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Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

11:03 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

That’s right: believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases. Just as bad, Rockefeller’s proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.

Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA – at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! – that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster? Really?

Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now. For instance, in yesterday’s Politico, two energy investors – one Democrat, one Republican – explained what’s at stake in clear, compelling language.

We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.

The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.


Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.

Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won’t be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly – and disastrously – backwards. What’s truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever. Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever, and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year, and every decade. In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months. As if all this isn’t bad enough, we also could run out of water.

The American people know this situation can’t go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would "[l]imit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas." In other words, this is a case where good policy – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution – and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that – appear to align. Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.

Don’t let them do it. Call your Senators right now and tell them “hell no” to the "Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act.” Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-08

7:13 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

Where does Rep. Murphy stand on clean energy and environmental issues? In 2009, Murphy received a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Murphy also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), about which he correctly says, it "will create millions of new American jobs, limit the pollution that causes climate change, and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by investing in American-made clean energy." In addition, Murphy co-sponsored H.R. 890, the American Renewable Energy Act, as well as H.R. 2222, the Green Communities Act and H.R. 1778, the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program, among other excellent environmental legislation. Finally, Rep. Murphy touts the fact that "Bucks County is home to the fourth largest solar field in the United States – the largest east of the Mississippi River" and that "Nearly 1,000 people have been put to work building components for wind turbines and solar panels at the old U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills in Bucks County."

In contrast, Mike Fitzpatrick says he "oppose[s] legislation currently being considered by [C]ongress that would implement a carbon ‘cap and trade’ system." Fitzpatrick also says he supports "a balanced national energy policy that includes safe, nuclear power, clean coal, responsible offshore drilling and economical, renewable energy." When he served in Congress, Fitzpatrick received a 61% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2005 and a 73% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2006. Fitzpatrick also was a co-cosponsor with Rep. Henry Waxman on the Safe Climate Act of 2006 – which would have cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – but now says he is against "Cap and Trade."

We believe that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

High Stakes for Climate and Clean Energy in California

6:32 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

Two of the worst polluters in California, Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro, are also funding this backwards ballot measure (Proposition 23) that would effectively repeal AB 32 and the clean energy policies such as clean fuel standards, pollution controls, and energy efficiency associated with the law’s implementation.

The Texas-based oil companies supporting this ballot measure also have an insidious national strategy. They hope that by rolling back climate and energy policies in California, they can block progress in other states and derail federal climate legislation in Congress. Windfall oil profits allow these oil companies to pour millions of dollars into their campaign of disinformation, distraction, and deception. It is also worth noting that Valero and Tesoro were recently named the #12 and #32 polluters in the nation in the "Toxic 100 Air Polluters" report issued by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI).

The bottom line is that we must stop Prop 23, which threatens to stunt and obliterate job growth in California’s emerging clean energy sector (e.g., energy efficiency, solar, advanced building materials, and others). In contrast, California’s economy would benefit greatly from a properly implemented AB 32. As the Stop Dirty Energy Proposition website reports:

* "According to a new report by California’s Employment Development Department, more than 500,000 employees already work part or full-time in so-called ‘green’ jobs."

* "In recent months, dozens of companies have announced they would be locating manufacturing plants in California, specifically because of [the] state’s progressive clean energy laws." These companies include Tesla, Solyndra, Nanosolar, and Kyocera.

* "There are 10,000 megawatts of renewable power in California currently competing for federal stimulus dollars – directly because of AB 32. The total public and private investment from these projects is $30 billion and 15,000 new jobs."

* "Creating energy efficient commercial and residential properties and retrofitting existing buildings will create tens of thousands of jobs in California and billions upon billions of economic activity directly for building trades workers and product manufacturers."

There’s strong agreement among scientists that California’s on the right track and that turning back state law is a very bad idea. Earlier this week, 118 economists wrote a letter which explained that "[d]elaying action…before initiating accelerated action to reduce global warming gases will be more costly than initiating action now." The economists added that policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development of clean energy will "improve our energy security, create new business opportunities and more jobs, and provide incentives for innovation."

Why would anyone want to stop this progress? For an answer to that question, you need to ask the Texas oil companies, although it’s easy to figure out what their motivation might be. Hint: it’s a word beginning with the letter "m" and rhyming with "funny."

