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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
It's the system, stupid!
by: Jay Stevens - Oct 24


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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.
Climate Change

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher goes to trial

by: Matthew Koehler

Sun Feb 27, 2011 at 08:15:00 AM MST

(What follows is a slightly abridged version of an article by Umbra Fisk, which appeared at Grist on Feb 22, 2011.  Click here for more info on the trail of Tim DeChristopher. - mk)

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be ... The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Umbra Fisk

I want to share a story of an ordinary citizen using peaceful direct action to take a stand. When Tim DeChristopher woke up one morning in December of 2008, what he was intending to do that day was disrupt a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. He did not expect he was starting down a road that would leave him $1.7 million in debt, facing a court date and up to 10 years in jail. But Monday, Feb. 28, DeChristopher will go to trial for an unusual and profound act of creative, direct, nonviolent civil disobedience.

For DeChristopher, armchair activism wasn't enough of a response to the climate crisis. So when he heard that parcels of land were going to be rushed off for lease in an auction at the end of the Bush administration, opening them up for drilling, DeChristopher wanted to do something to stop the sale.

As a busy graduate economics student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher hadn't planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, "Yes, I would."

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His "purchase" totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.

The auction itself was later deemed illegitimate by the Obama administration because it was conducted outside of the rules set for holding such auctions. A law known as Secretarial Order 3226 went into effect in 2001, stating that all parts of the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, have to take into account the impacts of climate change in any major decision they make involving resource extraction.

Last year, climate luminaries Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, and Terry Tempest Williams published an open letter to support DeChristopher.

They wrote that he "pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that 'violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act' and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future."

If you're interested in joining the march or trial activities, you can find information for how to do that here.  Watch Solve Climate News for a series of seven interviews with Tim DeChristopher.  Contribute to Tim's legal defense at Bidder 70.

During the two years since the auction, DeChristopher's trial has been rescheduled nine times. He is heading toward the Feb. 28 date with "joy and resolve," committing to letting his position be known even in the face of significant jail time. "I have no illusions about prison being a nice place," DeChristopher told me in an interview. "But I've been very scared about my future for a long time. Throughout this I've been a lot more scared about staying on the path that we're on now than about going to prison for a couple of years," said DeChristopher.

UPDATE: The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that "Hundreds of protesters marched Monday morning from Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park to Exchange Place across the street from a federal courthouse" in support of Tim DeChristopher. "The crowd included actor-activist Daryl Hannah, who arrived in Utah over the weekend to show her support for DeChristopher. 'This is the coolest protest I've ever been at because I've never seen so many people smiling. Big love, everybody. Let's keep it going. Let's keep Tim out of jail.'" Click here for pictures of the rally.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Gallagher attacks Toole for work on gay marriage

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Oct 28, 2010 at 10:33:02 AM MST

The campaigns for Public Service Commissioner are one of those crucial 2010 election stories I've neglected on LiTW. (And if there are others you feel strongly about, write! a! Diary!) PSC 5 - pitting Ken Toole against Bill Gallagher - and PSC 1 - pitting Travis Kavulla against Don Ryan - are going to nail-biters, and could decide the composition and majority of the Public Service Commission. Here's the Bloomsbury Businessweek on the races:

Republicans are eying a rare chance to take control of the Montana Public Service Commission, the body that regulates utilities, in an election year in which their brand of politics seems to be riding high.

But over the last 30 years, Democrats have been favored by voters in the role of policing the utility businesses. The Republicans last took control of the PSC in 2002, and that was only for a couple of years....

Democrats hold four of the five seats on the commission, with Brad Molnar, of Billings, the sole Republican. The GOP would have to win both races to take control, likely placing Molnar in the role of chairman.

Brad Molnar. As chairman. The Brad Molnar.

Mull that over people.

Anyhoo - I want to talk about Ken Toole. You know the guy: fierce consumer advocate, opponent of the disastrous energy deregulation. Exactly the kind of commissioner the state needs, one who looks out after ratepayers first.

Well, his opponent has gone negative in a pretty strong way, using gays as a wedge. From a letter Gallagher sent out:

n 2004 Ken Toole, then Executive Director for the Montana Human Rights Network, joined with other "Pride" organizations and formed a group called Montanans for Families and Fairness to oppose CI-96, the one man + one woman = marriage amendment.

So far no problem. BUT, then the group sent intimidating letters to hundreds of protestant and catholic churches in Montana threatening them with IRS and election problems, and warning the churches not to support of CI-96.

Next, the group sent an infiltrator to the Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church where, in an evening service, they presented a Montana Family Foundation simulcast event titled "The Battle for Marriage" and made petitions supporting CI-96 available to those attending the event.

The group followed through with their threat and filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practice which began a legal battle that finally ended in 2009, when the US 9th Circuit held that the Church's first amendment rights had indeed been violated and that the charges amounted to "petty bureaucratic harassment."
The result, Montana tax payers paid all the legal expenses, including $225,000 inserted into the 2009 MT Appropriations bill HB-003. That's right! We the taxpayers paid a $225,000 bailout for what Toole's group started!

Where to start? How about with an analysis (pdf) of the 9th Circuit Court decision? Which explains that the Commissioner of Political Practices found validity in the MHRN's complaint, calling the church an "incidental political committee," and the subsequent appeal to the district court was rejected. The Ninth Circuit overturned the decision, criticizing the law, not MHRN, because the church's expenditures were so small, it wasn't worth reporting and cases against small political donors would discourage small donors from participating in the public process. What's not mentioned here is the church's tax-exempt status, which comes at the cost of that church not participating in political activities - which it clearly was in this case, as all parties agree.

Got it? The MHRN was monitoring churches to see if they were hiding behind their tax-exempt status while engaging in political activity around the anti-gay-marriage initiative. And they were.

