Mitt Romney is Out of Step with the American People on Energy Policy

Last year New Mexico was No. 1 in the nation for installing solar power.

It is one of the top states in the country for wind energy.

New Mexicans also benefit from energy efficiency programs. With $8.9 billion in annual energy expenditures each year, energy efficiency programs could save New Mexico residents some serious money – and reduce the amount of toxic power plant emissions they have to breathe as well.

Yet what’s the crux of the energy vision Mitt Romney laid out in New Mexico today?

He wants to get rid of the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that are employing New Mexicans and saving them money.  His solution?  Pretend it’s 1900.  More drilling, more fossil fuels, more of the same.

In disclosing his so-called energy plan in Hobbs, N.M. today, Romney didn’t even bother to mention that one of our country’s most significant energy savings programs is about to be finalized as early as this week.

The Obama Administration is about to implement new clean car standards that will push average auto mileage to 54.5 per gallon by 2025, saving consumers around $8,000 on gas during the life of a vehicle.

In New Mexico, that also will mean residents will save a total of 135 million gallons of fuel and $575 million when fully implemented – not to mention reducing thousands of tons of tailpipe carbon pollution each year, according to a NRDC analysis released just this week. For a dog’s-eye view of what these standards will mean for America, make sure to check out: http://www.doublethempg.com/  

Few issues illustrate the stark differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama like their views on where to take America on energy.

If your desire is to:

  • move America backward;
  •  keep us shackled to Big Oil;
  • forever be dependent on foreign oil supplies and the wild price swings in the international oil market; and
  • leave the planet in terrible shape for our children.

Then Romney’s your man.

If you want to move America forward, and keep developing the growing clean energy economy that’s benefitting New Mexico and every other state in the country – then remember what President Obama has done so far.

As Bloomberg News reported this week, electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar has increased by 73 percent since President Obama took office. President Obama’s clean energy programs have helped create an estimated 2.7 million clean economy jobs, according to the Brookings Institution. Those are real jobs, providing real paychecks to real Americans, many of whom live and work in New Mexico.

If Congress ignores Mitt Romney and reauthorizes the Production Tax Credit that has already created 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry (and that many Senate Republicans support), America could get as much as 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

If Romney and the GOP would stop trying to denigrate and decimate America’s solar industry, we could get as much as 25% of our energy from rooftop solar panels alone in 40 states (51% in Nevada and 52% in California). Instead of focusing on the failures of a few companies, they should be noting the enormous growth in solar overall.  Ideology has blinded them, and they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Mitt Romney is simply out of step with the American people on energy policy, as with so much else.   In survey after survey, Americans overwhelmingly say they want Congress and the White House to do more to increase clean energy sources in this country, and wean us off of fossil fuels. Those opinions do not differ in New Mexico, which is why we support environmental champion Martin Heinrich in his bid for U.S. Senate. Increasing clean energy sources is good for our economy, good for our health and strengthens our national security.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t get this message from the American people or our voices are being drowned out by the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from dirty polluters.

It’s your choice. Which America do you want?

Mitt Romney Energy Plan Fact Sheet

 

 

Will the True Extremist Please Stand Up?

It can’t be easy being a climate denier this summer. Record-breaking heat waves, freak storms, enormous fires, and the worst drought in 50 years are making it harder to ignore the reality of climate change.

Many meteorologists, network news shows, and public health officials are speaking candidly about the connection between extreme weather and climate change. These conversations confirm what so many of us can see with our own eyes: We just have to look outside or turn on the Weather Channel to see what global warming is doing to our communities.

And yet some candidates persist in denying the facts in front of them, even while their own states bear the brunt of climate change. Sticking your head in the sand is never a good position for a leader to assume, but it becomes downright irresponsible when people all around you are struggling.

Take New Mexico, for example. In the senate race, Former Representative Heather Wilson paints her opponent, Representative Martin Heinrich, as an environmental extremist because he wants to address climate change. Wilson, meanwhile, has rejected the idea that human activity is causing global warming.

Wilson likes to position herself as a moderate, but ignoring one of the biggest threats to your state’s economy and well-being is not a sign of moderation; it is a sign of recklessness—especially when your state is as vulnerable to climate change as New Mexico.

In May, Governor Susana Martinez declared the entire state was in a drought. “Fire danger is high, water reservoirs run low and in some cases, we’ve seen towns like Las Vegas take dramatic steps to reduce basic water consumption in their residents’ homes and businesses,” the governor said.

Last year was no better. A dry winter and a dry monsoon season left much of the state parched. New Mexican ranchers ended 2011 with the smallest cattle inventory in more than 25 years. This spring saw more cattlemen having to thin their herds as the drought continued. Ed Polasko, a hydrologist from the National Weather Service focusing on New Mexico, says that even if the monsoons bring moisture, the state has been so dry and so deep in a rain deficit that it will take a long time to recover.

The Southwest has always experienced drought cycles, but climate change can make them more frequent and more severe. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a report confirming that last year’s record-breaking drought in Texas was made “roughly 20 times more likely” as a result of climate change.

