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Six Clean Energy Campaign Lessons that Matter for 2013

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

It is the start of a New Year, and the long election of 2012 is behind us now, but that doesn’t mean the campaigning is over. A new Congress and a second Obama term present opportunities to advance clean energy and climate action, yet given the persistent gridlock in Washington, it will take a sustained effort to generate the public pressure and bolster the political will to put smart policies in place. The 2012 race offers some lessons about how best to build that momentum.

The 2012 election revealed a good deal about energy politics. Energy received more coverage in campaign ads than any issue except jobs and the economy. Fossil fuel companies spent more than $150 million in ad campaigns by mid-September, and Former Governor Romney echoed the industry’s talking points on the stump, calling for more drilling, more coal-fired power, and skirting the reality of climate change on more than one occasion.

Yet despite the dirty ad blitz and anti-environmental rhetoric, Americans roundly rejected this polluting energy platform. Up and down the ticket, they chose candidates who support clean energy, clean air, and strong public health safeguards.

Now we have to help leaders deliver what voters asked for. How can we keep the momentum going for expanding wind and solar power and reducing toxic smokestack pollution? How can fight back against deep-pocketed polluters? How can we persuade Congress the time has come to confront climate change? The 2012 campaigns provide some answers.

1. Local Success Stories Inspire Support

Everyone is familiar with the old adage: all politics are local. The same is true for the politics of clean energy and climate change. A few years ago, we noticed it was easy to build support for clean energy in California, because the clean energy sector is such a vibrant part of the state’s economy—generating jobs, attracting investment, and enhancing the local tax base. Now that wind farms and fuel efficient automakers and other climate solutions have spread across the country, more and more people are experiencing the benefits of strong environmental policies in their own communities. Yet no matter how broad the clean economy becomes, the lesson remains the same: use local success stories to build support for broader policies.

Smart campaigners heeded this lesson. Candidates shot commercials at a local solar plant or wind farm. And when they spoke about clean energy, they didn’t focus on national policy. They talked about your neighbor, who works at a steel mill making wind turbines. The strategy paid off when voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for clean energy champions.

As candidates shift from campaigning to governing, they should remember to maintain the local focus. Beltway debates about national energy policy or carbon limits may fall flat back home, but stories about clean energy opportunities in familiar communities will excite voters. Just look at the recent debate over wind energy incentives. Some Republicans called for ending these incentives in the recent budget deal, but the incentives passed with bipartisan support—perhaps because more than 80 percent of installed wind power comes from Republican-majority states.

It’s never been easier to make the connection between clean energy policy and local benefits. The wind industry relies on a domestic supply chain of more than 400 manufacturers in more than 40 states. More than 100,000 Americans work in the solar sector, and more than 150,000 have jobs making cleaner cars in 43 states. Lawmakers should trumpet the numbers from their own districts.

2. The Most Effective Messages May Surprise You

As part of our broader work, the NRDC Action Fund set out to elect environmental champions to office in 2012. We know smart climate policies will make America’s air safer to breathe, spur economic growth, and generate a host of other benefits for our nation. But that doesn’t mean we made climate the focus of the campaigns where we were active. Instead, we let local issues determine our central message and we stuck to it.

Take the Senate race in New Mexico. Former Representative Martin Heinrich has a terrific record of supporting the state’s burgeoning renewable energy sector and talking about New Mexico’s extreme drought and wildfires in terms of climate change. He also stands strong against contaminating the state’s water with a toxic gasoline additive known as MTBE – something his opponent, Heather Wilson wavered on while accepting campaign contributions from its producers. It turns out that while the large majority of voters appreciated Heinrich’s climate positions, they cared most about the drinking water issue. Early on, our environmental coalition decided to trust our research and make safe drinking water the central environmental issue of the race. We stuck to this decision, because our ultimate goal in this race was not to necessarily campaign on climate change but to elect an environmental champion to the Senate. This strategy paid off when Heinrich beat Heather Wilson soundly.

As 113th Congress kicks off, we have to be smarter about building public support.  Sometimes the problem of climate change seems so big that people tune out and feeling helpless to make a difference.  Building a relationship with people on issues that they already care about (and feel empowered to deal with) is a good way to gain trust and educate the public how their concerns may be tied to climate change.