Fortunately, there’s a large and (rapidly) growing coalition fighting against Prop 23. A few highlights include: the League of Women Voters of California, Google, Levi Strauss, AARP, Pacific Gas & Electric, Consumers Union, the California Teachers Association, California Interfaith Power and Light, Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the California Federation of Labor. This past Sunday, the California Democratic Party unanimously voted to oppose Prop 23, declaring:

The California Democratic Party opposes Prop 23 because it will kill jobs, increase air pollution, and undermine our transition to a clean energy economy," said Tim Allison, chairman of the CDP’s Environmental Caucus. "The Texas oil companies’ dirty energy proposition is bad for our economy, our air and our energy future."

Also worth noting is that former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George P. Shultz has signed on as "honorary co-chair of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition opposing a proposed ballot measure to suspend the implementation of AB32." Shultz says, "As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence."

For all those reasons, and many more, I strongly encourage everyone to fight Proposition 23 and to defend California’s landmark clean energy and climate law. Thank you.

P.S. Also, see this new video by Edward James Olmos.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: VA-05

12:53 pm in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

Where does Rep. Perriello stand on clean energy and environmental issues? In 2009, Perriello received a 71% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Perriello also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) and has “touted development of a clean energy economy as a way of creating jobs; improving energy efficiency; increasing this country’s energy supplies and sources and reducing reliance on foreign energy, which also would benefit this country’s national security; and other benefits.” With regard to his ACES vote, Perriello says that he “believes there are ‘huge upsides’ in manufacturing and agriculture in a clean energy economy.” As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, Perriello is exactly right about the agricultural sector, as “Wind, solar, and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income.” And, as California’s experience has shown, Perriello is right about the manufacturing sector as well.

Perriello does, however, favor some things that many environmentalists disagree with. For instance, Perriello says he supports an “’everything and the kitchen sink’ national energy strategy that includes an expansion of oil drilling.” On the other hand, it should be noted that Perriello’s support for oil drilling comes in the context of his overall support for “using market-based solutions to create a carbon-limited economy.”

The Republican candidate, Virginia State Sen. Robert Hurt, has views on energy and the environment contrast sharply with Perriello’s. In this video, for instance, Hurt incorrectly claims that cap and trade legislation would “absolutely raise the cost of energy in this country and it will hurt individuals and it will hurt businesses.” In fact, as studies like this one show, “the Waxman-Markey climate bill makes economic sense, offering benefits worth at least twice as much as it costs, if not more.” And, as this study concludes, the climate legislation already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives “would produce an average net energy spending reduction of $354 per household and an increase of nearly 425,000 jobs” by 2030. Finally, a recent study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds that the comprehensive climate and clean energy “American Power Act” being considered in the U.S. Senate would produce increases in income “almost 60 times greater than the estimated $185 annual investment** cost, exceeding $11,000 per year on average” while reducing U.S. oil imports “1.9 to 2.4 million barrels per day by 2035.”

For whatever reason, Robert Hurt has ignored or discounted these studies, not to mention the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding the urgent need to act on climate change. Thus, instead of advocating for a transformation from the dirty fuels of the past, to a prosperous economy based on energy efficiency and clean energy that will never run out, Hurt’s solution is essentially the same-old, same-old: “opening up drilling in off the coast of Virginia, something I have supported year after year.” Hurt adds, “We have to include drilling all over this country in order to meet the demands for our society, the demands for our businesses.”

In reality, of course, the United States contains only 3% of the world’s oil reserves and is considered by geologists to be a “mature oil province.” In common language, the meaning is simple: our oil production has long since “peaked,” which means we can’t “drill our way out of it.” Fortunately, we can open up tremendous opportunities for our nation through policies and investments that encourage energy efficiency – also known as “Invisible Energy” – and clean, renewable energy. For whatever reason, Robert Hurt disagrees and instead is pushing to move us backwards in this area.

In general, Sen. Hurt’s environmental record is unimpressive, with a 20% Virginia League of Conservation Voters rating in 2009 and a 38% rating in 2010. During the 2010 Virginia General Assembly session, Hurt voted the “wrong” way – in the view of the LCV – on HB 787, which states that “it shall be the policy of the Commonwealth to support oil and natural gas exploration, development, and production 50 miles or more off Virginia’s coast.” Hurt also voted for HB 1300, which “[p]rohibits the Air Pollution Control Board from requiring that electric generating facilities located in a nonattainment area meet NOx and SO2 compliance obligations without the purchase of allowances from in-state or out-of-state facilities.” Obviously, Robert Hurt is no friend of clean energy or the environment.