The next question that should come to you should be, what the h*ll does this have to do with the PSC? The answer, of course, is "nothing."

Which makes sense, given how inexperienced and unsuited Gallagher is for the PSC. That's probably why Gallagher is calling Toole a "career politician," which is another way of saying Toole was once chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications committee...that's, well, pretty closely related to the job he's doing now, to say the least. Gallagher's also against "any other irresponsible 'global plan' based on questionable 'science'," and calls Toole a "devoted 'global warming disciple'" and accused him of supporting a "socialist version of the Cap and Trade policy."

That's right! A Denier and conspiracy theorist!

Brad Molnar...chair...

Turns out Gallagher also manages a Helena water and sewer utility that's "owned" by a LLC registered in Nevada, allowing both companies - which Gallagher has ownership stake in - to evade Montana taxes. Which gives you an idea of what kind of consumer advocate he'd be.

You're probably now asking yourself how a clown like Gallagher even won his party's nomination for the race. Well, that was the race Brad Johnson punted after blowing a 0.24 BAC in a May traffic stop.

Naturally Gallagher's endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Donate to Ken Toole, or contact him to see how you can help out.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

It's the system, stupid!

by: Jay Stevens

Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 18:37:25 PM MST

Matt wrote about Ryan Lizza's piece on the failure of climate-change legislation in the Senate, and found in it reason to "abolish the rules" of the Senate, which are "making our nation ungovernable." You probably know filibuster reform had me at "hello," so I put the article on the back burner, only slogging through it today.

Spoiler alert! I'm going to give away the ending, so if you want to be surprised, stop reading now!

The bill failed because of a combination of partisan Republicans, commercial interests' control of Congress, and fearful Democrats with a too-steady eye on polling numbers:

In September, I asked Al Gore why he thought climate legislation had failed. He cited several reasons, including Republican partisanship, which had prevented moderates from becoming part of the coalition in favor of the bill. The Great Recession made the effort even more difficult, he added. "The forces wedded to the old patterns still have enough influence that they were able to use the fear of the economic downturn as a way of slowing the progress toward this big transition that we have to make."

..."The influence of special interests is now at an extremely unhealthy level," Gore said. "And it's to the point where it's virtually impossible for participants in the current political system to enact any significant change without first seeking and gaining permission from the largest commercial interests who are most affected by the proposed change"....

As the Senate debate expired this summer, a longtime environmental lobbyist told me that he believed the "real tragedy" surrounding the issue was that Obama understood it profoundly. "I believe Barack Obama understands that fifty years from now no one's going to know about health care," the lobbyist said. "Economic historians will know that we had a recession at this time. Everybody is going to be thinking about whether Barack Obama was the James Buchanan of climate change."

Quite the shocker, eh? Okay, maybe not. But certainly the failure of climate change legislation is the icing on the cake of the systematic failure of government, finance, and media. Sure, in DC-land, it was collateral damage in its strange Kabuki theater, but climate change is the biggest crisis we've ever faced, our response to it here and now likely determining whether our planet will be habitable for humans in the next generation or so. (Sorry, kids. A bunch of Senators didn't like the idea of hurting coal industry short-term profit.)

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 667 words in story)

GOP Senate candidates a pack of Deniers

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:22:48 AM MST

The New York Times:

With one exception, none of the Republicans running for the Senate - including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning - accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming.

The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon, though these, too, are demonized. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy....

...all are custodians of a strategy whose guiding principle has been to avoid debate about solutions to climate change by denying its existence - or at least by diminishing its importance. The strategy worked, destroying hopes for Congressional action while further confusing ordinary citizens for whom global warming was already a remote and complex matter....

The thing is, global warming has already had economic consequences for the American taxpayer. In addressing PSC candidate Travis Kavulla's gutless response to impending ecological catastrophe, I mentioned how climate change has extended the fire season 78 days in the last three decades, a primary cause of a 10-billion-dollar uptick (pdf) in federal forest fighting costs in the first half of this decade alone. And that's just one narrow element of our economy that's been affected by rising temperatures. Consider the costs to agriculture by the infestation of exotic weed species in the West abetted by warming mountain winters...

To be even an agnostic on climate change entails a willful obliviousness that borders on recklessnss if you're a public official. But to deny warming...? And we're talking here about Senate candidates -- you know, the ones that are supposed to be more thoughtful and careful when it comes to policy.


Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Baucus Sides with Big Oil and Coal, not Montanans

by: Turner

Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:26:49 AM MST

( - promoted by Jay Stevens)

[On Oct. 15, "Urserious" responded to a recent posting of mine by including a commentary made on PBS by UM Professor emeritus Tom Powers.  In it Powers raises important questions about Max Baucus's loyalties.  Powers also questions the assumption that oil and coal jobs are an important part of our state's economy.]

Powers' Commentary

Last week Montana Senator Max Baucus appeared to side with Republicans and a handful of coal-state Democrats in opposition to the US Environmental Protection Agency using the authority that the US Supreme Court has said EPA has to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Baucus was quoted as saying that the regulation of greenhouse gases was too important and complicated to trust to just a federal agency. Instead, that regulation should remain the business of the US Congress where different regional and industrial interests can be balanced. Congress, of course, has not been able to muster the votes to pass any climate protection legislation, and with Republicans expected to be significantly more powerful in Congress after the mid-term elections, there is little chance a greenhouse gas emission control bill will be produced by Congress any time soon. No EPA greenhouse gas regulation may effectively mean no greenhouse gas regulation at all for the indefinite future.

Because Baucus is a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, his apparent opposition to allowing EPA to adopt regulations controlling greenhouse gas emissions was big news in Washington DC. One of the Capitol's influential daily newsletters, Environment and Energy, explained Baucus' waffling on the regulation of greenhouse gases by saying: "Baucus is wary of efforts to limit carbon emissions, as coal mining, coal-fired electricity and oil refineries dominate his state.