3. All that Money Made People Panic, but the Deep Pockets Lost Anyway

We knew polluting industries would spend unprecedented amounts of money in 2012, but the stockpiles of cash they amassed still exceeded expectations. Fossil fuel companies and their allies lavished $270 million on ads in the last two months alone. Together with GOP strategist Karl Rove’s groups and oil industry giants David and Charles Koch, outside money invested in dirty energy campaigns totaled at least $1 billion.

This avalanche of money made pro-environmental campaigns nervous. In the past we may have panicked or let the oil companies push us off message. Wherever I went on the campaign trail, people asked the same questions: how are your fundraising numbers? Are you keeping up with the other side? The truth is clean energy and clean air supporters could never match fossil fuel spending. But we didn’t have to because the majority of Americans favor a clean, sustainable future over the polluting past. In most cases, candidates who ran on clean energy triumphed, and those who didn’t failed. One of Karl Rove’s Super PACs spent almost $105 million to support anti-regulatory candidates but was successful in less than 2 percent of its races.

The same pattern played out in numerous senate races. In Ohio, oil, gas, and coal companies and their allies spent $20 million to defeat Senator Sherrod Brown and elect Josh Mandel. Mandel doesn’t believe humans contribute to climate change and opposes government incentives for clean energy. Brown, in contrast, calls for robust climate action and says that smart government measures like new fuel economy standards “can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save consumers money, and address our dependence on foreign oil.” Ohio voters agreed with Brown on this and many other issues, and rejected Mandel and his polluter backers.

4.  Not all Polls Serve the Same Purpose

Every campaign pollster faces a choice: do you poll for internal use or to rally the public?  The first kind of polling is conducted to test messages and measure public support. It asks the hard questions and yields important truths campaigns must consider as they plan their path to victory. The second kind of polling puts on a “happy face.” It frames questions in ways that make your candidate or issue appear hugely popular, and campaigns love to push share the results with funders or media.

Once in a while, both kinds of polls yield the same numbers—like on a lot of environmental issues—but campaigners need to decide at the outset of a polling project what they want: brutal reality or a great story to tell.  If you don’t know the difference, you run the risk of failing to see the truth or make necessary changes. You also have to be aware of whom you are polling and confirm that your demographic model is on track with the voting population.

Romney’s team underestimated the youth vote, and it cost him dearly. I have spoken to members of his campaign who said they were absolutely convinced Romney would win because all their internal poll numbers favored him, but they under polled traditionally progressive voters.  They also trusted their own polling even in the face of independent polling that favored Obama. In fact, nearly every single external poll correctly called the election for Obama.

This cycle taught us to poll with intent.  You can poll for of facts or for perception.  You just have to know the difference and when you get the numbers back – whether it is on a candidate or on a message, trust them unless there is strong evidence to the contrary.

5. There Is Such a Thing as Too Many Campaign Ads

Campaigners want to run as many ads as the budget allows. If someone told me I could buy 10 spots in an hour instead of three, I would have jumped at the chance. But this year’s cycle showed timing is just as important as volume. If you run your commercial when everyone else is running them, it may be drowned out. But if you get out early and ahead of your opponents, you can achieve greater influence and insert your issue in the race.

Many campaigns made big ad buys in September and October, but polling numbers didn’t move much throughout the fall. Campaigns were in search of the seemingly mythical undecided voter but most people had made their decision long before they ever put on their fall jacket.  The chance to persuade the largest number of people about any given issue came much earlier on the cycle. In New Mexico, our campaign kicked off in July. When we started, Heinrich was in a statistical dead-heat with Wilson. After a robust environmental community campaign, he pulled ahead and never looked back.

Lawmakers can apply this lesson when they are mobilizing voters on an issue. Instead of waiting until the week before a big energy vote to educate constituents, pave the way months in advance. And don’t overdo the negative. Negative campaign ads have proven to be effective, but I believe campaigns can hit a saturation point. We are still collecting data on this, but many people tuned out after the months long barrage of nasty attacks. It turns out they don’t want to watch a negative commercial nine times during Grey’s Anatomy. It gets annoying and arouses suspicion, and it can even make people root for the underdog.  After all, polluting industries blasted the airwaves with one campaign ad after the other in and yet almost all of their candidates lost.

