We Must Put Out Newt Gingrich’s Wildfire Before It Starts

Newt Gingrich is at it again.  In an attempt to “one up” his fellow Tea-Party political climbers, “Contract on America” (COA) Newt has declared that Congress should abolish the EPA.  Actually, maybe I am not being fair.  He wants to disband the agency, ripping out the “protection” part of the EPA’s mission, and replace it with a shiny new teeny-tiny organization that is going to work closely with corporate polluters.  COA Newt wants the new entity to focus on science (that he doesn’t seem to believe in) and technology (that he wants to cut spending for).  What hypocrisy!  He goes on to point out his belief that “the EPA is basically opposing things.”  You mean, things like dirty air, COA Newt?  I am pretty happy that their goal is still protection.  I just wish we had an agency that could protect us from these kinds of ridiculous ideas.

The Environmental PROTECTION Agency PROTECTS my family.  The fundamental laws it enforces keep our water drinkable, swimmable, and fishable.  EPA has reduced the number of asthma visits to emergency rooms by our kids (and still has a ways to go).  EPA provides small communities low-interest loans to update their sewers and water infrastructure.  EPA cleans up toxic waste dumps when the corporate polluters (you know, the ones COA New wants to partner with) abandon them – leaving communities  — often the poorest — in crisis.  COA Newt might want to paint EPA scientists as a bunch of bureaucratic tree huggers but make no mistake – this agency is all about the health of your family.

In the past, I would have just ignored this blather as another wild idea from New, like when he proposed essentially eliminating the State Department. But, the truth is we can’t ignore this because these ridiculous ideas have been treated seriously lately as they are repeated to the Tea-Party radio listeners and echoed on Fox Network as somehow valid.

We need to talk about how radical, dangerous and out-of-the-mainstream this idea is at every opportunity.  We must tell the other parents at daycare pickup.  We must mock this idea on Facebook, Twitter, under our email signatures.  You get the idea.  One can no longer assume that outlandish suggestions by disgraced politicians will just die of their own weight.  We need to explain why they’re counter to the public interest – to your families.  Making our case is easy to do, but we have to do it.

We need to put out this wildfire before it starts.

The blog was first posted in NRDC’s Action Fund blog, The Mark.

You Can Do Better, Senator Brown

I learned last week that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is floating the idea of stopping EPA’s work to reduce carbon dioxide pollution for at least one year.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I have known and admired Senator Sherrod Brown for years, and I respect his track record on defending the environment.

Sherrod’s consideration of undermining the EPA’s ability to keep our air free from pollution doesn’t jibe with his past positions or with what’s good for Ohio’s economy and for its residents’ health.

And it certainly doesn’t match up with what I know of Sherrod Brown’s leadership.

I first met Senator Brown when he was in the House and I worked for another member of the Ohio delegation. Both members served on the Energy and Commerce Committee. During the long committee hearings, members often left to attend other events, but Hill staffers had to stick around to listen. Staffers aren’t allowed to speak at committee meetings—only members can—so when we would hear witnesses making inaccurate statements or exaggerating the facts, we felt powerless to correct the record.

That was until we realized we could turn to Sherrod Brown. He was one of the few members who would sit through the bulk of hearings, and we could always trust him to correct the record when the speaker was off the mark, we could count on him to challenge falsehoods—especially when it came to environmental issues.

More recently, Senator Brown has been a supporter of clean energy—something that has been very good for Ohio. In fact, Ohio is the best in the Midwest when it comes to green job growth. Toledo and Cleveland have led the way by transforming struggling auto-parts factories into manufacturing centers of solar panels, wind turbines, and advanced batteries.

These opportunities led Senator Brown to play an active roll drafting comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that would have cut global warming pollution and brought as much as $5.6 billion in investment revenue and 67,000 new jobs to Ohio.

Unfortunately, that legislation never made it to the floor. So why would Brown want to put put on hold the only chance we have right now for cutting carbon dioxide pollution?  The only thing likely to be different a year from now is that one more year of pollutants will be in our air and businesses will have suffered through another year of renewed uncertainty about the standards they will have to meet.

And EPA has not put in place some Draconian plan.  All that’s being required is that new plants, or plants undergoing major changes install the latest, affordable equipment.  Why would we want new plants to be dirtier than they have to be?