Hot weather and persistent drought have left New Mexico with tinderbox conditions. Last year’s Las Conchas fire scorched more than 156,000 acres, consumed dozens of homes, trashed the watershed of the Santa Clara Pueblo, and nearly consumed the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was the biggest fire in state history—until it wasn’t. This year’s Gila fire is even bigger, devouring more than 265 square miles of forest and prompting smoke advisories to be issued from Albuquerque to Carrizozo to Roswell.

Many factors contribute to wildfires, but experts have been warning for years that climate change is making matters worse. “The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probability of longer and bigger fires seasons, in more regions of the nations,” concluded the 2009 Quadrennial Fire Review issued by the U.S Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. 

The soaring temperatures, prolonged droughts, and intense wildfires now threatening New Mexico are hallmarks of climate change. Heinrich has responded by reviewing the science, accepting the facts on the ground, and proposing solutions to stabilize the climate.

Wilson has chosen to keep her eyes closed. Maybe she is afraid the Tea Party crowd will abandon her if she acknowledges climate change. Maybe she is under the influence of the polluting energy companies who release carbon emissions and support her campaign. Or maybe she simply doesn’t have a grasp on the evidence.

Whatever the reason, Wilson has proven to be the true radical here. Only an extremist could discount the overwhelming scientific consensus and believe that denial is the appropriate response to persistent drought, hot temperatures, and raging fires.   

 

 

 

 

Weekly Mulch: Why is the U.S. Losing the Clean Energy Race to China? Blame the Climate Cranks

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao touched on energy issues in the bilateral summit between the two countries this week.

“I believe that as the two largest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouses gases, the United States and China have a responsibility to combat climate change by building on the progress at Copenhagen and Cancun, and showing the way to a clean energy future. And President Hu indicated that he agrees with me on this issue,” President Obama said during a Wednesday press conference.

But can the United States step up as a leader on clean energy? The proliferation of politicians whom The Nation’s Mark Hertsgaard calls “climate cranks” suggests otherwise.

The biggest consumers

In international climate negotiations, the United State and China are the two key players, and if the world as a whole is to move forward on combating climate change, agreement between Presidents Obama and Hu would be a huge breakthrough. Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard notes that Hu also said the United States and China would work together on climate changes, but, she writes, “I can imagine, though, that the conversation on this subject wasn’t entirely as chummy as the remarks would imply, however. The US last month lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization about China’s subsidies for clean energy, arguing that the country is unfairly stacking the deck in favor of their products.”

At AlterNet, Tina Gerhardt and Lucia Green-Weiskel explain the background to those tensions and to the U.S.’s protectionist bent on clean energy projects. They write, “Energy Secretary Chu recently framed the new relationship between the U.S. and China as a ‘Sputnik Moment.’ Referencing the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, which demonstrated its technological advantage and led to the Cold War-era space race, Chu warned that the U.S. risks falling behind China in the clean technology race.”

Stumbling blocks

China’s motivations for growing its clean energy sector may not be leafy green; new energy sources feed the country’s rapidly growing economy. But at least the country is committed to green energy sources, unlike our climate change-denying Congress. As Mark Hertsgaard argues at The Nation, this brand of American has become so pernicious, it’s time to stop adhering to the protocol that dubs them “climate deniers” and start calling them “climate cranks.” He explains:

True skepticism is invaluable to the scientific method, but an honest skeptic can be persuaded by facts, if they are sound. The cranks are impervious to facts, at least facts that contradict their wacky worldview. When virtually every national science academy in the developed world, including our own, and every major scientific organization (e.g., the American Geophysical Union, the American Physics Society) has affirmed that climate change is real and extremely dangerous, only a crank continues to insist that it’s all a left-wing plot.

Climate cranks attack

Unfortunately, climate cranks continue to interfere with both climate scientists and forward-thinking energy policy. At Change.org, Nikki Gloudeman writes about the ongoing saga of climate scientist Michael Mann, one of the climatologists embroiled in the Climategate brouhaha, who is still being attacked by climate-denying groups for his work. Gloudeman reports that although Mann has been investigated and found innocent of any misdeeds several times over, a group with a bias against climate change, the American Tradition Institute, is trying to obtain access to his work.

And in New Mexico, the state’s new conservative governor, Susana Martinez, “has attempted to subvert her own state constitution in order to stop [a] plan to begin reducing her state’s carbon emissions,” reports Dahr Jamail for Truthout. The plan, executed through state rules, would have reduced the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3%, from 2010 levels, each year. The rules should have been made public, but Gov. Martinez kept them from being published, according to Truthout’s report. A local group, New Energy Economy, is fighting to implement them.

Bright spots

In some states, however, the clean energy economy is moving forward. As Care2’s Beth Buczynski reports, Clean Edge, a clean-tech advisory group, has identified the top ten states for clean energy leadership. They include California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

“Rankings were derived from over 80 metrics including total electricity produced by clean-energy sources, hybrid vehicles on the road, and clean-energy venture and patent activity,” Buczynski reports.