6. Voters Wants Leaders with the Courage of their Convictions

The 2012 cycle took us into unchartered territory. We had a volatile and protracted GOP nomination process. We had enormous, unprecedented and unrestrained amounts of money poured into the campaign process. And we had an economy still struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades. In the midst of all this uncertainty, voters favored candidates who demonstrated integrity and spoke more about problem-solving than dogma. 

Take Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Tester had used his first term to carve out moderate, reasoned positions on a variety of issues, including clean energy and climate change. Yet corporate interests rallied around Tester’s opponent Denny Rehberg, and they saturated the airwaves with attack ads that painted Tester as an out-of-touch Washington insider.  The race got tight, but Tester never backed down from his record or stopped saying that clean energy and climate action was good for Montana. He also didn’t stop being the rancher they had come to know or the straight-talking elected official who fought for them in the nation’s Capitol. In the end, the red state of Montana went for Romney and reelected Jon Tester. Voters may not agree with every one of Tester’s positions, but they chose to be represented by a man who entered the Senate to solve problems, not to dismantle government.

As we head into the new Congress, lawmakers should remember that most Americans are more interested in pragmatic solutions than ideological battles. And when it comes to economic, health, national security, and environmental challenges, clean energy is one of the most powerful solutions we have.

The Hypocrisy of “Clean Coal”

8:52 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

You may have heard about the recent kerfluffle surrounding the Obama campaign’s late addition of “clean coal” to the list of energy priorities listed on its website. This has me wondering why so many Dirty Energy politicians are so excited about “clean coal.”

A coal plant belches smoke.

Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia

The premise behind “clean coal” is presumably that coal is inherently dirty, but that if you do enough to deal with all that filth, you can make it clean. Many would argue that coal can never be clean. But, watching the polluter posse’s votes in congress and listening to their rhetoric on the campaign trail, you’d think that coal isn’t even dirty.

Here is just a selection of the recent times when Members of Congress had the chance to go on the record in support of cleaning up coal:

In April 2011, an amendment in the Senate to strip EPA of its ability to reduce the carbon pollution received 50 votes. Since coal fired power plants are a large source of carbon pollution, this was presumed to be part of EPA’s “War on Coal.” The House version of the bill had passed in a vote of 255 to 172.

In October, the House voted on and passed a bill that would prohibit the EPA from setting strict rules on how to dispose of toxic coal ash, which is filled with arsenic, lead and mercury. It passed with 267 votes. The Senate companion already has 13 cosponsors. Pro-coal members are now trying to tuck a version of this bill into the transportation bill, since it is unlikely to be signed into law by President Obama.

In November, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul offered a resolution that would have stopped lifesaving new protections to reduce smog and soot pollution. It garnered 41 votes and fell short of passing.

And now, Senator Jim Inhofe has filed a new resolution to void long-overdue limits on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

There doesn’t seem to be nearly enough support for “clean coal” when I look at this record. Instead, I see politicians who want to ensure that coal never has to get cleaner. From mercury that damages the brains of unborn children to the devastation of mountaintop removal mining to nasty spills of coal waste, some clean coal advocates seem almost eager to look the other way.

Surely some of these clean coal proponents will claim that the coal should be cleaned up, but that coal companies and power plants just need more time to do it. Don’t be fooled. The special resolutions being used to try to stop many of these pollution rules would stop EPA from ever issuing a similar rule again. That likely means that if Senator Inhofe gets his way, mercury at these power plants would spew forth into our families and our environment, without limits, forever.

Montana Senate candidate Denny Rehberg says he wants to make clean coal “safer and more efficient.” Yet, he’s supported each of the efforts above. What does clean coal mean to him?

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith is bankrolling his own candidacy with funds he earned as an executive in the coal industry. He sees clean coal as a tremendous opportunity. Do you think he’ll support any of the efforts to actually make coal cleaner?

It’s time to stop the greenwashing. Rebranding dirty old coal as “clean coal” doesn’t magically make the filth disappear. Next time you hear a candidate propound the virtues of clean coal, I urge you to ask whether they see “clean coal” as a real aspiration for improving public health and the environment or just the vessel of another empty promise.

Voldemort Leads Oil Industry Trade Group

7:03 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Signs

(photo: Potjie/flickr)

It is never good when your leader is compared to Lord Voldemort, the evil “Dark Lord” of the Harry Potter series. Yet, that’s how one oil industry insider describes Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute (API) according to a recent Washington Post profile.