We shouldn’t stop work already underway to clean up our air and tackle climate change while we wait for Congress to get its act together. And Congressional “delays” tend to be extended year after year.  Before we know it, America will be four or five years further behind in confronting the worst environmental, economic, and national security challenge of our time.

That isn’t something the Brown I know would want. And it’s not something the people of Ohio should want.  Ohio has one of the best clean energy stories to tell in the nation. Confronting climate change and shifting to more sustainable energy will bring more jobs to your state and make the hard-working families of Ohio healthier.

When your children are sick, you don’t stop giving them the medicine they need because a better product might be available someday.  Heck, you don’t even wait for your kids to GET SICK if you can take pre-emptive action to avoid it.

Sherrod Brown can stand up for the health and welfare of Ohio’s families by working WITH the EPA to make sure implementation of the Clean Air Act is successful in bringing standards up-to-date to  protect public health and drive innovation.  That is the leadership we need.

This blog was originally posted on the NRDC Action Fund blog, The Markup.



Silver Linings and Other Takeaways from the Election

Despite the anti-incumbent, frustrated mood of yesterday’s elections, there are some silver linings and some important messages for the months ahead. 
In California, voters overwhelmingly rejected Big Oil’s attempt to circumvent the most important climate law in the nation. This is an incredibly significant development. For the first time, VOTERS got to have direct input into whether or not they want to move forward with climate solutions. They gave a full-throated call for building the clean energy future in California. 
Still, you probably won’t hear much about this resounding victory because some pundits will view it as a wacky, West Coast aberration. But think about it: if the fossil fuel guys had won, the media would have been trumpeting the death of environmentalism, and industry allies in Congress would have been citing the vote as reason to abandon climate legislation. And you can call California “liberal,” but it is also the state with the third largest unemployment rate in the nation. If voters thought clean energy hurt the economy, we wouldn’t have won. 
But voters know that clean energy means good things for our economy, and the California vote proves it. Unfortunately, the federal races were less clear. 

We saw the House flip last night and several of our climate champs were defeated – but so were many lawmakers who had voted AGAINST climate change.  

In Virginia, we saw Congressmen Tom Perriello (VA-5) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) go down. Both supported the climate bill. But, it’s not easy to figure out how much of a factor climate was in those races. We also saw Rep. Glenn Nye (VA-2) bite the dust and he was a vocal opponent of the clean energy legislation.  

Same thing in Ohio. We lost Rep. John Boccieri (OH-16) who voted for the House bill, but Rep. Charlie Wilson (OH-6), an outspoken critic, also went down. Meanwhile Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13) actively defended her vote for clean energy and cruised to reelection. Other Ohio Reps like Zack Space (OH-18) lost their jobs, but they had tried to play both sides of the fence. Space voted for the climate bill, but then tried to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from actually addressing global warming. You can’t have it both ways in an election year when people are looking for leadership.  

Yet another example is found in Pennsylvania where we saw clean energy advocate Patrick Murphy (PA-8) defeated and Chris Carney (PA-10), an opponent of our issues, also handed his walking papers. 

In race after race, we found voters kicking out the incumbents regardless of their stance on energy. Yet leaders on the issue in the Senate like Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid won.  

So, clean energy and climate change probably wasn’t a factor in most races. In the end, this election came down to one thing: the economy.  

Our stumbling economy continues to be on the minds of every working family in the country. They are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, and any sense of security that they may have created. The promise of clean energy provides a lot of hope for our stumbling economy and the American people believe that, regardless of who is in charge.

So, we will continue to work. Congress is going to have to take up mandatory bills on spending, infrastructure and agriculture. There are opportunities to make great progress on renewables, adaptation, efficiency and a plethora of other clean energy areas in all of those pieces of legislation. It will be a tough road, but a road worth taking.




Are We in for Another Round of “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It?”

Go vote. Seriously.

If you need more of a reason to get out there and vote, let’s reflect on a few of the memorable moments in the 2010 midterm election season.

Remember when Ron Johnson, running against Senator Feingold in Wisconsin, said that extreme weather events were caused by sun spots, not global warming pollution.

Or when the Senate candidate from West Virginia John Raese posited , “If you have one volcano in the world, that one volcano puts out more carbon dioxide than everything man puts out.”