And, as David Roberts writes at Grist, there is important work to be done at the local and regional level to both prepare for and prevent climate change. His preferred term for this challenge is “ruggedizing”—strengthening a community’s ability to respond to challenges brought on by climate change, such as flooding, droughts, or food shortages. The solutions to these problem, Roberts writes, often have the welcome side effect of decreasing carbon emissions, as well:

For instance, the residents of Brisbane are discovering that when disaster strikes, it’s not very handy to have everyone spread out all over the place and utterly dependent on cars to get anywhere. It’s more resilient to have people closer together, more able to walk or take shared transportation. It just so happens that also reduces vehicle emissions.

The advantage of this type of work—building the clean energy economy, ruggedizing communities—is that leaders don’t necessarily have to agree on the reality of climate change to move forward. But these are only partial solutions, and to address climate change on an international scale, the cranks will need to be quieted.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Court Rules that New Mexico is in Violation of Federal Voter Registration Law

Voting rights groups scored a major victory in their efforts to bring the State of New Mexico into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) when a judge ruled that the state Human Services Division is violating the NVRA through their policy of only offering the opportunity to register to vote to clients who explicitly request to do so.

Yesterday’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of voting rights groups against New Mexico’s Human Services Division (HSD) and Secretary of State Mary Herrera, which cited clear evidence that New Mexico public assistance offices are violating their federally mandated responsibility to offer tens of thousands of New Mexicans each year the opportunity to register to vote. The plaintiff is represented by voting rights groups Project Vote, Dēmos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), as well as by the law firm of DLA Piper U.S.

Section 7 of the NVRA requires that public assistance agencies give clients a voter registration application with every application for benefits, recertification, and change of address. New Mexico policy, however, has been to give voter registration application forms to only those clients who explicitly request them, a practice that plaintiff maintains is in violation of the NVRA.

Yesterday, United States District Judge Judith Herrera agreed and the court held that “Section 7 does not make the provision of a voter registration application contingent upon an affirmative request,” meaning that the State’s current policy is a violation of the law.

“This is a huge victory for NVRA enforcement, not just in New Mexico, but all across the country,” said Project Vote’s Director of Public Agency Voter Registration, Nicole Zeitler. “Agencies must give out a voter registration application form to everyone who applies for benefits, recertifies, or changes address. Federal law requires it, the Department of Justice has confirmed it, and now the federal courts are ordering it.”

The voting rights groups are hailing this as the first legal ruling on the issue of whether clients must “opt in” to be offered the opportunity to register to vote. “This should be a wake-up call to other states whose agencies are still refusing to give out voter registration applications unless the client specifically asks for it,” says Zeitler.

The voting rights advocates won on all fronts in yesterday’s ruling. Not only did the court grant plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, but it also denied both HSD’s and the Secretary of State’s motions for summary judgment. In denying HSD’s motion, the court pointed to plaintiff’s allegations of years of widespread non-compliance, noting that “the Court cannot say as a matter of law that HSD has demonstrated that it has the tools in place to be compliant in the future without an injunction and Court monitoring.”

“The Court hit on the exact reasons why we brought this case in the first place,” says Robert Kengle, Acting Co-Director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project. “New Mexico’s public assistance offices have been out of compliance with the NVRA for years, and nothing short of comprehensive reform, ordered and monitored by the court, will repair the damage that has been done to the voting rights of low-income New Mexicans.”

In another important decision, the District Court rejected Secretary of State Herrera’s claim that her office is not responsible for ensuring compliance with the NVRA in New Mexico. Relying on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Harkless v. Brunneran NVRA lawsuit filed by the same voting rights groups in Ohio, Judge Herrera agreed with the Sixth Circuit that “each state’s chief election official is responsible for NVRA state compliance,” and that therefore “Defendant Herrera has the obligation to prescribe the actions that the state, including HSD offices, must take to comply with Section 7.”

 

“Courts now have repeatedly confirmed that state election officials must take responsibility for ensuring that low-income voters receive the voter registration opportunities required by federal law,” said Demos’ Counsel Allegra Chapman. “This decision should encourage chief election officials throughout the country to examine agency practices on voter registration, and take corrective action when needed.”

The coalition of voting rights groups has been advocating for enforcement of the NVRA in several states, and settled a related claim against New Mexico’s Motor Vehicles Division in July of this year. Following the groups’ successful lawsuit in Missouri in 2008, voter registration applications submitted at the state’s public assistance offices skyrocketed from fewer than 8,000 a year to more than 130,000 a year. More than 200,000 clients have applied to become registered voters in Ohio after a similar lawsuit was settled in that state last year.

The groups estimate that proper implementation nationwide of the NVRA’s public assistance provisions could result in 2-3 million additional registrations per year.

 

New Mexico Agrees to Implement “Motor Voter” Law

Cross-posted at Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters.

Many Americans gain access to the ballot when they make a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In fact, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission reports that 30 percent of voter registration applications collected between 2007 and 2008 were from people who registered to vote while applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses or state IDs. Although every American is supposed to have had access to this opportunity under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) since 1993, such has not always been the case, particularly in New Mexico.

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