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California’s Commitment to Clean Energy – Both Parties Agree

8:04 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Kristin Eberhard

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Now that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced her opposition on Proposition 23, this dirty energy proposition stands as the main issue that she and the Democratic candidate Jerry Brown agree on. While Whitman’s stance against Proposition 23 is good news for California, jobs and our strong clean air and health standards, it is troubling that she coupled her technical opposition while simultaneously announcing her intent to suspend AB 32 for at least a year if elected Governor. Her position sounds like she wants it both ways. Delaying AB 32 would throw a monkey wrench into the implementation of our clean energy polices, and significantly hamper the transition of the state – indeed, the nation – to a clean energy economy.

Sponsored by out-of-state oil interests, Proposition 23 would wreak havoc with implementation of AB 32, our country’s only economy-wide clean energy law, an initiative that is creating thousands of cleantech sector jobs, stimulating research in clean energy and alternative fuels, and cutting the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Proposition 23 would keep us addicted to dirty fuels, kill jobs and derail California’s efforts to lead the global push to a high tech, clean energy economy.

While California’s Democrats and Republicans may disagree on many points, they have come together over the years to support state leadership on one issue: clean energy. Support for strong environmental regulation and an economy founded on clean technologies and sustainable energy sources is broad-based.

The bipartisan opposition to Proposition 23 is not an anomaly. Clean energy in particular has long been a priority for the state’s electorate and lawmakers. In 1974, the California Energy Commission was established by the state legislature and then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Among the Commission’s early accomplishments were setting energy efficiency benchmarks for new buildings and appliances, standards which have kept California’s per capita electricity consumption flat for 30 years, saving residents billions of dollars on their energy bills.

In subsequent decades, California built on this foundation, establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards that have minimized electricity generation from fossil fuels. Bipartisan efforts also passed bills such as SB 375 in 2008, which sets regional targets to reduce global warming pollution from cars and light trucks and make community resources and energy use more sustainable. Just this year there was strong bipartisan agreement on SB 77, a bill that funds voluntary energy retrofits to residential and commercial property, providing for a projected 10,500 jobs.

And we shouldn’t forget that bipartisan support for clean energy and environmental protection is part of our national tradition. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, two of the seminal legislative efforts on any subject in the past 30 years, could not have passed without the support of lawmakers from both parties.

AB 32 creates a stable policy environment that attracts billions of dollars in venture capital and cutting-edge businesses to the state and we need a reliable policy roadmap. We need a commitment to a clean environment and sustainable energy that transcends party lines. This is an issue that speaks to the American ethos – to the American Dream. It is about security, innovation, entrepreneurship, and leaving our children a world that is better than the one we inhabit.

BP’s Efforts to Shape Curriculum in American Schools

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Matt Howes

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that “BP, the energy giant responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in history, helped develop [California’s] framework for teaching more than 6 million students about the environment.”

That’s right; the same people who brought you the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster are helping to shape the education of millions of students. In fact, the environmental education curriculum will be used in “kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in more than 1,000 school districts statewide.”

The thought of BP – or any big oil company – playing a role in designing education on environmental issues makes me very nervous. In California, we’ve got Texas oil companies spending millions of dollars trying to kill our landmark clean energy and climate law. That’s bad enough; we certainly don’t need a British oil company writing our kids’ education materials.

Dollie Forney, a mother of three from San Jose said, “This is outrageous. Now our schools and officials are so cash-strapped and unimaginative and desperate we are allowing Big Oil to write our children’s curriculum? "

The fact is, over the years, BP has rightly earned the title of having “the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company operating in America.” Of course, that’s not much of an honor, especially when you consider how BP came by its miserable environmental reputation. This includes being slapped with “the two largest fines in OSHA history — $87.43 million and $21.36 million — for willful negligence that led to the deaths of 15 workers and injured 170 others in a March 2005 refinery explosion in Texas.” BP also “agreed to pay a $50 million fine and plead guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, and was fined “a total of $21 million for manipulating the California electricity market, Enron-style.”

It’s not a pretty picture. All of which raises the question, why would anyone even think of giving this company a say in designing education materials on the environment, of all topics? As Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy says, “I’d hate to see how a section in future textbooks mentioning the BP oil spill will look.”

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: CA-11

10:11 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

This is the fourteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

After the Gold Rush, but before Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, California’s Central Valley became one of the most prosperous agricultural areas in the world. Recent water shortages have challenged this legacy; however, fruit, vegetable and particularly cotton, remain the driving force in the region’s economy. The Central Valley may be undergoing a demographic shift of late, but it’s not due to agriculture’s decline – it’s because high home prices in the Bay Area are driving middle-income workers to Tracy and Stockton. The 11th Congressional District, which includes much of this area as well as some Bay Area suburbs and areas further south, is historically conservative. And, while the region remains the most Republican part of the Bay Area that is not saying very much. Currently, Democrat Jerry McNerney represents the 11th district in the U.S. House.