Rabid climate denial—despite all facts to the contrary— has received a lot of attention this campaign season. But what got less coverage were the many times candidates denied or conveniently forgot their own party’s history and contradictory policy positions—again, despite all the facts pointing to the truth.

One after another, GOP candidates denounced the cap and trade approach to reducing global warming pollution. Senator Grassley said, “Since a cap-and-trade system inevitably involves increased costs for American consumers, it is in effect a national energy tax.” Nevada’s Sharron Angle said  that people who pass things like cap and trade are “certainly not friends of the free-market system.”

But what these candidates failed to mention is that cap and trade is a Republican policy. It was created under President Ronald Reagan as a flexible, market-based system to reduce pollution without resorting to the “command and control” approach of regulation. (Read this fantastic post by Dan Weiss for more on the history).

President Reagan used cap and trade to phase out lead in gasoline and CFCs. Then President George H.W. Bush used a cap-and-trade system to reduce acid rain. And here is the amazing thing: the 1990 cap and trade system passed the Senate by 89-10 and the House by 401-25. Among its supporters: Senator McConnell and Representatives Gingrich, Barton, and Inhofe.

But that was back in 1990. Fast forward to 2010, the year when the GOP’s philosophy could be summed up by the famous Groucho Marx song: “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.”

So what if the revered President Reagan pioneered cap and trade? If Democrats support it, it must be bad. So what if every time we used cap and trade it has dramatically cut the cost of reducing pollution? If environmentalists support it, it must be an energy tax.

One of the most obvious flip-floppers is Senator McCain. During the presidential campaign just two years ago, McCain said the famous line, “I don’t see how you can be a conservative and not support cap and trade.” But come 2010, he suddenly started calling it a “cap and tax” measure and refused to support it in the Senate.

So, a lot is at stake in this election. You need to go vote. Knock on your neighbor’s door, tell your Mom, call your best friend and tell them all to vote. The issue is not the details of legislation, but an entire worldview. Are important matters going to be dealt with using reason, analysis, science and consistent thinking? Or are ignorance, stubbornness, negativity and political expediency going to rule the day?

We also have to be prepared. We have to fight the deniers by setting the record straight and broadcasting the truth. And we have to do it right away.

We won’t even have a respite after the election because the Clean Air Act will be under attack within weeks by another campaign of falsehoods. So let’s start fighting the ignorance right now.

Minnesota Voters Think for Themselves

Campaign season typically invites all kinds of armchair commentary about what voters want, and this year is proving to be fertile ground for unsubstantiated theorizing which quickly becomes “conventional wisdom” – with or without evidence.

Conventional wisdom may be comforting, but it doesn’t tell us much about the world as it really is. After all, conventional wisdom used to hold that the Earth is flat and at the center of the universe. (Some candidates – not naming any names here – may still believe both, actually.)

This election season, it has become popular to claim that candidates who supported clean energy legislation are less likely to be reelected because of that support. But there’s little, if any, data to support that claim. 

Two recent polls, conducted by Public Policy Polling that we are releasing today, cover races in Minnesota’s 1st and 6th districts where things are pretty tight and the "conventional wisdom" is proving dead wrong.

The poll found that an overwhelming 77% of voters support investments in clean, renewable energy. That compares to only 44% who favor building more nuclear power plants and 40% who are interested in more coal.

Furthermore, 51% of respondents are more likely to support a candidate who supported an energy bill that would “create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change.” Only 29% said such a vote would make them less likely to support such a candidate – an advantage of 22 percentage points for clean energy supporters.

Fortunately, this isn't news to Congressman Tim Walz – who did support the very piece of legislation described and who talks about the issue right on his campaign website:

With oil prices reaching another record high…the time for action on renewable energy and American energy independence is now. Ending our dependence on foreign oil and using renewable energy to help fight global warming will make our nation stronger. And at a time when our economy is struggling, these investments will help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”

Obviously Walz and his constituents understand that clean energy and climate legislation makes our nation stronger, creates jobs at home and reduces pollution. 

Which leads us to our other race, MN-6, where all of this sounds like tyranny to incumbent, Michele Bachmann. She has characterized the House-passed clean energy bill as a take-over of "every aspect" of people's lives which, I hope we can universally agree, is the exaggeration of the century. 