It is true that Montana has lots of coal and continues to produce significant amounts of petroleum and natural gas. It is also true that a half-dozen large coal mines are operating in the state, shipping that coal to coal-fired generators across the nation. That coal mining also supports six coal-fired generators here in Montana including Colstrip's four generators. We also have oil refineries in Billings, Great Falls, and Laurel. We have high voltage transmission lines delivering the electricity we generate to the West Coast, a petroleum products pipeline stretching across much of the state connecting some of our refineries with the states to the west and a variety of natural gas pipelines crisscrossing the state. Clearly energy production, transformation, and transmission are a significant part of Montana's economy. But are we "dominated" by these energy industries?

That description, of course, is not just a shorthand way for Washington DC insiders to try to make sense out of why our representatives vote the way they do. It is also a description that increases the political power of those very fossil fuel sectors in Montana, giving them more leverage to either block or change any proposed greenhouse gas regulations or legislation. That, actually, is what Baucus meant by saying that regulation of greenhouse gases should be done in Congress where heavy emitters of greenhouse gases can better get their economic interests taken into account.

For that reason, it is important to investigate the extent to which Montana is actually economically "dependent" on coal mines, coal-fired electric generators, and oil refineries. The answer to that is that we have "little" and "shrinking" economic dependence on those energy industries. The Montana Coal Council tells us that in 2009 about 1,150 people were employed in coal mining in Montana. That sounds like a lot of jobs, but there were about 625,000 jobs in Montana in 2009. The coal mining jobs represented about one out of every 500 jobs, less than two-tenths of one percent of all jobs. In petroleum refining, we have about 1,100 jobs, about the same as in coal mining. If we look at electric generation, the 2002 and 2007 Economic Census indicate that the employment in electric generation was about 450, but about 150 of those jobs were associated with hydroelectric generation, leaving about 300 workers engaged in fossil fuel-based generation. Clearly that is even a smaller sliver of the total Montana economy, one out of every 2,000 jobs. If we add all of the coal mining, coal-fired electric generation, and petroleum refining jobs together, there are about 2,600 jobs associated with these energy sectors. That is, these sectors provide one out of every 250 Montana jobs or about four-tenths of one percent of total jobs.

To call this a "dominant" position in the Montana economy is more than a stretch, it is at the very limits of hyperbole. One can, of course, start using multipliers to inflate this number. But any reasonable multiplier would leave us accounting for less than two percent of the Montana's jobs. It might be better to be worrying more about the other 98 percent of jobs if we are really concerned about the future of the Montana economy.

Just as important, we could ask how many of the new jobs that have been created in Montana over the last 25 years were created in these energy sectors. Over the last quarter century, Montana added almost 220,000 jobs, over a 50 percent increase. During that time, employment in coal mining declined by over 300. Employment in coal-fired generation also appears to have declined as automation reduced the necessary work force. On the other hand, employment at our oil refineries expanded by 200. So overall, these three energy sectors lost a couple of hundred jobs while the over all economy was expanding dramatically. Just in health care, for instance, almost 30,000 new jobs were created, more than doubling that workforce.

It is important that we focus clearly on the economy we actually have and the sources of economic vitality that have actually been supporting the expansion of employment opportunities. Our continued fascination with the view through the economic rear-view mirror leads only to confusion and bad public economic policy that allows a tiny sliver of economic participants to distort public policy to protect their private interests at the expense of the rest of the population and the economy.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The sound of one hand wringing

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Oct 15, 2010 at 07:50:31 AM MST

Via Ezra Klein, here's Ross Douthat explaining why Republican politicians are so eager to deny global warming - the only conservative party to do so in the industrialized West:

What's interesting, though, is that if you look at public opinion on climate change, the U.S. isn't actually that much of an outlier among the wealthier Western nations. In a 2007-2008 Gallup survey on global views of climate change, for instance, just 49 percent of American told pollsters that human beings are responsible for global warming. But the same figure for Britain (where Rush Limbaugh has relatively few listeners, I believe) was 48 percent, and belief in human-caused climate change was only slightly higher across northern Europe: 52 percent in the Czech Republic, 59 percent in Germany, 49 percent in Denmark, 51 percent in Austria, just 44 percent in the Netherlands, with highs of 63 percent in France and 64 percent in Sweden. (Doubts about anthropogenic global warming are considerably rarer, the study found, in southern Europe, Latin America and the wealthier countries of Asia.)

There's a reasonably large Western European constituency, in other words, for some sort of climate change skepticism. (And probably a growing one: In Britain, at least, as in the United States, the economic slump has dampened public enthusiasm for anti-emissions regulation.) But the politicians haven't been responding. Instead, Europe's political class, left and right alike, has worked to marginalize a position that it considers intellectually disreputable, even as the American G.O.P. has exploited that same position to win votes.

That is, the Republican party is using climate change skepticism for political gain, while their political peers in Europe eschew the quick fix and are contributing solutions to "the 21st century's biggest foreign-policy challenge," as Britain's Foreign Secretary and Conservative party leader William Hague said. "An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity."

It's amazing how this political opportunism has morphed into a kind of belief. Take Dave Budge's sophist argument against the entirety of climate science: apparently the body's "oligopolistic nature" is "reinforc{ing} one approach rather than foster{ing} an environment in which a variety of approaches can flourish." Yet there's no evidence offered that climate science has indeed narrowed its approach. In reality, the opposite is true. Competing theories to the origin of climate change are investigated and tested - after all, that's what science is all about. And here's all you need to know: there exists no competing and scientifically valid theory to dispute the consensus that the climate is warming beyond the range of natural trends and that the major cause is rising levels of CO2. Where there is debate is in how quickly the climate will change and to what extent, how the changing climate will manifest itself, and the extent of the negative impacts to human health it will have.

