostage-takers. That is essentially the only role that California’s Republican Party has.

Eventually the Democratic Party will gain the necessary two-thirds majority. They are already very close, and California is trending left. Then Republicans will truly have no power. One hopes that will provide them enough incentive to change their ideology and politicians in a way that garners more support from California’s diverse population. Otherwise, the party will wither away into nothingness.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

 

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