But then, Bachmann (who is also the chair of the House Tea Party Caucus), is well-known for fear-mongeringand spreading misinformation about the science and costs of addressing climate change. That’s consistent with her fierce opposition to all kinds of environmental initiatives. The League of Conservation Voters named Bachmann as one of its Dirty Dozen and awarded her zero points during the 111th Congress. According to LCV’s scorecard, Bachmann has not only failed to support any pro-environment bills, but she has also actively undermined funding existing programs.

Congresswoman Bachmann’s own legislative initiatives champion the “drill, baby, drill” approach to destroying Federal lands, risking more offshore drilling accidents and dumping more and more pollution into our atmosphere. Her major donors include the Citizens United PAC, Eric Cantor’s Every Republican is Crucial PAC, and other conservative organizations and fossil fuel front groups.

According to our polling, Representative Bachmann’s radical views put her out of step with her district, despite the heavy dose of Tea Party propaganda that constantly flows from Bachmann and her allies. Just a few little tidbits from our poll:

Voters in Bauchmann's district favor investments in renewables (64%) over building more nuclear power plants (54%) and favor investing in new technology over using more coal (47%).

And when we asked voters if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who would support a clean energy bill, we found that 47% would be more likely, while only 38% would be less likely (the other 16% didn't really care or weren't sure). Seems pretty compelling to me. (Those polled were told, “Supporters say the energy bill will create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change. Opponents say the bill will cost companies money and is like an energy tax that would actually reduce jobs.”)     

These kinds of results aren't a surprise. In poll after poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and released last week by NRDC Action Fund, the indisputable fact is that the majority of voters support Congressional efforts to address climate change. And why wouldn't they when one considers that a bill like this would mean more jobs, greater security and less pollution. Despite the opposition's best (or should I say, worst) intentions, the public – and more importantly for candidates, the voters – get it.

Virginians want clean energy and politicians who will make it happen

According to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and released this week by the NRDC Action Fund, voters across the country by a wide margin are more likely to vote for someone who supports clean energy legislation -- Virginians are no exception.

In the two Virginia districts -- the 5th and the 9th -- many more voters questioned said they are more likely to vote for a candidate that stood up for a clean energy bill than less likely. When asked the following question, we found great results:

Congress is considering an energy bill to move America towards a new energy future including investments in wind and solar power. Supporters say the energy bill will create millions of new jobs, reduce our use of foreign oil, hold corporate polluters accountable and cut the pollution that causes climate change. Opponents say the bill will cost companies money and is like an energy tax that would actually reduce jobs. Do you agree more with supporters of the energy bill or opponents of the energy bill?

VA-5 Results
Agree more with supporters.............................49%
Agree more with opponents..............................34%
Not sure................................................................17%

VA-9 Results
Agree more with supporters..............................47%
Agree more with opponents..............................31%
Not sure.................................................................22%

And in both districts over two-thirds of voters polled thought favorably about investing in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power, equaling or exceeding the favorable response to new technologies that use more coal.

Maybe that’s because Virginians know that investing in clean energy will mean more jobs at home, more money in their pockets, and a stronger state economy.

This is good news for Congressmen Perriello (VA-5) and Boucher (VA-9). Both supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a clean energy bill that would bring 50,000 additional jobs to the state over the next decade increase annual Virginia household income by over $1,300, and boost the state’s real GDP by $3.2 billion over the same time period.

Over 50% of the voters polled in Virginia also said that reducing dependence on foreign oil should be a top energy priority for the government.

Fortunately, the same clean energy legislation Perriello and Boucher backed will increase our nation’s security by investing in cleaner cars and renewable energy so we can stop mortgaging our children’s future to buy oil from countries that don’t share our values.

But some don’t seem to agree that Virginians should keep more money in their pockets and have a cleaner environment. In recent months, Congressmen Perriello and Boucher have come under attack for their bold steps to create jobs and increase our security by their challengers’ campaigns.

Congressman Perriello’s Republican challenger, Robert Hurt, has embraced all of his party’s old tricks. Opponents of clean energy and climate action fought dirty in VA-5 when Perriello voted for the clean energy bill, and continue to do so now -- using claims that have been debunked by NRDC economists for their deceptive conclusions.

