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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.

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.

Tea Partiers: Be Careful What You Wish For

4:58 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

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 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

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.

There Has Never Been a More Important Election to Get Active

2:21 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

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.

Castle’s Defeat Should Be A Wake Up Call

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

I’ll admit it. Although anyone who reads my bio knows that I have worked for Democrats, I was upset when Mike Castle, a Republican, lost last night in the Delaware primary. I may not have agreed with Castle on everything but he was a representative that was always open to listening, including on issues related to clean energy and climate change. It is a real shame and a loss for civility in politics.

Today is a new day and I personally think it is time that we all wake up.

The Tea Party has been successful throughout the primary season. Their candidates have come from behind and taken out what I would have previously described as ultra conservative incumbents, with what can only be described as radical right-wing rhetoric. Recently defeated Senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) received a cumulative 90% rating from the conservative, pro BIG business U.S Chamber of Commerce. Robert Bennet (R-UT), who lost to Tea Party son Michael Lee, had a 97%. By comparison, the Tea Party’s beloved Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) only received an 83%. As someone who loves politics, I am mesmerized by this entire Tea Party exercise, but as someone who supports progressive policies and good government that serves the people, I am nervous.

If they can beat Castle in Delaware, Murkowski in Alaska, Bennet in Utah, to name a few, can they take over the Republican Party – and if that happens – could they take over Congress?

A takeover by the Tea Party would be devastating to environmental policies. The Tea Party would have caveman climate denying down to a science, if they actually believed in science. They claim that legislation addressing global warming is akin to raising taxes. But, the facts just don’t back them up – and they completely fail to consider the costs of inaction.

The Tea Party is screaming about jobs lost to other countries when their unresearched positions on clean energy legislation have actually hurt our economy. In fact, yesterday, the Small Business Majority, Main Street Alliance, and the American Businesses for Clean Energy released a report showing nearly two million jobs have been lost because of Senate inaction on a climate bill. The same report noted that China "gained more than $11 billion in job creating clean energy investments in the two months since the U.S. Senate abandoned climate legislation." The bottom line is that the Tea Party doesn’t have any idea what they are talking about when it comes to clean energy – but unfortunately, that doesn’t keep them from talking.

And they have lots of environmental champs on both sides of the aisle running for cover. A recent Wonk Room survey found that of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, all but one (who got beat last night) dispute the scientific consensus that the U.S. must act to fight global warming pollutions. Just two short years ago, Republicans starting to use climate change as a rallying cry to bring more people into what was going to be the "big tent" of the Republican Party. What a difference a couple of years can make.

I get that folks are disappointed that Congress has failed to enact some progressive policies, like climate legislation. Last night, that all changed for me. If you think things can’t get worse, try picturing Christine O’Donnell as a Senator with Jim DeMint as the Leader of the Senate.

Time to get energized. If you support environmental policies, the Tea Party must be defeated.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Sen. Murkowski was a climate champion?

7:52 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Tuesday’s Republican primary in Alaska may still be undecided, (currently incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trails her tea-party challenger Joe Miller by approximately 2,000 votes) but that hasn’t stopped anti-environment pundits from speculating that if Murkowski loses, it will be because of her support for climate legislation. Now I follow the climate debate pretty closely, (even if it wasn’t my job, as a political junkie I’d follow it nonetheless) and I just don’t remember Murkowski being a climate champion. That isn’t to say she’s another James Inhofe in the Senate, but being open to negotiations on climate legislation does not make her the zealous supporter her opponent portrays her to be.

Fact is that Lisa Murkowski is far from an environmental champ. The League of Conservative Voters(LCV) gives her an 18% career rating, meaning that she votes the right way on less than one out of five environmental issues. And, more recently, she gave us environmentalists heartburn by leading an assault on the Clean Air Act – only one of the most successful environmental laws of all time.

Murkowski’s effort to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific finding that global warming threatens our health and welfare was bad, but at least she was polite enough to claim her attack “has nothing to do with the science of global warming.” That’s a far cry from her opponent, Joe Miller, whose campaign website says that “The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive.” The last thing that Alaska needs is a climate denier representing it in the Senate. Even the late Ted Stevens, never an environmental champ himself, recognized that “Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than any place in the world.”

To say this primary suggests that climate change is a political non-starter in Alaska shows a selective memory. Just two short years ago, Alaska elected a real climate champ, Mark Begich, to the Senate. Climate change was a top issue during Begich’s campaign, when he called for an 80% reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 and adaption strategies to help Alaska deal with the effect of climate change. Since coming to the Senate, he has continued to work to advance clean energy and climate solutions, earning an 82% rating from LCV in his first year. Last August, he introduced a package of seven bills aimed to help Alaska prepare for the changes and challenges created by a warming planet. And, in June, he voted against Murkowski’s Clean Air Act attack.

This is just another case of anti-environment pundits not letting the facts get in the way of propagating their backward agenda. I’m interested to see how they’ll change their tune if the absentee ballots put Murkowski in the lead. If she wins in the end, I wonder if they’ll claim her victory was due to her steadfast support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or maybe it’ll be her support for offshore drilling?

The only thing I know is if she wins, they won’t be crediting her position on climate.