Budge, as an economically-minded kind of guy, came to his conclusion in observing that economic modeling failed to correctly predict the current financial crises - therefore, he reasons, climate modeling couldn't possibly be accurate either, the data is too complex. But the climate - unlike economics - is a deterministic system. Actions always have the same results. If you turn down the sun, it gets cooler. If a surface is white, it's cooler. If you increase the presence of a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere - CO2, water vapor, or methane, say - it gets hotter. Accuracy in modeling is easier to achieve. On the other hand, as a human institution the economy is not deterministic. Sure, there are trends, but human free will prevents predictions for the economy (similar to history, say) to be anything other than guesswork. In fact, you could argue that economic theories themselves influence the economy. It's for that reason that economics is inherently political - unlike science.

Maybe that's why so many conservatives have rushed to denialist positions in the wake of their favored party's exploitation of climate change doubt: they come at the issue, not as scientists, but as political and economic ideologues. I suspect the reason why many dislike the findings of climate science is that the free market is inadequate on its own to react to the problem climate change poses. Climate change demands a state-led response that poses great economic risk. No wonder they've taken to quivering hand-wringing...

Still, market forces are incredibly useful as a means of innovation. It's too bad our nation's conservatives have abandoned our generation's greatest challenge.

Discuss :: (14 Comments)

At least he knows it's real

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:41:28 AM MST

Paul Starr:

In the article he wrote for the {American} Prospect's first issue, Schlesinger observed that many people believe politics is about power, while others think it is about image, and he granted there is some truth in both of those views. But in a democracy, he continued, politics is "above all about the search for remedy."

The Democrats will lose ground this year because they've failed to provide economic remedies fast enough. But the long-run problem for Republicans is that remedy is not what they have been offering -- not for health care, for which they barely offer even the pretense of a solution; not for the recession, which their ideas would aggravate; not for immigration, one of several issues they want to exploit without facing up to the facts; not for climate change, which many of them entirely deny; not for energy, where their favorite response, as summed up in the chant, "Drill, baby, drill," was drowned in the Gulf oil spill. Events like the financial collapse and the oil spill keep reminding people that they need a competent and activist government to rein in the market. Unless conservatives abandon ideological fantasy and denial and become a responsible partner in government, progressives will dominate the search for remedy. And if that is what political tug-of-war is all about, we will ultimately win it.

I don't share Starr's optimism that progressive remedies will eventually carry the day. After all, democracy's not even safe. Just a glance at Tea Party rhetoric, where the democratic process is called "tyranny" on the basis of distorted interpretations of 18th-century political theory and accompanied by overt threats of violence - "gather your armies!" - hints at what could be. I could imagine a world where a political party rides right-wing populist racism and xenophobia to elected office...

In short, if there's one lesson I've learned since mucking around in politics, it's that good ideas don't always win the day.

Still Starr's right: only Democrats have actually tried to solve the problems we face, economically, environmentally, and in foreign policy. We may not like the policies they craft in Congress - too slavish towards established institutions and big corporations - but at least they have policies. Don't believe me? Check out this post from Montana PSC candidate Travis Kavulla on global warming:

So what's the solution? Manzi suggests that there is no obvious solution in the here-and-now, and that whatever solution is out there almost certainly has not been invented yet. I agree. Manzi's recipe is investment, not mandates or carbon taxes or the creation of artificial shortages. And I tend to agree that anything that tries to make renewables more competitive by lowering their cost is a much better option as opposed to the self-defeating path of raising the price of carbon-based fuels for only some consumers in only some parts of the world.

So the answer is...do nothing? At least Kavulla acknowledges climate change is real. And it's pathetic, really, that he gets kudos for that, showing as it does how neanderthal most conservatives' views are on the topic.

First of all, Manzi based his do-nothing conclusion on the premise that "global warming...is expected to have only a marginal impact on the world economy." Of course, folks in Montana already know this isn't true. The region's mountain pine beetle infestation is a direct result of climate change, as is the West's prolonged fire season, which accounted for an increase in the federal firefighting budget of about 1.5 billion dollars a year (pdf) from 2000 to 2005. That is, climate change has likely already cost the American taxpayer in excess of 10 billion dollars in firefighting costs alone in the past decade. And that's not even mentioning the hit in tourism revenue, and the health costs and decline of worker productivity due to fire-related air pollution.

And the rise of global temperatures is just beginning. Wait a century.

As for Kavulla and Manzi eschewing a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, which would raise the cost of fossil-fuel-based energy sources, and reliance on white-hat investment into alternative energy technologies, they seem to forget that investment follows incentive. If carbon-emitting energy becomes more expensive, consumers will demand alternative-energy sources and energy efficient homes, cars, and appliances, mass transit and bike lanes, and livable, walkable neighborhoods. The revenue collected from a carbon tax can build the new green infrastructure. And consumers eventually save money by using energy more efficiently, using less of it.

Which is another way of saying there is plenty we can do, right now. We don't have to pawn off the problem onto some unknown, future technology, and force our children and children's children to muster the courage and determination to deal with environmental catastrophe. Some of us have the courage and determination here and now.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

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

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 12:51:43 PM MST

Today, a bunch of coal executives are congregating for the WestVirginia 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!

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Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 11:56:47 AM MST

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a "stop-work order" on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.

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.

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Three strikes, and we're out of political will

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 06:31:36 AM MST

The freefall has begun. The US Senate has abandoned any notion of passing any kind of meaningful reform, and seems to be content to sit tight and watch the 2010 elections. Over the past week, the Senate has punted on some major issues that essentially say they're done.