H. Morgan Griffith, Congressman Boucher’s Republican challenger, has gone even further, denying the science of climate change and claiming that legislation will cost jobs in the coal industry. That doesn’t make much sense considering it was Congressman Boucher who negotiated on behalf of the industries vital to Virginia’s 9th District (a deal, by the way, that the NRDC Action Fund was less than thrilled about). My goodness, the coal guys are even running ads in his favor!

The numbers tell a different story. Virginians favor moving ahead with creating a safer, healthier and economically stronger future for their families and communities. This means Virginians are ready to tackle energy issues by making a commitment to renewable power and clean energy jobs. And they want their elected officials to do the same.

Voters Overwhelmingly Support Clean Energy Candidates

Americans know a good idea when they see one. No matter how many millions of dollars the deep-pocketed polluters spend on spreading mistruths this election season, new polling released by the NRDC Action Fund today shows that voters in 23 close Congressional races overwhelmingly support clean energy legislation and would be more likely to support candidates who do the same.

In fact, our polls found on average voters are almost 20% MORE likely to vote for someone who supports a clean energy bill. This may not sound like a lot, but in a year where 92 Congressional races sit in the "lean" or "tossup" columns on The Cook Political Report, that 20% not only counts, it is a big deal. In fact, a majority of voters (almost 53% on average) in tight races around the country said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a climate bill.

Still, the news for clean energy gets better.

We don't believe that voters will fall for the fossil fuel industry's misleading claims. That is why we went head-to-head to test our messaging against what the industry has been saying. Our poll presented our opposition's main, misleading talking point - that a climate bill is akin to an energy tax. Voters overwhelmingly (spread +18.8%) rejected this idea in favor of a bill that creates millions of new jobs, reduces our use of foreign oil, holds corporate polluters accountable and cuts the pollution that causes climate change.

In some races, the difference is even more pronounced. In Iowa's Third District (IA-3), currently represented by Congressman Leonard Boswell, voters were more likely to support the candidate who supported a clean energy bill by 33 percentage points! Voters there agreed with pro-clean energy messaging 62% of the time. In the Pennsylvania’s Eighth District (PA-8), currently represented by Congressman Patrick Murphy, voters were more likely to support the candidate who supported clean energy by 19 percentage points and voters favored the green message 58% of the time.

These are really significant results because time and again, a majority of likely voters are on the side of clean energy. You have to remember that opponents of clean energy are pouring millions into front groups who are spreading misinformation about the issues. We can’t even come close to their per capita spending. And yet clean energy legislation is still polling ahead in nearly every bellwether district. And Americans still see clean energy for what it is: a great investment in our nation’s future.

I guess there really are some things money can’t buy, even in politics. Despite dumping $175 million into the political system in 2009 and $74.5 million in 2010 and donating more than $7 million to candidates last quarter, the oil and gas industry still can’t persuade the public that it’s not better for America to move ahead with cleaner energy alternatives. 

Even in a coal state like Ohio, voters support renewables by double digits over coal and nukes. A great example is Ohio’s Sixteenth District (OH-16), currently represented by Congressman John Boccieri, where our poll found that 69% of people support investments in renewables, besting coal at 58%. We found similar results in almost every district we polled, like Pennsylvania Eleven (PA-11), currently represented by Congressman Paul Kanjorski, where 73% favor investing in renewables compared to 62% who want more coal. Even way down in South Carolina’s Fifth District (SC-5), currently represented by Congressman John Spratt, voters are more favorable to investing in renewables at 72% than coal at 57%.

So the question becomes, why aren't those who voted for a climate bill winning? Why is the opposition focused on painting this vote as a negative? There are a lot of answers but I think most agree this is an anti-incumbent year where most politicos expect poor turnout. I think many would also agree that climate champions have spent too much time running away from this issue instead of educating their voters about why this was not only a good vote for the environment, but also for our national security and economy. These poll results suggest they better get their act together because they are missing an opportunity. Voters are primed to embrace candidates who show leadership on this issue.

Opponents of clean energy will continue to write fat checks, but the climate champions clearly have the advantage if they play their cards right because voters support renewable power, economic growth, green jobs, and clean air -- that’s priceless and that is one way to win.

All 23 polls can be found at http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/polls/</a>.