That concludes our environmental profile of the Democratic and Republican candidates running in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District this year. We believe that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Jim Renacci and His Anti-Environmental Buddies

9:25 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

While Renacci’s anti-environmental views are not surprising, given the groups and individuals who support his candidacy, they are disturbing nonetheless. Let’s look at a few of Renacci’s key endorsements and sources of money.

Exhibit A: former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and his FreedomWorks PAC. According to FreedomWorks "Online War Room" against Cap and Trade legislation, the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act – which NRDC correctly calls "a solid foundation for Senate legislation" – would actually "crush the economy" for "negligible environmental benefit." And FreedomWorks PAC director, Dick Armey (9% League of Conservation Voters rating, 1993-1999), calls global warming "an eco-evangelical hysteria going on and it leads me to almost wonder if we are becoming a nation of environmental hypochondriacs." In fact, climate scientists have overwhelmingly demonstrated that global warming is real, that it threatens our planet’s ecosystems and human well being, and that it needs to be addressed forcefully – and soon – if we are to head off its worst effects. What exactly about these scientific facts does FreedomWorks fail to understand?

Exhibit B: Murray Energy Corporation PAC, which has given Renacci $8,000. As we have previously pointed out, this is a company that "wants to divert a pristine, high-quality stream from its course in Belmont County and transform the dry streambed into an artificial storage lake for billions of gallons of dirty coal slurry." The company is headed by a man, Robert E. Murray, who has been "an outspoken critic of the scientific opinion on climate change," who says that climate science is "highly speculative," and who believes that people who care about the environment are "elitists" engaging in "’global goofiness’ campaigns." Given all this, Murray Energy Corporation is certainly not the type of company that has any credibility on environmental issues.

Exhibit C: The Ohio Coal Association, which has given Renacci $1,250. This is an organization which strongly supports stripping the EPA of its authority to limit carbon pollution, which questions climate science, and which links to an article which claims that "valley fill is a political myth." To the contrary, climate science is all too real and valley fill is anything but a political myth.

Exhibit D: The notoriously anti-environment energy company, Koch Industries, whose PAC has given Renacci $2,500. According to Greenpeace, Koch has "quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter." Koch also has a horrendous environmental record, including being fined "$30 million for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than three million gallons of crude oil leaking into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal waters." In sum, Koch is just about the last company in the world we should be listening to when it comes to protecting our environment.

The bottom line is this: with record global temperatures being set every month, with the polar ice caps melting, and with the urgent need to take action on global warming before it’s too late, voters in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District need to know where the candidates and their funders stand on this critical issue.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Tom Ganley and His Anti-Environmental Allies

10:03 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

One source of Ganley’s money – $4,000, to be exact – is Murray Energy PAC. What is Murray Energy all about? Our friends at the Sierra Club give us a good idea:

Murray Energy, Ohio’s largest coal mining company, wants to divert a pristine, high-quality stream from its course in Belmont County and transform the dry streambed into an artificial storage lake for billions of gallons of dirty coal slurry… Murray’s current slurry impoundment has released toxic slurry repeatedly over the past decade into nearby streams.

Nasty business, but it gets even worse. The head of Murray Energy is one Robert E. Murray, who actually lobbied against legislation that would have required mine workers to wear emergency tracking devices so they could be rescued in case of an explosion, cave-in, or other mine disaster. Murray also "has been an outspoken critic of the scientific opinion on climate change" who says that climate science is "highly speculative," and who believes that people who care about the environment are "elitists" engaging in a "’global goofiness’ campaigns."

In addition to his $4,000 from Murray Energy PAC, Tom Ganley also received $1,000 from the Ohio Coal Association, which strongly supports stripping the EPA of its authority to limit carbon pollution. Just to demonstrate what these people think of environmentalists, they recently promoted this article, "Who’s Funding the Anti-Coal Movement," on their Facebook page. Among other outrageous comments, defends mountaintop removal by claiming that "valley fill is a political myth," that "rocks and dirt are rocks and dirt," and that environmentalists are a bunch of "old hippies…obsessed with their hatred of America and who wish to destroy us and level us to the point of a third world country out of spite." The Association also questions climate science.