To wit:

The Cobell settlement was rejected by the US Senate. It was stripped from a war-funding bill. Harry Reid blamed Republicans, but as Indian Country Today's Rob Capriccioso pointed out, plenty of Democrats had to oppose the amendment for it to fail cloture, 46-51. Republicans - led by Wyoming's John Barrasso - do keep trying to "modify" the settlement in ways Cobell opposes, but it's unclear if the filibusterers here were voting against the settlement, or tacking on unrelated additional spending (there were other domestic measures in the bill besides the Cobell settlement) to the Afghanistan funding bill. So, it either failed because the Senate opposes the settlement, or because they're beholden to deficit hawks. Either way, it's a fail for the Senate.

Cobell is bringing the settlement back to the House. As Gwen Florio notes, the "most recent deadline - there have many, with many delays - for congressional approval of the settlement is Aug. 6."

From a planetary perspective, the Senate abandoning of a climate change bill is even worse. Harry Reid said simply he doesn't have the votes to pass a bill. Worse still, the abandonment of the climate in the Senate presages a complete collapse of any political will to work on climate issues:

The result is an undeniable defeat in stemming climate change in this country. It echoes overseas also with other countries wondering about American resolve on a global issue. The high-wire deal struck in a climate change conference last year in Copenhagen to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 looks very far away.

But the wreckage isn't complete. California will face a challenge to its AB32 law cutting greenhouse emissions on the ballot in November. Also, GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wants to hit the pause button on the law if elected. Keeping this law on the books becomes a higher priority than ever.

The Obama administration may also take an extra step in the battle by using existing federal laws to crack down on carbon emissions, a regulatory showdown it wanted to avoid with the legislative package that's now dead. Whether it has the will to do so, after the Senate defeat, remains in doubt.

Spectacular fail.

Finally, Republican Senators tried to block the US DoJ from challenging the recent Arizona immigration law. It failed, but the bad news here is that both Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted with Republicans on the issue. It's an astounding vote, frankly. For starters, the bill attempts to dictate to Justice what cases they should pursue. For another matter, while Tester has always been hawkish on immigration, the Arizona law is irreconcilable with the kind of individual civil liberties issues Jon's always championed in the past. How can you be an outspoken opponent of Real ID - and a supporter of Arizona's immigration law? Real ID at least has the benefit of being applied uniformly to all citizens, while Arizona's papers check would be haphazardly applied without document standards, and by local authorities with all of their biases and no oversight. And Tester, at least, has an election coming up and a history of drifting towards nativist positions on immigration. What's Baucus' excuse here?

As Netroots Nation friend Paul Hogarth blogged today, the Senate is where "progressive legislation goes to die."

If there's one major frustration leading into November, it's the U.S. Senate - where Republicans have obstructed practically everything that passed the House. Reid came to the Conference on July 24th - right after announcing we "don't have the votes" for comprehensive climate change reform this year, only adding insult to injury. One panel on filibuster reform suggested we're in a constitutional crisis, but Reid himself wouldn't commit to any specific solution.

And the solution?

But rather than give up, Al Franken reminded the netroots that Senators elected in 2006 and 2008 with their help are a "coalition of the impatient" - and represent a new generation of more progressive Democrats. Bloggers are needed this November to add to their ranks, in order to change the Senate.

Well...it's a nice thought. And I do think our progressive resurgence moved too quickly, allowing too many politicians from earlier eras of appeasement staff the chairs of vital Congressional committees. We do need better representatives.

But I'm still staggered - especially on climate change - how spectacular our political failures have been.  

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My Kids Are Losers: Commentary on the Climate Debate

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 14:13:40 PM MST

The climate bill blame game has begun.  When I first started writing this post about the so-called death of the climate bill, I literally pointed the finger at just about everyone, including myself. The anger poured out, and I was frank in my assessment as well as unforgiving in the motives behind this latest setback.

After I was done with my self-loathing tantrum, the kids ran in the door from camp and I was swept up in the lovely reality of my family's banter. It is summer, so the pace in our home is a bit more relaxed in the evening.  We aren't quite as quick to rush through dinner, toss the kids in a bath, and then march them off to bed.  Ice cream and extra cuddles are relished, and I am reminded each year at this time why I do this job.

Later, after progeny were tucked in, I went back to my draft blog post to spruce it up.  I reread my rage, disappointment, and irrational ramblings and was embarrassed.  And I asked myself "What good is all this blame going to do?"

At the end of the day, it is my kids - and your kids - who lose when we implode.  If you think kids have a lot to say about their parents now on Dr. Phil, can you imagine what our children will say in 50 years should we fail to get our act together?

The country should be ready for this. The facts are on our side.  As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, it is clear that there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a smart clean energy and climate plan.

Unfortunately, the politicians just aren't there. At every juncture during this debate, a minority, led by the Republican leadership and supported by a few impressionable (I might say pathetic)  Democrats, has obstructed the opportunity to solve America's energy problems, preferring to leave the worst polluters and the big petro-dictators in control of our energy policy, while tax-payers are forced to pay for their messes.

Oopsy... there goes that blame again.  Let's focus on what we can do next.

Hope is not lost.  Of course, the closer we get to the midterm elections, the more challenging passing a bill becomes. Still, it's not impossible. In fact, the Senate has passed almost every single bedrock environmental law in the fall of an election year or in the "lame duck" session following an election. Here are just a few examples:

o   Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - 1996 Amendments: 8/6/96

o   Food Quality Protection Act: 8/3/96

o   Energy Policy Act of 1992: 10/24/92

o   Clean Air Act of 1990: 11/15/90

o   SDWA - 1986 Amendments: 6/19/86

o   CERCLA (Superfund): House 9/23/80, Senate 11/24/80, POTUS 12/11/80

o   Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA): 10/21/76

o   Toxic Substances & Control Act (TSCA): 10/11/76

o   SDWA: 12/16/74

o   Clean Water Act: 10/18/72

o   Establishment of the EPA: first proposed 7/9/70, established 12/2/70

o   National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): 1/1/70

o   The Wilderness Act: 9/3/64

As this list demonstrates, the Senate and the environmental movement are no strangers to passing major legislation right before - or just after - an election.