Tea Partiers: Be Careful What You Wish For

The Tea Party has no shortage of colorful rhetoric -- from grizzly bears to painting every policy as a tax -- but I can’t help but wonder how this attention-grabbing imagery would translate into governing policy. 

What if the Tea Party actually got what they wanted? What if they really did succeed in dismantling the government they loathe?

I realize anti-government rhetoric is popular these days, but if this speechifying actually becomes a blueprint for running our country, things could get rough for average Americans. Let’s take a look at what it would mean if some Tea Party sound bites became a reality. 

Reality #1: No New Safety and Health Standards (Don’t Eat the Eggs)

A few weeks ago, Tea Party darling Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill that would require both houses of Congress and the White House to approve every major rule set by the EPA and other federal agencies. Since Congress can barely agree on post office names these days, DeMint’s bill would effectively create a government shutdown, turning technical matters about standards into ugly political brawls. Most new regulations won’t survive the trip through Congress. 


What would this look like on the ground? It is one thing to complain about government overreach from the stump, but it’s another thing to read that before salmonella killed several Americans, “barns of egg producers were infested with flies, maggots, and rodents, and had overflowing manure pits.” The only reason the farmer responsible for the latest outbreak is cleaning up his act is because the federal government is bearing down on him. 

The federal government actually has a job to do, and if we tie its hands, it won’t take long to feel the consequences. Who do the Tea Partiers think is trying to prevent the next salmonella outbreak? Who do they think stepped in when Toyota cars were malfunctioning? Who do they think is keeping Houston’s air from looking like the dirty soup of Beijing skies? 

If the Tea Party succeeds in blocking future regulations, I wouldn’t eat the eggs if I were you. 

Reality #2: No Federal Spending (Keep Your Eye on Your Tap) 

The Tea Party has turned government spending into a dirty word. But let’s reflect on the fact that not all government spending is pork. Some of it keeps our families safe and our communities operating. Take our water infrastructure. America’s aging system is in desperate need of investment. The EPA estimates we would need to invest $334 billion over the next 20 years just to ensure we comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act -- the law that protects us from raw sewage and water-borne diseases. This isn’t a talking point about spending; it’s about what comes out of your tap. 

Reality #3: No Plan for Climate Change (Too Bad China Will Get Our Jobs)

Almost every Tea Party candidate running for office either denies the science of climate change or believes that America does not need to take action to stop it. If they get their way and continue to delay climate solutions, America is in store for some serious consequences. Remember how scientists called 2010 the worst summer on record because of the heat waves, droughts, mudslides, and floods that sent millions of people from their homes? Get used to it. 

And get used to watching jobs drain out of America and reappear in China. According to a recent report issued by the Small Business Majority and American Businesses for Clean Energy, China and other nations have “gained more than $$11 billion in job-creating clean energy investments” in the two months since the Senate failed to pass clean energy and climate legislation in July. The analysis shows that nearly 2 million jobs have been lost as a result of this failure. 

The truth is the Tea Party has not explained what their policies will mean for the functioning of America. We have budgets for a reason. The government spends money for a reason. 

I want an America that works. I want bridges that stand firm, pipes that bring clean water, and schools that educate our children. I want a Congress that can function and pass a bill every once in awhile. And I want an economy that invests in clean energy and climate solutions. These things mean far more to mean than catchy campaign slogans or three-cornered hats ever could. 




A Dirty Pledge

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

On Thursday, House Republicans issued their roadmap for the midterm elections and the next legislative session. It's called the "Pledge to America," but on energy issues, it sounds more like a pledge that makes powerful promises to the oil and gas industry.

The document says, "We will fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national 'cap and trade' energy tax."

That's it. That's all the platform says about America's failed energy policy and the crisis of global warming.

I could understand if the GOP was pushing for a different energy and climate policy than this administration. I could understand if they wanted to try a new mechanism for reducing carbon emissions -- despite the fact that cap and trade is a market-based model first signed into law by a Republican president and GOP majority vote. I could understand if they wanted to try other ways to reduce our dependence on oil or to make the U.S. more energy efficient.

But I cannot understand the complete failure to address one of the biggest environmental, public health and national security risks of our time. I know some Tea Party and GOP candidates deny the existence of climate change, but that doesn't make the problem go away. We should have learned that from previous generations of deniers who wanted us to do nothing about leaded gasoline, or about smog or about acid rain. We didn't make progress until we ignored the deniers and got to work.