With record global temperatures being set every month, with the polar ice caps melting, and with the urgent need to take action on global warming before it’s too late, voters in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District ought to know where the candidates stand on this central issue.

No, Senator Klobuchar, More Corn Ethanol is NOT the Answer!

2:51 pm in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

At first glance, that all sounds innocuous enough, but there’s a major problem: Sen. Klobuchar is (cleverly) baiting the hook with a strong Renewable Energy Standard, which most environmentalists support, but at the same time she’s also including the worst of the worst biofuels proposals – corn ethanol. For instance, as Nathanael Greene of NRDC points out, Klobuchar’s proposal includes a 5-year extension of the corn ethanol tax credit, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $30 billion. Klobuchar’s legislation also appears to redefine old-growth forests as "biomass," potentially promoting deforestation. And Klobuchar’s legislation would harm the development of truly advanced biofuels, in favor of corn ethanol. There’s more, but that’s sufficient to give you a good idea of how misguided and potentially harmful this bill happens to be.

More broadly, the problem is that promoting corn ethanol actually would set us backwards on our climate and clean energy goals. NRDC has written a great deal about corn-based ethanol, most of which is not flattering.

*From an NRDC article published in March 2010, we learn that ”the current corn ethanol tax credit is effectively costing tax payers $4.18 per gallon and is driving up grain prices.” The author, Nathanael Greene, concludes that “[w]e don’t need an additional 1.4 billion gallons of corn ethanol, or the higher prices for grains and more deforestation that come with it…It’s time to transition from corn ethanol’s pollution and pork to a new generation of more sustainable biofuels that brings us closer to real energy independence.”

*From this NRDC article published in January 2010, it turns out that “The old, dirty ethanol industry is dominated by big companies like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Poet.” The author, Roland Hwang, adds, “It’s baffling why an industry that benefits from $4 billion a year in government subsidies can’t find a way to compete on environmental merits.”

*As Nathanael Greene points out here, “the nitrogen runoff from corn grown all along the Mississippi causes a huge dead zone in the Gulf every summer.” And, “[w]ith about a third of the corn crop going to make corn ethanol, it should be clear that more corn ethanol is not a real solution.”

In addition to NRDC, Barack Obama also weighed in during the 2008 presidential campaign, declaring that "we’re going to have a transition from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol, not using food crops as the source of energy."

Last but not least, Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown and Clean Air Task Force Jonathan Lewis, writing in April 2008, explained in devastating terms why corn ethanol is so problematic:

It is now abundantly clear that food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy — most of which comes from coal.

Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.

Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm.

Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world’s largest "carbon sink…"

Meanwhile, the mandates are not reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Last year, the United States burned about a quarter of its national corn supply as fuel — and this led to only a 1 percent reduction in the country’s oil consumption.

In short, the problem is that while “biofuels” sounds as benign as apple pie, corn ethanol – the main biofuel available today – is actually bad for the environment both in the U.S. and abroad, bad for the poor, and bad for the American taxpayer.

Just to be clear, ethanol from cellulosic material is a completely different – and far superior – story from other, advanced biofuels (e.g., cellulosic), but advanced biofuels are not what Senator Klobuchar’s talking about here. To the contrary, Senator Klobuchar is using this once-in-a-generation chance for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation, to push through a big agribusiness, corn ethanol boondoggle that will harm the environment, do nothing to reduce U.S. dependence on oil or to help strengthen U.S. national security.

Yes, we want increased production of renewable energy like wind and solar. Yes, biofuels done the right way could be an important part of the U.S. energy mix. But no, Sen. Klobuchar’s approach – promoting dirty, old corn ethanol – is simply not the correct approach to the energy and environmental challenges we are facing.

Murkowski Part II Rears Its Ugly Head

12:56 pm in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

EPA’s proactive lead in greenhouse gas regulation is a critical aspect of the effort to reduce our rampant, destabilizing, and destructive dependence on foreign and offshore oil. While the endangerment finding does not, in itself, prescribe regulations, it provides the legal basis for critical standards: EPA’s proposed CAFE efficiency standard for light-duty vehicles is projected to save over 455 million barrels per year, and an anticipated standard for heavy-duty vehicles will save billions more. Stripping EPA of its authority to implement these protections would increase our nation’s dependence on oil and send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas. We cannot afford this big step backward, especially as we watch more oil gush into the Gulf each day.