I don't want to overpromise success.  This is an uphill battle.  But if you and I show up to every town hall, rally, spaghetti dinner, and other rituals of election year and fight for our kids... fight for our country... fight for our America... we can turn the tide.  Without that kind of passion, we will all lose.  That's an outcome we must try hard to avoid, on behalf of people, communities, large and small businesses - oh, and our kids, sleeping peacefully or playing happily around the country.

In the meantime, we must also protect what we already have, like a plethora of state laws and the federal Clean Air Act.  I recommend reading David Doniger's blog on Switchboard today that really outlines how we can make progress with the tools we have right now.

In coming weeks and months, we must continue to push forward for a strong, clean energy and climate bill, just like we have done countless times in the past. I am done with blame.  History is on our side. Are you?

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.

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Born to be wild: cognitive dissonance, conservatives, and the Great American Socialist Experiment

by: Jay Stevens

Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 20:14:14 PM MST

So I'm reading this op-ed by Jonathan Kay on how global warming denialists "are a liability to the conservative cause," and I'm half shouting, yes! yes! when he talks about how denialism is a "phenomenon" fueled by echo-chamber blogs and staffed by people who will "assign credibility to any stray piece of junk science that lands in their inbox," and how denalist paranoia approaches conspiracy theory territory. And I'm nodding when Kay says "rants and slogans...aren't the building blocks of a serious ideological movement."

...the impulse toward denialism must be fought if conservatism is to prosper in a century when environmental issues will assume an ever greater profile on this increasingly hot, parched, crowded planet. Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined--and discredited--by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.

Sounds good! I mean, I'm no free-market conservative...but if someone can posit a free-market solution to global warming (any solution!) and sell it, I'm all ears!

But the interesting point here is when Kay examines the psychological readiness among conservatives - who are otherwise, according to Kay, so practical when it comes to policy-making - to believe in wild illogical claims about climate change conspiracies:

But there is something deeper at play, too--a basic psychological instinct that public-policy scholars refer to as the "cultural cognition thesis," described in a recently published academic paper as the observed principle that "individuals tend to form perceptions of risk that reflect and reinforce one or another idealized vision of how society should be organized ... Thus, generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings."

In simpler words, too many of us treat science as subjective -- something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.

Why, yes...that does make sense. I'm sure I've been victim to similar bits of cognitive dissonance, sure.

In the case of global warming, this dissonance is especially traumatic for many conservatives, because they have based their whole worldview on the idea that unfettered capitalism -- and the asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture it has spawned -- is synonymous with both personal fulfillment and human advancement. The global-warming hypothesis challenges that fundamental dogma, perhaps fatally.

"Unfettered capitalism"? "Spawned" the "asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture"?

Come again?

If there's any part of our lives that's been more underwritten and centrally planned than our asphalt crusin' gas guzzling, I'm not aware of it. The construction of the nation's highway system wasn't the result of free-market pressure by consumers looking for someplace to drive cars. It was a huge government-subsidized project to build highway and paved road infrastructure largely at the behest of corporate magnates who needed a market for oil and automobiles, and rigged  taxation and public funding to derail (pun intended) the streetcar and passenger train system already in place.

Calls for a green economy and transportation system represents nothing new, as far as government ventures are concerned. And, if it were up to me, it wouldn't involve any extra funding. If I were dictator, I'd simply start trimming money earmarked for highway projects, and giving it to mass transit projects. And, frankly, in building a green economy, we have a chance to do so openly and democratically, and not at the behest of corporations

But that just underscores the cognitive, dissonance, right? I mean, resistance to climate change legislation isn't opposition to a conspiracy of environmentalists looking to destroy American industry; instead, it's a blind defense of a kind of American socialist experiment that went horribly wrong. Admitting that the last century of car culture was a big mistake implies admitting it's nothing but a big government project, even if it does feel free-spirited to roll your window down and stick your elbow out the window while you drive 278 from Jackson to Dillon...

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Lessons from the "Enlightened Eight": Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment and Not Get "Tea Partied

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 10:18:06 AM MST

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).  Only eight Republicans - we'll call them the "Enlightened Eight" -  voted "aye."  These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).  

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party?  You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now.  Instead, they're all doing fine.  In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the "tea party" (or otherwise).  Instead, we have two - Castle and Kirk - running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others - Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith - running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three "Tea Party" candidates.  One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that "Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes." So, did this work?  Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two "Tea Party" candidates - Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte - who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue.  According to Biamonte, cap and trade "is insidious and another tax policy... a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble." You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack.  Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.  

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger - Alan Bateman - by a more than 2:1 margin.  Bateman had argued that "Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty." Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8.  This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as "the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade."  Thibodeau also called cap and trade "frightening," claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home.  Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert  has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade "is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change... written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar." We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it.   The proof is in the primaries.

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Murkowski Part II Rears Its Ugly Head

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 13:54:21 PM MST

On June 10th, we all celebrated the defeat of the Murkowski resolution, which would have gutted the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution.  Why we needed to defeat Murkowski was explained well by NRDC Action Fund Executive Director, Peter Lehner, who wrote the following prior to the vote:

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.

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Edward James Olmos on the Definition of "Insanity"

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 12:26:40 PM MST

Yesterday, the NRDC Action Fund launched a campaign featuring a powerful new ad by renowned environmental activist and celebrated actor, Edward James Olmos.  In the video, which you can view here, Olmos explains what makes people - himself included - "locos" when it comes to U.S. energy and environmental policy. Now, as the Senate moves towards a possible debate on energy and climate legislation, we need to let everyone hear Olmos' message.