The Post profile details Gerard’s long history as an anti-environmental, pro-pollution advocate. He previously worked for for Sen. James A. McClure, one of only 11 senators to vote against the overwhelmingly bipartisan and popular Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He then worked for the National Mining Association and the American Chemical Coalition, two groups not exactly known in Washington for their strong advocacy of worker and public health.

Now Gerard has taken the helm and steered API toward a less factual, more political advocacy agenda. The group has already bought at least $4.3 million in broadcast ads this year. These ads tend to target politicians who dare suggest that drilling should be done safely or that innovative clean energy startups might need tax breaks more than highly profitable oil companies. API’s advocacy often hides in small print attached to groups with more appealing names like “Energy Nation,” “Energy Citizens,” “EnergyTomorrow,” “Vote4Energy,” or the “Coalition for American Jobs.”

Just like Voldemort, Gerard is a formidable foe. He’s got powerful allies and strong weapons (in Voldemort’s case, magic; in Gerard’s, lots of cash) on his side. But – spoiler alert – in the end, Harry Potter and the powers of good defeat Voldemort. It’s a reminder to clean energy advocates not to give up. In the end, we too can defeat You-Know-Who.

Voters Want Obama’s Clean Energy Plan

8:10 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Another major poll has confirmed that American voters across the political spectrum welcome clean energy development. It also found that when given the facts, the majority of Democrats and Independents oppose the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil.

The support for clean energy isn’t news—many pollsters have determined that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents embrace clean energy and want to develop more of it. But the timing of this latest poll is instructive.

It should remind candidates that clean energy is a mobilizing issue. It offers a positive way to address voters’ biggest concerns right now: jobs, economic growth, and the health of our families.

But as NRDC’s Action Fund mapped out in the report “Running Clean,” in order to win on clean energy, candidates can’t just name check the issue.

They have to lead on it. They have to offer a vision for America’s clean energy future, and they have to do it before their opponents frame the issue for them.

This latest poll, conducted by Geoff Garin and Allan Rivlin of Hart Research, focused on four swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. Those same four states have been bombarded with ads funded by oil companies attacking President Obama. And yet the poll found that 45 percent of voters trust the president more than the Republican Congress when it comes to energy issues. The GOP-led House only got 38 percent on energy.

The poll also asked voters if they supported the president’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. At first, voters opposed his decision by 43 to 32 percent. But when pollsters offered more detailed arguments for and against the pipeline, things changed. More voters started to back the president and resist the pipeline.

Of those, 79 percent of Democrats thought the president was right to deny the pipeline, while 9 percent did not. Forty-eight percent of Independents agreed with the president’s decision to reject it, compared to 33 percent who want it go forward. For Republicans, the split was 69 percent to 13 percent.

GOP supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline have been out front with their message over the past few weeks. They have been using wildly inflated jobs numbers and downplaying the fact that much of the tar sands oil would be imported out of the U.S. to other markets. But their story seemed to break through.

Media Matters released a survey analyzing coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline from August 1 to December 31, 2011. A full 79 percent of the time, broadcast news reporting on Keystone XL interviewed a pipeline proponent.  They interviewed a critic of the tar sands pipeline only 7 percent of the time.

With coverage like that, it’s no wonder voters aren’t getting the whole story. But when they learn more—like that the pipeline will create as few as 2,500 jobs according to a Cornell University study, will increase gas prices in the Midwest, and send its dirty oil to the “Foreign Trade Zone” in Port Arthur, Texas, where companies get incentives to export around the world, then their opposition grows. The Hart Research poll confirms it.

But leaders have to get their message out about why the dirty stuff hurts America and why clean energy helps it grow. Voters respond to the clean-versus-dirty message, but candidates have to deliver that message clearly and quickly. This isn’t just about the race in November; this is the race every day to frame the debate first.

Obama has done a masterful job of framing the benefits of the clean energy economy. He consistently says clean energy can deliver more jobs, safer air, and a bigger competitive advantage for Americans businesses, and he enacts policies—from clean car standards to incentives for wind and solar power—that are delivering those benefits right now. He believes so strongly in the appeal of clean energy that he made it the topic of his first presidential campaign ad last month.