In the end, the Senate didn’t take that “big step backward” on June 10th, as the Murkowski resolution failed by a 47-53 vote. Many of us probably figured that was the end of this issue, and that the Senate would now move on to passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, DC, it isn’t that simple (let alone logical).

Today, clean air and public health are once again under an assault that constitutes, essentially, “Murkowski Part II.” The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22:

As U.S. Senate lawmakers attempt to determine the fate of energy legislation, an influential Democrat is boosting efforts to suspend a controversial greenhouse-gas rule passed earlier this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After introducing a bill to impose a two-year halt on the new EPA rule, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, is now working to round up supporters for his legislation.

It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable. As we all know, the public was outraged at Senator Murkowski’s Big Oil Bailout bill. They understood that this moved the country backward, not forward, and that it was exactly the wrong way to go given the energy and environmental challenges we face. Through all our efforts, our phone calls and emails (and blog posts and tweets, etc.), we helped to kill Murkowski Part I. Now, unfortunately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is pushing Murkowski Part II, yet there’s far less attention being paid to this effort than to the Murkowski’s EPA Castration Resolution Part I. People have a lot of other things on their minds, and they thought this fight was over back in June. But, once they find out that this effort is baaaaack, like a monster in a cheesy horror movie, they are not going to respond positively.

Of course, why would the public – which overwhelmingly supports taking action to promote clean energy and deal with climate change – ever respond positively to a proposal aimed at throwing away one of our key tools to cut pollution and protect public health? And why would they respond positively now of all times, as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, as record heat waves scorch the United States, and as climate science is strengthened every day that goes by? Last but not least, why would they support an effort to protect the corporate polluters and not all of us who are being hurt by that pollution?

The bottom line is simple: instead of wasting its time on legislation that will only move the country backwards – towards dirty energy forever – the Senate should be busy passing a bill that moves the country forward towards a bright future of green energy, clean tech jobs, energy security and climate protection. Once our Senators hear that message loud and clear from all of us, Rockefeller’s Murkowski Part II will be rejected by the Senate, just as Murkowski Part I was before it.

Rating the Virginia Congressional Delegation on Climate Change

8:49 am in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

Sen. Mark Warner (D) hasn’t had to vote on a Senate climate and clean energy bill, but he clearly "gets it" when it comes to this issue. Warner’s statement for the Times-Dispatch is generally excellent, talking about the "overwhelming science" of climate change; the "real threat" from both climate change and our addiction to oil "from countries that are anti-American;" the tremendous opportunity afforded by the clean energy sector; and Warner’s openness to "a price on carbon" and to "cap and trade." The main item that’s potentially of concern from an environmentalist perspective is Warner’s comment that "coal’s got to be part, is a huge part of the mix." Given that coal has the highest carbon content of all fossil fuels, the key here is going to be whether economical, technologically feasible "carbon capture and sequestration" technology is developed, and when. On that issue, there’s a great deal of debate and a wide range of estimates. NRDC’s position is that "pay-for-performance CCS subsidies are an appropriate hedging strategy or that it’s just the price to pay to get the US off the dime on cutting carbon pollution." Anyway, the bottom line is that Mark Warner understands this issue and appears willing to do what it takes to address it. I look forward to Mark Warner voting "yea" on a comprehensive, clean energy and climate bill, sometime in the near future!

Sen. Jim Webb (D) is absolutely correct that "[r]esponsible energy policies have the potential to reduce carbon emissions, provide energy security and create alternative energy jobs for our local communities." Webb’s also right that "the temperature increase since the late 1970s has been mostly due to the increase in greenhouse concentration resulting from such activities as fossil fuel burning and deforestation." In addition, it’s great that Webb voted against the heinous Murkowski, "Dirty Air" amendment to gut the EPA’s authority over regulating carbon pollution. The question now is, will Webb vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation? It’s hard to tell from his answers to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Another question for Webb is whether he will oppose a "Murkowski lite" approach to pare back the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions. On both of these questions, we’ll find out the answers in the next few weeks. In the meantime, please contact Sen. Webb and send the message that you want him to support comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation.