Hi, I'm Edward James Olmos. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I guess that's what makes Americans "locos." We keep yelling "drill baby drill" and expecting things to turn out ok. But the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is nothing new. The oil industry has been poisoning our oceans and wilderness for decades. It's time to regain our sanity. America doesn't want more oil disasters. We need safe, clean and renewable energy now. Think about it.

Sadly, Olmos' definition of "insanity" is exactly what we've been doing for decades in this country -- maintaining policies that keep us "addicted" to fossil fuels instead of moving towards a clean, prosperous, and sustainable economy.

As we all know, dirty, outdated energy sources have caused serious harm to our economy, to our national security, and of course - as the horrible Gulf oil disaster illustrates - to our environment. In 2008 alone, the U.S. spent nearly $400 billion, about half the entire U.S. trade deficit, importing foreign oil.   Even worse, much of that $400 billion went to countries (and non-state actors) that don't have our best interests at heart.

As if all that's not bad enough, our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels also has resulted in tremendous environmental devastation, ranging from melting polar ice caps to record heat waves to oil-covered pelicans and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

As Edward James Olmos says, it's enough to drive us all "locos."

Fortunately, there's a better way.

If you believe, as we passionately do, that it's time to kick our addiction to the dirty fuels of the past, then please help us get that message out there. Help us air Edward James Olmos' ad on TV in states with U.S. Senators who we believe can be persuaded to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. If we can convince our politicians to do their jobs and to pass comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation this year, we will be on a path to a brighter, healthier future.

Thank you for your support.

NRDC Action Fund

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More Nails in the Coffins of the Climate Change Deniers

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Wed Jul 07, 2010 at 09:41:19 AM MST

As if we needed any more evidence demonstrating that anthropogenic climate change is real, that it is occurring right now, and that it poses a major threat to the planet's environment, we now have it -- in spades. Let's begin with the assessment by a Penn State University investigation, which completely exonerated climate scientist Michael Mann from any wrongdoing in the ridiculous, trumped-up, never-any-truth-to-it, pseudo-"scandal" known as "climate-gate." In reaction to this report, former House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) -- full disclosure, Boehlert's on the NRDC Action Fund board -- issued a statement which read:

This exoneration should close the book on the absurd episode in which climate scientists were unjustly attacked when in fact they have been providing a great public service. The attacks on scientists were a manufactured distraction, and today's report is a welcome return to common sense. While scientists can now focus on their work, policy makers need to address the very real problem of climate change.

Well said, Congressman, and keep up the great work, Professor Mann!

Next, just to pound the final nails into the coffins of the climate change deniers, a major, independent review by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency was released on July 5. The report's main conclusions were crystal clear:

  • "no errors that would undermine the main conclusions in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on possible future regional impacts of climate change"
  • "the summary conclusions are considered well founded, none have been found to contain any significant errors"
  • "ample observational evidence of regional climate change impacts, which have been projected to pose substantial risks to most parts of the world, under increasing temperatures"

In fairness, the Dutch report leveled several criticisms of the IPCC report: 1) even the few, minor errors shouldn't have been allowed to slip by; 2) the report's summary statement should have been written to provide a higher amount of transparency regarding its sources and methods; and 3) the report tended to focus solely on the adverse consequences of climate change, not on potentially positive impacts. These are non-trivial issues that need to be addressed. Having said that, as Joe Romm points out, "the overwhelming majority of research since the IPCC has found that the IPCC has consistently underestimated many key current and future impacts, particularly sea level rise (and carbon-cycle feedbacks)."

In the end, the bottom line from these reports is clear: the science behind human-induced climate change has emerged from this entire, ridiculous, episode overwhelmingly intact -- if not strengthened. The only real question now is, what are we going to do about it?

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

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Thu Jul 01, 2010 at 13:36:07 PM MST

Once upon a time, "cap-and-trade" wasn't an object of conservative Republican opprobrium (e.g., as a "big government cap-and-tax scheme that will destroy our economy and end our way of life as we know it"). Actually, once up on a time, "cap-and-trade" was...wait for it...a conservative Republican idea! That's right, let's head to the "way back machine" and briefly review the Political History of Cap and Trade.

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.

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President Obama, Please Call Their Bluff!

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 09:23:20 AM MST

Yesterday, President Obama met with Senators at the White House and pushed them to pass comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Still, the skeptics are spinning a monotonous web of negativity regarding what is achievable on this front.  And, not surprisingly, the "mainstream media" once again has been asleep at the wheel in setting the record straight.  Fortunately, we know that when this President rolls up his sleeves, he gets stuff done and delivers on his promises. One thing’s for sure; President Obama is anything but an underachiever!

Along these lines, President Obama held a press conference following the G-20 summit in Toronto.  In response to a reporter’s question regarding how he would achieve his deficit reduction goals, the president responded:

For some reason people keep being surprised when I do what I said I was going to do. So, I say I’m going to reform our [health care system], and people say well gosh that’s not smart politics maybe we should hold off. Or I say we’re going to move forward on [Don’t Ask Don’t Tell] and somehow people say well why are you doing that, I’m not sure that’s good politics. I’m doing it because I said I was going to do it, and I think it’s the right thing to do. And people should learn that lesson about me, because next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficit and debt step up cause I’m calling their bluff.

To that list of accomplishments, we could also add:

  • Almost single-handedly saving the Copenhagen Climate Summit from failure.
  • Preventing Great Depression Part II. 
  • Creating or saving 2.2-2.8 million jobs, well on the way to Obama’s February 2009 pledge that he would "create or save 3-and-a-half million jobs over the next two years." 
  • Reforming Wall Street (likely to pass Congress any day now)
  • Overhauling the student loan market 
  • Reaching a nuclear arms treaty with Russia

We could go on and on, but you get the point: anyone who continues, at this point, to be "surprised" when President Obama gets things done when he puts his mind to it is deep in denial. Or, as a previous president might have put it, they are wildly "misunderestimating" our 44th president.