In the end, this isn’t about campaign rhetoric. It’s about our country’s future. The polls show that Americans trust Obama on energy issues and support his clean energy plan. They are giving him permission to lead the nation into a cleaner future.

The dirty tar sands pipeline has no place in that future. But if Obama continues to head down the cleaner path, voters will follow.

Perry’s Energy Plan Offers More of the Same When America Needs Innovation

12:16 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Governor Rick Perry made a big display of presenting his energy policy last Friday. He positioned it as a bold new plan for America, but this drill, baby, drill approach to energy was already stale when Sarah Palin stumped for it three years ago.

It’s is déjà vu all over again. We’ve had a Texas oilman in charge of our country’s energy policy: it worked out a lot better for Big Oil than it did for the American people. We wound up paying $4 a gallon at the pump while Exxon walked off with $45 billion in profits.

Now Perry is offering more of the same. I think the familiarity is part of the appeal. His campaign is going for the safe, tested messages here—the proven buzz words that poll well across a broad spectrum of the Republican Party.

When you have seriously considered succeeding from the union and you deny the existence of climate change, your Tea Party credentials are pretty secure. To win in the general election, however, you need the conventional GOP voters too. Perry can pick and chose from this “all of the above” approach to energy to appeal to whichever audience he is speaking to at the time: the mainstream and the radical fringe.

That may be savvy campaigning, but it doesn’t do much for America.

Perry’s plan calls for pursuing fossil fuels to the ends of the Earth. He wants companies to drill miles under the Arctic Ocean for oil and inject fracking chemicals deep into people’s backyards to bring up natural gas.

We can look in new and more extreme places for fuel, but Perry’s plan boils down to this: burning rocks to create energy. It’s the same technology we’ve been using for 200 years. Where is the innovation? Where is the vision that will carry America into the 21st century? Where is the leadership?

The rest of the world is racing to design the most cost-effective solar panels and most reliable wind turbines, because they know clean technologies will generate clean power AND lots of money. Worldwide clean energy investments were valued at $243 billion in 2010.

Perry’s plan disregards these market realities, and by doing so, hands over dominance of the clean energy market to China. He selling America short in a field we could actually lead in favor of one we never will: oil production.

Perry’s call for homegrown energy has a great ring to it, but when your home only has 1.6 percent of the globe’s proven oil reserves and you consume 26 percent of the world’s supply, there is a limit to what you can achieve—no matter how many wells you sink. That’s not politics; it’s geology. And no bumper-sticker slogan can change it.

America is already drilling more than we have in decades. Perry claims that President Obama has blocked domestic oil production, but companies drilled almost 21,000 oil wells in the first eight months of this year—the highest number in almost 30 years.
That’s nearly double the amount drilling the same period last year, and nearly triple the number drilled in 2009.

Yet none of this protected us from $4 a gallon gasoline this spring. Nor will it protect us from China’s growing demand, Middle Eastern politics, or any of the other forces the shape the global oil market.

That’s where the innovation comes in. Better performing cars will reduce our oil dependence, and smarter policies will encourage technological advances. This summer President Obama’s announced new fuel efficiency standards. By 2025, new cars and light trucks in this county will go about twice as far, on average, on a gallon of gas, compared with today’s vehicles. The difference will save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump. It will also reduce our oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day by 2030 and cut automobile carbon emissions in half.

Now that’s a new direction for America, a way to move into greater energy security, cleaner air, and more prosperity. Perry’s plan is a retread. Sticking to the energy sources we have used for two centuries may help his campaign, but it won’t do much for our country.

Clean Energy is A Political Winner

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

There is a name for avoiding certain issues in politics: avoiding the “third rail.” The theory is that if you touch this highly charged rail it will kill your political career. Clean energy and climate issues got that “third rail” tag during the 2010 election but the facts and the polls tell a very different story.

Senator Reid ignored the risk of clean energy being a “third rail”. He was one of the most endangered incumbents in the nation in 2010. To win, he focused on job growth with a specific emphasis on the jobs in the renewable energy sector. In fact, the very first ad produced by the campaign focused on clean energy. Brandon Hall, his campaign manager said, “Clean energy was our #1 issue in terms of a positive reason to vote for Harry Reid. It was huge with Independents – it was the #1 issue. We used it in everything we did.”