How is burying your head in the sand a visionary pledge to Americans?

I shouldn't be surprised by this failure of leadership. After all, this party platform was literally written by a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. Author Brain Wild was a Hill staffer and assistant legislative director for Vice President Cheney. Then, he went to work for a lobby shop that had a $1.3 million contract with Exxon Mobil, $800,000 from Anadarko Petroleum, $740,000 from AIG and $625,000 from Pfizer.

As Sam Stein reports, those associations may win favor in GOP circles, but you can't escape the conflicts of interest they raise.

We've tried this before. We spent the past decade letting the polluters call the shots, and it didn't end up too well: the BP oil spill.

If someone drives a car off the road, you don't give them the keys again.

Still, there is something a little desperate about the way GOP leaders are trumpeting their supposed agenda. These people are likely to be replaced by more extreme Tea Party favorites and so they're trying to echo the Tea Party agenda to stave off their own demise.

Come November, my guess is that Representative Boehner and his colleagues will be so tied up with the civil war within the Republican Party; they won't have much time for doling out giveaways to the fossil fuel industry.



There Has Never Been a More Important Election to Get Active

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Recently, the Wonk Room identified six Senate races and eight House races in which supporters of climate action are pitted against candidates who deny that climate change exists.

One candidate, Allen West in Florida, asked "Al Gore to apologize to God," while another, David Harmer in California, said "Global warming is more a religion than a science." Such candidates simply ignore the science, and the consensus reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. They have nothing credible to respond to the logic of climate science - we've known for more than a century that carbon dioxide traps heat - or its scientific conclusions - no natural phenomena can explain the average temperatures of recent decades. They don't counter the science; they simply reject it.

The statements of these candidates make it clear this midterm election isn't about Democrats versus Republicans. It's about reality versus fantasy. It's about real policy solutions versus angry diatribes.

And it's the reason why this is one of the most important elections you can get active in. You thought the 2008 presidential election was big, and it was. But right now, we are fighting a battle to maintain straight-forward, reality-based lawmaking in Congress.

If this were just the same old two-party brawl, we could still make progress on clean energy solutions. There are plenty of Republican incumbents who (when pressed), will say they know America has to confront climate change (and even more will say so privately). There are also Republican lawmakers who act like statesmen -- leaders who engage in civil dialogue and make meaningful compromises.

But the Tea Party has yanked the GOP to the right, and all GOP candidates for the Senate now say climate change is not a threat worth acting on or that it doesn't even exist. Statements that should be viewed as loony are being portrayed as mainstream. We are facing the biggest environmental challenge of the century, and China is eating our lunch in the clean energy market, but GOP leaders are sticking with the old and the dirty.

They profess to hate cap and trade, despite the fact that it is a conservative, market-based idea that was first signed into law by President Bush in 1990 to curb acid rain, after being passed in the House by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority of 401-25 and in the Senate, 89-10. But hey, who cares about historical facts if they get in the way of campaign rhetoric?

I know we are in an anti-government year. I get it. But, at the end of the day, we cannot allow gross misrepresentations and disavowals of scientific data to rule the day. We have to fight back. Tea Party candidates operate on instinct not information, and it's up to us to set the record straight. Speak up at campaign events. Write letters to the editor. Email articles like this one that explain that rather than burdening homeowners with a so-called energy tax, the program to reduce global warming pollution from Northeastern power plants has SAVED consumers $900 million on their energy bills.

And don't be shy about talking to your neighbors. I was at a neighborhood party recently when a man started spouting crazy notions about taxes and the Constitution. I finally had to say, "Excuse me, but you are speaking falsehoods. It's okay to have your own opinions, but please don't represent them as facts."

This is where we are right now. We have to pull out our mommy voices and say it's time for everybody to do their homework.

That includes the media. Write a letter every time they talk about groups like Americans for Prosperity and fail to report that it is not a grassroots movement but is actually funded by the billionaire Koch brothers and other oil industry interests.

Maybe in the past you would have rolled your eyes at these kinds of misrepresentations. But now isn't the time to be privately distressed. Now is the time to be publicly engaged.

I assure you: if you think it is bad for climate science and clean energy solutions now, you have to realize that it will only get worse if we don't fight back.


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