Clearly, as we’ve seen over the past two years, underachieving is not a problem Barack Obama suffers from.  Of course, even a superachiever like Barack Obama has an awful lot on his plate to deal with. And right now, one of the most important things on Obama’s plate is figuring out how to push comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation through the U.S. Senate.   Along those lines, yesterday, Obama met with a group of Senators on this issue, reportedly holding firm in his call for putting a price on carbon emissions.

The question at this point is, will President Obama roll up his sleeves and deliver on another of his major campaign promise (as well as a major challenge facing our nation)?  Given the long list of accomplishments mentioned above, it certainly wouldn’t be smart to bet against him.  The fact is, Barack Obama usually succeeds in whatever he puts his mind to.

Given the nation’s increased focus on energy and climate issues – and the increased support by the American people for taking strong action as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster – now is clearly the time for boldness and for bluff calling by our nation’s leaders.  Today, President Obama has the opportunity to demonstrate once more that, when he rolls up his sleeves, he accomplishes what he says he’s going to do.  In sum, today is clearly the moment for President Obama to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong – to call their bluff - yet again!

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Time to Turn Off The A/C At the White House?

by: NRDC Action Fund

Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 12:20:21 PM MST

As President Obama prepares for his meeting tomorrow with Senators at the White House to discuss clean energy and climate change legislation, he might want to check with the White House staff on an important matter first. No, not the details of the legislation, although that's important of course. Instead, what President Obama might want to make absolutely sure about is the non-trivial matter of whether the White House air conditioning is in tip-top shape. I say "non-trivial," but these days it's more like "life or death." How hot is it in the Washington, DC area?  As NBC Washington puts it, "We're Talking Spontaneous Combustion." (UPDATE: it's more likely this is apocryphal than literally true, but it sure feels like plants could catch on fire these days in Washington, DC!)

How hot is it? It's so hot that dead plants are spontaneously combusting in Frederick, Md.
Don't believe it? Just ask Frederick County Fire Marshal Marc McNeal, who told the Frederick News-Post that excessive heat caused a dead plant to catch fire Sunday afternoon in a hanging planter on the rear deck of a townhouse.

The hanging basket fell to the deck and burned some vinyl siding, causing about $3,000 in damages.

It has definitely been hot in the Washington region. Monday will be the 10th day in a row that we've reached 90 degrees or higher, and this will be the 17th day of the month that the thermometer has reached 90.

NBC4 meteorologist Tom Kierein said that when it's all said and done, June 2010 likely will be the hottest June on record in the District.

Dead plants catching on fire in the hottest June on record in the Washington, DC area?  Sadly, this may not be an aberration, but a frightening sign of things to come in a global warming world.   True, we shouldn't draw broad conclusions about the earth's climate from one heat wave in one specific geographic area, as certain climate change deniers dishonestly did during last winter's "snowpocalypse" blizzards.  However, when we see month after month, decade after decade of record-setting heat globally, it starts to get a bit hard to ignore.  

In fact, climate scientists are not ignoring these heat waves and other phenomena.  Earlier today, for instance, The Project on Climate Science reported that the "record-breaking heat wave" we are currently experiencing in the eastern United States "is consistent with climate change."  According to Tom Peterson, Chief Scientist for NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, "We're getting a dramatic taste of the kind of weather we are on course to bequeath to our grandchildren."  Of course, as The Project on Climate Science points out, "individual heat waves can be driven by a number of factors." However, they conclude, "more frequent heat waves are one of the more visible impacts of climate change already underway in the United States" and "will occur more frequently in the future."

In sum, if you enjoy record-setting warmth - not to mention the stronger storms, mass extinctions and "record sea ice shrinkage" in the Arctic  that go along with that warmth - you have a lot to look forward to!  If not, then you should contact your Senator and let him or her know you want climate action now.  

Come to think of it, perhaps we should all hope for the White House air conditioning to be broken tomorrow - or turned off on purpose - so that the Senators meeting there get a taste of what the planet will feel like everywhere if they don't do something about it now.  When you think about it, a bit of Senatorial sweat and a few stained shirts is not too high a price to pay if it results in long-overdue, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation on the President's desk sometime this sweltering summer.  Is it?

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Deep thought for the day: the Pepsi edition

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 11:10:35 AM MST

This Seth Godwin post really stuck with me, probably because I've been writing a lot about global warming denial and the creepy opposition to anti-discrimination ordinances, from which you hear a lot about "rights" and "freedom":

More and more, businesses and businesspeople talk about their rights.

It seems, though, that organizations and individuals that focus more on their responsibilities and less on their rights tend to outperform.

You're responsible to your community, to your customers, to your employees and to your art. Serve them and the rights thing tends to take care of itself.

Another thought: If I worked at Pepsi, I'd be actively lobbying for the obesity sweet soda tax (a penny an ounce) being proposed in New York. Instead, in a no-surprise knee jerk reaction, almost everyone in the industry is lobbying like crazy to stop it. This is dumb marketing.

The benefit of a tax is that it affects you and your competitors at the same time, so you all benefit from doing the right thing, as opposed to having to compete against someone who doesn't care as much as you do.

Once people realize that excessive use of your product makes them sick and then die a long and painful death, it's probably time to stop lobbying and time to start doing something about it. This industry should stop thinking it is in the corn syrup delivery business (which brings nasty side effects along with it) and start focusing on delivering joy in a bottle. Lots of interesting ways to do that without giving up profits.

Speaks directly to the big energy industries banking the climate change denial industry.

Of course, conservative Christians aren't a profitable industry - well, not overtly so - and their goal isn't expanding the bottom line, but there is a definite lack of interest in responsibility and community among Tea Baggers and Bathroom fear mongers.

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