Why did it work? Clean energy is a winner across the board:

  • 91% of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a priority for the President and Congress, including 85% of Republicans and 89% of independents, and 97% of Democrats. (Yale Project on Climate Communication, 5/2011)
  • 86% of those polled want federal government to limit air pollution from businesses and 76% favored government restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from businesses. (Stanford University, 6/2011)
  • 66% of Americans consider “development of alternative energy such as wind and solar” as the preferred approach to addressing our energy concerns (only 26% chose oil, gas, or coal supplies. (Gallup Environment Poll, 3/2011)
  • On average, battleground state voters were almost 20 percentage points more likely to vote for someone who supports clean energy legislation. (Public Policy Polling, 10/2010)
  • When asked which energy sources we need to rely more upon, 88% of Americans said solar power, 83% said wind power, 28% said oil. In fact 71% of those polled felt like we should rely less on oil. (CNN/New Opinion Research Corp, 3/2011)
  • When asked who is to blame for an increase in oil prices, 61% of respondents said that oil companies had a “great deal” to do with the price spikes. Only 24% thought environmental regulation was to blame. (CNN/Opinion Research Corp, 5/2011) Read the rest of this entry →

Ignorance Rages at CPAC

9:13 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference is taking place this week. Billed as the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation, it is known for giving participants a chance to kick the tires of potential presidential candidates.

This year is no exception. The list of confirmed speakers reads like a primary ballot for 2012 or 2016, including Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Johnson, John Barasso, and Rick Santorum.

When I read through these names, I realized that every single likely candidate in the early GOP field is claiming to believe that climate change does not exist or opposes doing anything about it. Climate denying has become a litmus test to the far right wing of the Republican Party – what a sad commentary when there is a tacit requirement for someone to REJECT SCIENCE in order to even be in the running to win the nomination.

Take Senator John Thune of South Dakota. When asked his view on climate science, he said, “I guess the answer to the question is I’m not sure. I think there’s a real mix of data on that.” Representative Ron Johnson of Wisconsin goes farther. He claims that record spikes in temperature are the result of “sunspot activity” – an idea that scientists have checked and explicitly rejected.
And that’s just two CPAC speakers. The entire conference seems dedicated to walking America backwards.

Most of the conference speakers decried the comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that Congress abandoned last year. It would have unleashed technological innovation and generated nearly 2 million jobs. Representative Michelle Bachman urged the people of Minnesota to be “armed and dangerous over this issue.” And most of them have spoken out against the EPA’s efforts to make our air safer by reducing carbon pollution. Newt Gingrich wants to abolish the agency altogether, while his fellow CPAC speaker Senator Barasso introduced a bill that would, in effect, prevent states and every federal agency from doing anything at all based on concern about climate change. That goes even further than Senator Jim Inhofe’s bill that would block EPA from limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Inhofe – who infamously called climate change a “hoax” – has been joined in his effort by Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the former moderate who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This position may generate applause lines at CPAC, but it is out of step with what Americans want. According to a new poll done by Opinion Research Corporation for NRDC, almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.”

The folks at CPAC fail to see how cleaner air and climate solutions will take America into the future. Instead of embracing sustainable energy resources, they prefer burning black rocks like we’ve done since the 19th century. Instead of putting American companies at the forefront of the 21st century global marketplace, they prefer to keep us addicted to ever diminishing supplies of oil.

This U-turn into the past will put America in a dangerous position. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan that further destabilized an already precarious nation, we have watched Russia endure a punishing drought that economist Paul Krugman linked to both climate change and rising food prices, and we have seen Australians battle a flood that submerged an area the size of Germany and France combined. We can’t tie any single weather occurrence to climate change, but scientists have repeatedly stated that more severe weather events are a hallmark of what human beings are doing to the climate.

CPAC speakers like to pretend climate change doesn’t exist, but what the facts on the ground reveal are impossible to ignore. And the GOP can continue to build its house of cards on a bunch of deniers, but most Americans want to build a safer, more sustainable future.

This blog was originally posted in NRDC’s Action Fund blog, The Mark Up.

You Can Do Better, Senator Brown

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

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.

Virginians Want Clean Energy and Politicians Who Will Make it Happen

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

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.

A Dirty Pledge

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

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.