Clearly, four Virginia Representatives — Bobby Scott (D-3rd), Tom Perriello (5th), Jim Moran (D-8th) and Gerry Connolly (D-11th) — are superb when it comes to clean energy and climate legislation. For starters, all four clearly understand that human activity is dramatically, and dangerously, heating up our planet. In addition, these Congressmen have put their votes where their rhetoric is, supporting the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212 on June 26, 2009. Thank you to all four Congressmen for showing leadership where it really matters – on protecting our planet for future generations, as well as for our own!

The position of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-9th) on clean energy and climate legislation is probably best described as "complicated." To begin with, it’s important to recognize that Boucher represents a district that is heavily based in "coal country." Thus, it is not surprising that Boucher’s believes "Congress must act by adopting its own regulatory program that ensures a strong future for coal, allows utilities to continue burning coal and preempts EPA regulation in any manner inconsistent with the Congressional direction." On the other hand, Boucher not only voted for ACES, but was a leader in crafting the legislation (some would argue, in watering it down and in adding provisions highly favorable to the coal industry). In addition, Boucher supports "the same kind of market-based trading mechanism which was successfully used in controlling sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in 1990." In other words, Boucher supports a market-based "cap and trade" system, which worked extremely well in slashing sulfur emissions and acid rain back in the 1980s and 1990s. Overall, Boucher represents a mixed bag from an environmental perspective, but perhaps the best we can expect given the politics of his district.

Freshman "Blue Dog" Rep. Glenn Nye (D-1st) acknowledges that global warming "is a real and serious problem, and [that] we must work to correct our current energy practice." Unfortunately, having acknowledged the problem, Nye does not appear to support any serious measures to address it. For instance, Nye voted against ACES, despite the fact that his district is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, has no significant fossil fuel interests, and has an economy that’s heavily dependent on the tourism industry and the U.S. Navy, both of which are concerned about the potential harm caused by climate change.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) acknowledges that human-caused global warming is "real" and urges "a comprehensive, bipartisan response to address climate change." The problem is that Wolf opposes any serious measures to solve the problem. For instance, Wolf voted against ACES last summer when it passed the House of Representatives by just 7 votes. Instead, Wolf supports Randy Forbes’ gimmicky, "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence," which relies on a series of prizes "to a private entity" in a number of areas. That’s fine in and of itself, but it doesn’t seriously address the massive, complex, intertwined problems of climate change and our "oil addiction." In the end, the "New Manhattan Project" constitutes nothing more than an unhelpful distraction from the main challenges at hand.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-7th) writes that "One of the realities of the 21st century is a changing climate and environment." He adds the (true) statement that "Our economic and environmental security demands that we diversify energy sources." Cantor believes "the effort to deal with climate change must achieve meaningful environmental benefits and should rely on technological advancements and consumer choices rather than mandates and bureaucracy." The problem is, Cantor then rejects ACES and other strong measures to deal with this issue. He also calls "cap and trade" a "massive bureaucratic" response, even though Cantor must know that it’s very similar to the conservative Republican-inspired, market-oriented, and highly successful response this country took to acid rain back in the 1980s. As for cap-and-trade constituting a "massive energy tax," that claim has been debunked time and again. In addition, if Cantor is so concerned that putting a price on carbon would be burdensome to consumers, then you’d think he would support a revenue-neutral carbon tax that returns all the money to taxpayers. But he doesn’t. Instead, he supports the "American Energy Act," which relies heavily on increased oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, expedited construction of more oil refineries, more nuclear power plants, increased production of dirty oil shale, even opening up the Arctic for drilling. This is, quite frankly, the exact opposite of a solution to climate change. It is also the opposite of any serious effort to break our "oil addiction."

About the only positive things you can say about Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st), Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th), and Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-6th) is that they don’t appear to be outright climate change deniers. On the other hand, several seem to flirt with the climate change "skeptics." For instance, Rob Wittman talks about how "these climactic cycles of heating and cooling have been going on well before man appeared on earth." Randy Forbes – author of the gimmicky, "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence" (see above) – says "there is evidence among scientists and researchers pointing in both directions." Robert Goodlatte says only that "some experts concur that the earth is once again warming," when in fact it’s nearly unanimous. Other than that, though, they have basically nothing to offer on this issue, voting against ACES and everything else that might actually address the problem.