Beyond Washington: The Oil Industry Buys Influence

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

I worked on Capitol Hill for a long time, and I do not consider myself naive about the inner workings of Washington. But even I was surprised by two revelations this week exposing the amount of money the oil industry is spending to buy political influence.

The first eye-opener came from recently released lobbying numbers. The OpenSecrets blog reported that the oil and gas industry poured $174 million into the political system in 2009. That’s eight times more than the green groups.

What did the oil and gas industry get for its money? A handful of Senators who blocked all attempts by the Senate to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that would have made fossil fuel industries start cleaning up their global warming pollution.

This week’s second revelation made that difference abundantly clear. Jane Mayer wrote an investigative piece in the New Yorker about the brothers David and Charles Koch who run Koch Industries — the biggest corporation you’ve never heard of — and who have spent more than $100 million on anti-government causes.

Koch Industries owns oil refineries and 4,000 miles of pipeline, and was named one of the top 10 air polluters in the nation in a 2010 UMass-Amherst report. The Kochs’ political donations are often aimed at promoting their libertarian views, but they also directly benefit their own profit margins. They have donated millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that fight environmental regulation and seed doubt about climate science. In fact, a Greenpeace report called them a “kingpin of climate science denial.” And though green groups tend to paint ExxonMobil as the worst of the worst when it comes to lobbying against climate legislation, Koch outspent even ExxonMobil.

One of David Koch’s pet projects is the group Americans for Prosperity, a group he founded and funds but positions as a grassroots movement. An ad for one of its training sessions for Tea Party activists says, “The voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests. But you can do something about it.”

But when Americans for Prosperity hosts at least 80 events protesting climate legislation, is it really acting in the interest of average Americans or the interest of oil industry donors?

When it funds an attack ad against Representative Betsey Markey from Colorado because she supported climate legislation last summer that would have brought 30,000 jobs to her state, who is it benefiting?

And when the group pledges to spend an additional $45 million before the midterm elections, is that money really coming from grassroots activists, or from deep corporate pockets? These fat cats pretend to fraternize with the ordinary folks who dangle tea bags from their tri-cornered hats, but, in fact, they are just using activists to put a populist face on their industry agenda.

Manipulating other people’s fears about the economy when you are a billionaire — I would call that the depth of cynicism. But considering those billionaires are getting in the way of climate solutions, clean energy and green jobs in America; I have to instead call it dangerous.

Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

10:59 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don’t view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding "town hall meetings" in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America’s energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America’s best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act—the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives—in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators’ schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites – Republican or Democratic.

Coal Barons Meeting Today in Hopes of Ending All Climate Debate for a Generation

11:29 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Today, a bunch of coal executives are congregating for the West Virginia Coal Association annual meeting at the luxurious Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. One of the primary things they will discuss is the formation of a 527 to take out candidates who may support a climate change bill. As Roger Nicholson of the International Coal Group alluded, the coal barons are psyched that they will FINALLY get their voices heard thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that basically allows them to buy Congressional seats.

This kind of news just makes me sick – especially since these are the guys who have scarred WV’s land and abused her people. We don’t need to wonder what is driving some Senators to oppose popular legislation that would, in one fell swoop, create millions of jobs, strengthen U.S. national security, defund unsavory regimes and protect our environment from earth-scorching carbon pollution. Follow the money.

Clean energy and climate legislation didn’t make it through the U.S. Senate this summer, despite the overwhelming scientific and economic evidence, and despite the fact that there almost certainly were more than 50 (aka, a "majority" of) Senators willing to vote for such legislation. First and foremost among those reasons, of course, was the near-unanimous opposition by Republicans to move ahead in this area. In addition, there were several Democrats, mostly from states with coal interests, who were probable "no" votes – and the money helps paint the picture about why.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pete Altman points out, "Next time someone asks why climate legislation is so difficult to move forward, point them this way. Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are prime examples of how narrow special interests can operate in stealth mode to deny climate science and to put the brakes on climate legislation." How do Peabody and Arch buy influence in Washington, DC? Very simple – money. Lots and lots of money funneled into influencing policy and policymakers. For instance:

– "In 2008 and 2009, Arch Coal ($3.04 million) and Peabody Coal ($14.2 million) spent a combined $17.9 million in direct federal lobbying on energy, environmental and other matters."

– "The two companies contributed $5 million each to the budget of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity ("ACCCE") in 2008, and presumably have continued to keep their memberships current with contributions in 2009 and 2010."

According to Open Secrets, in 2010 alone Arch Coal has donated $39,500 to Democratic members of Congress and $88,000 to Republican members of Congress. For its part, Peabody Coal has contributed $53,400 to Democrats and $45,400 to Republicans.

I could go on all day about the money flowing to Congress from corporations and PACs with an interest in killing clean energy and climate legislation, but I’m sure you get the picture by now. Despite the overwhelming benefits this legislation would bring to the vast majority of Americans, as well as to the U.S. economy and our national security, a few wealthy companies, driven by nothing more than greed, have spent lavishly to make sure none of this happens. And so far, they’ve succeeded. The question is: will we let them continue to do so? Personally, my answer is no way!