Rep. McNerney came into office in 2006 after defeating arch anti-environment Republican Richard Pombo. At the time, Pombo was a seven-term incumbent with a daunting campaign war-chest, and the number one target of the environmental community. As chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Pombo spearheaded unsuccessful efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. In stark contrast, McNerney was a renewable energy consultant and entrepreneur who made clean energy the signature issue of his campaign. Environmental groups, like Defenders of Wildlife, campaigned fervently on McNerney’s behalf, and his election over Pombo remains one of our community’s signature victories of the past decade.

Not surprisingly given this background, McNerney has been a champion for the environment during his first two terms in Congress. According to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) he has rarely missed an opportunity to take the environmental vote on key issues, scoring a 93% in the last session of Congress. In endorsing his current reelection bid, LCV President Gene Karpinski said that McNerney “has been an invaluable leader in championing clean energy jobs and protecting our natural treasures… As a wind energy engineer and father of an Air Force veteran, Congressman McNerney knows from experience how important clean energy is to our economy and our national security.”

Unlike Rep. McNerney, who voted in favor of the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) – the first climate bill to pass a chamber of Congress – his opponent this November, David Harmer, thinks, “global warming is more a religion than a science.” And in April, Harmer told a tea party rally, absurdly, that climate legislation would enable the government to regulate every time they exhale. With Harmer misrepresenting both the unassailable science of global warming and reasonable solutions like ACES, you have to wonder if he’d be another Pombo if he ever got to Congress.

The NRDC Action Fund believes 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.

Billionaire Polluters Pay a Million to Foul California’s Air–Who’s Behind Prop 23?

9:10 am in Uncategorized by nrdcactionfund

By Ann Notthoff

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Of one thing you can be certain: when the Koch Brothers ride into town, dirty money follows. This is particularly bad news for California as the Koch Brothers arrived last week to join other out of state polluters paying big bucks to sully the air of the Golden State.

The two billionaire siblings, David and Charles Koch, own Koch Industries, a Wichita-based oil conglomerate that maintains refineries in three states and 4,000 miles of pipeline.

As energy companies go, Koch Industries is something of a stealth entity. The Center for Public Integrity recently completed a major report on the company, noting that “Koch Industries could be the biggest oil company you have never heard of.” While it is little known to the public, its estimated revenues in 2009 were about $40 billion, making it bigger than AT&T, Microsoft or Merrill Lynch.

Koch Industries has been named as one of the country’s top ten air polluters in a University of Massachusetts / Amherst report. As reported by the New Yorker and the Los Angeles Times, the Koch (pronounced "coke") brothers are strident in their denial of climate science findings, opposing any and all attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and move the nation to a sustainable energy path.

Moreover, they’re giving millions of dollars to groups fighting environmental protection and the dissemination of accurate, peer-reviewed climate data. Koch Industries is also the biggest oil industry contributor of campaign money to federal and state candidates.

Now the Kochs have set their sights on AB 32, California’s landmark clean energy legislation. A bipartisan bill supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders, AB 32 will create thousands of clean energy sector jobs, fund alternative energy R&D, cut global warming pollution and establish California at the cutting edge of the clean energy revolution that is transforming the global economy.

That doesn’t sit well with the Kochs, of course. They make their money in dirty high-carbon fuels and they, and they perceive any shift toward sustainable energy as a threat to their bottom line. Along with Valero and Tesoro Corp., the Kochs have funded Proposition 23, a Trojan horse of an initiative that would derail AB 32. Proposition 23 is a bald-faced attempt to assure the continued dominance of the fossil fuel industry. If passed in November, it will effectively kill AB 32.

So far, more than $8 million has been pumped into the Proposition 23 campaign. Of that amount, 97 percent has come from oil interests, and 89 percent came from out-of-state companies. Last week, the Kochs kicked another $1 million into the Proposition 23 kitty, as did Tesoro.

Proposition 23, therefore, is not a simple state proposition. It has national ramifications, and it could well determine the direction of the country’s energy policy. California has a history of being America’s evolutionary engine for technology: witness Apple, Intel, Google, the thousands of other firms that have shaped the way we work, play, interact – even think.

Clean tech is no exception. Through AB 32, we have established a template that the rest of the world can follow.

Luckily Californians know better than to buy the snake oil these out-of-state dirty energy companies are selling. People from all over the political spectrum are lining up to fight the measure.

For example, San Francisco investor Tom Steyer and President Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Shultz are co-chairing of the No on 23 Campaign, which aims to keep oil industry carpetbaggers out of California’s public policy. But they can’t do it alone – we need everyone’s help. Join us at: http://www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com/.

And show up at the polls on November 2 to send the Kochs and their cronies packing. In the process, we can send a message to Dirty Oil that the clean energy economy is here to stay.