Those are the positions of the Virginia Congressional delegation on climate change issues, plus the NRDC Action Fund’s analysis. It would be great if newspapers in other states published similar statements on this issue from their Congressional delegations so we could analyze them as well.

Remember, Cap-and-Trade Was Originally a Free-Market, Conservative Idea

12:47 pm in Uncategorized by Lowell Feld nrdcactionfund

John B. Henry was hiking in Maine’s Acadia National Park one August in the 1980s when he first heard his friend C. Boyden Gray talk about cleaning up the environment by letting people buy and sell the right to pollute. Gray, a tall, lanky heir to a tobacco fortune, was then working as a lawyer in the Reagan White House, where environmental ideas were only slightly more popular than godless Communism. "I thought he was smoking dope," recalls Henry, a Washington, D.C. entrepreneur. But if the system Gray had in mind now looks like a politically acceptable way to slow climate change—an approach being hotly debated in Congress—you could say that it got its start on the global stage on that hike up Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain.

People now call that system "cap-and-trade." But back then the term of art was "emissions trading," though some people called it "morally bankrupt" or even "a license to kill." For a strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists, it represented a novel approach to cleaning up the world—by working with human nature instead of against it.

Despite powerful resistance, these allies got the system adopted as national law in 1990, to control the power-plant pollutants that cause acid rain. With the help of federal bureaucrats willing to violate the cardinal rule of bureaucracy—by surrendering regulatory power to the marketplace—emissions trading would become one of the most spectacular success stories in the history of the green movement

In the end, the conservative Republican-inspired “cap-and-trade” system for acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide was put into place by Republican President George HW Bush, who “not only accepted the cap, he overruled his advisers’ recommendation of an eight million-ton cut in annual acid rain emissions in favor of the ten million-ton cut advocated by environmentalists.” And it worked incredibly well, “cost[ing] utilities just $3 billion annually, not $25 billion… [and] by cutting acid rain in half, it also generates an estimated $122 billion a year in benefits from avoided death and illness, healthier lakes and forests, and improved visibility on the Eastern Seaboard.”

In short, good things happened when we harnessed the tremendous power of the market to solve environmental problems. Today, the biggest and most pressing of those problems – identified, once again, by a massive amount of scientific research and evidence over several decades – is not acid rain, but global warming. And the proposed solution, once again, is the conservative, market-based “cap-and-trade” system. Strangely, however, it’s conservative, market-based Republicans who have morphed into the loudest and most vociferous opponents of “cap-and-trade,” while Democrats have become its biggest proponents.

Even stranger, as Climate Progress points out, many Republicans are now opposing – even “demagoguing” – against an idea they once supported! A short list includes: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who once said she supported cap-and-trade because she believed “it offers the opportunity to reduce carbon, at the least cost to society;” Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who once bragged that voting for “cap-and-trade” in Massachusetts was an “important step … towards improving our environment;” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who once asserted that cap-and-trade “will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy;” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who used to believe that we should “set emission standards and let the best technology win.” Actually, as Steve Benen at Washington Monthly points out, the McCain-Palin official website in 2008 promised that a McCain administration would “establish…a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

My, how times have changed in less than 2 years.

The point of all this is simple. Cap-and-trade is not some dastardly scheme to destroy the U.S. economy. Cap-and-trade is not radical, either. In fact, cap-and-trade is a tried, true, tested and proven, market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost. It worked with acid rain, far faster and cheaper than anyone predicted. Why would it be any different with carbon dioxide than sulfur dioxide? And why would Republicans oppose their own idea, after watching it produce one of the biggest environmental victories in U.S. history, on the gravest environmental threat facing our country and our planet? Even more, why would Republicans oppose an idea that — even if you put aside the issue of global warming — is still imperative – for urgent economic (e.g., sending $400 billion overseas every year to pay for imported oil) and national security (sending that $400 billion to a lot of countries that aren’t our friends, are building nuclear weapons programs, etc.) reasons?

It’s hard to think of any good reasons, how about some bad ones? Because, in the end, that’s about all the cap-and-trade naysayers have left.