Green Responses to the National Climate Assessment

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 06 May 2014 15:33:00 GMT

This post collects statements from environmental and progressive organizations in response to the Third National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Joint statement from Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for American Progress, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club:
The National Climate Assessment provides more stark evidence that climate change is happening now and threatening our health, homes, businesses and communities. It must be addressed immediately. The NCA comes only weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is underway and that carbon pollution from human activity is responsible for it. The message from the NCA is blunt. Without action, the damage from climate change on our communities will worsen, including: more asthma attacks and respiratory disease; threats to our food and water supplies as well as our outdoor heritage; and, more violent and deadly storms that shutter businesses and cost billions of dollars in recovery. Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil an ambitious proposal to set the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest U.S. contributor to climate change. We applaud the administration for its commitment to protecting our communities and our economy through the National Climate Action Plan, and call on other public officials to support the plan and these life-saving safeguards.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune:

Today’s landmark report is a wake-up call that we simply cannot afford to sleep through yet again. American families are already paying the costs of the extreme weather and health risks fueled by the climate crisis. Now, the nation’s most comprehensive study of climate threats shows the toll on our health, our communities, and our economy will only skyrocket across the country if we do not act. We applaud the Obama Administration for listening to these alarm bells, and urge them to continue to take critical, common-sense steps, including the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. We don’t just have an obligation to future generations to take action now—we will seize an enormous opportunity as we do. By leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground and continuing the transition to clean energy solutions like wind and solar, we can create good American jobs and power homes and businesses nationwide without polluting our air, water, or climate.

National Wildlife Federation senior global warming specialist Patty Glick, co-author of the Pacific Northwest chapter:

What strikes me most about this report is how many changes we’re already experiencing and how quickly they’ve occurred. The first National Climate Assessment back in 2000 was considered a look into the future, but just 14 years later, we’re no longer just talking about forecasts and models. Today we’re reporting on the changes we’re already seeing in our own backyards, and frankly I’m alarmed at the speed. Compared to previous projections, we’re seeing temperatures rising faster, oceans more quickly becoming acidic, fish and wildlife habitat shifting sooner than many species can adapt. That we’re seeing so many changes so rapidly is a call to act now to prevent these changes from overwhelming us in the future. We must confront the underlying cause of climate change by cutting carbon pollution, investing in clean energy and saying no to dirty energy. And we will also need to step-up efforts to prepare for and adapt to the impacts climate change already is having on our communities and wildlife by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

Green For All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri:

The National Climate Assessment finds what we know to be true. Climate change is real and affects neighborhoods all across the United States – especially those hit first and worst, communities of color and low-income Americans. We are already paying more for heat and air conditioning to stay comfortable during record high or low temperatures. Severe droughts and floods in America’s agricultural areas strain food production. People are losing loved ones and homes due to extreme weather. We can’t disregard the environment any longer. We need to expand jobs in clean energy and make sure disadvantaged communities have a shot at them. We need to encourage people to come together to plant gardens and promote sustainable lifestyles. We also need to prepare ourselves to leap forward into a healthier future after a hurricane, blizzard, or flood — not just bounce back to where we were before. The good news is that our leaders are already acting on climate change. We are excited by the potential impacts of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and support the Administration’s efforts to cut emissions from future and existing power plants. We are eager to see the National Climate Assessment move this work forward, so we can build cleaner, stronger communities.

Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt:

We’ve known for decades that global warming threatens our future. This report shows how our families and communities are being harmed today. Today’s report explains the science behind what farmers, first responders, flood insurers, victims of hurricane Sandy and other major storms have seen firsthand: global warming is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, contributing to sea level rise, and increasing drought, and no region of the country is off the hook. In less than a month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time. Despite power plants being the largest source of carbon pollution in the county, they have gone for decades without the kinds of limits they have for soot, smog, and other dangerous air pollution. This isn’t the only action we need to solve the climate crisis. But limiting carbon pollution from power plants is a major step that will move us dramatically closer to staving off the worst impacts of climate change.

Fossil-industry backed Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Eileen Claussen:

The Third National Climate Assessment makes clearer than ever that climate change is taking a toll here and now, and that it poses growing risks to communities across the country. Based on an exhaustive review of the latest scientific evidence, the report brings it home to Americans that we are not immune to threats posed by climate change to our infrastructure, water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. The impacts vary from region to region – more competition for water in the arid West, more heavy downpours in the Northeast and Midwest, and rising sea levels fueling powerful storm surges along the Gulf Coast. What is clear is that every region faces impacts that could be costly and severe. Motivated in part by the billions in damages caused by recent extreme weather events, many companies are starting to take action to build their climate resilience, as documented in our “Weathering the Storm” report. Companies, communities, and individuals all need to better manage climate risks, both by reducing carbon emissions and by becoming more climate-resilient. Investments in mitigation will give our adaptation efforts a greater chance of success. We agree with the NCA: More must be done across the public and private sectors to reduce - and to safeguard ourselves against - the rising risks of a warming planet.

Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow Carol M. Browner (Browner is also on the leadership council of the nuclear-industry group Nuclear Matters):

Once again the scientific community is sounding the alarm, this time with the National Climate Assessment, and reaffirming that carbon pollution is driving climate change, fueling more violent and frequent weather events, and threatening public health. The NCA underscores the urgency to address climate change and the biggest step the Obama administration can take is to set the strongest possible limits next month when they unveil the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Tackling climate change will require a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, improve energy efficiency, and innovate our way to cleaner and safer sources of energy. The EPA and the states must work together to develop solutions that cut carbon pollution and move us toward a cleaner energy future.

American Lung Association Assistant Vice President and Director, Healthy Air Campaign Lyndsay Moseley Alexander:

Today’s Assessment released by the Administration affirms what we’ve long known about the urgent need to address the health effects of climate change. Too often, the health impacts of climate are left out of the conversation. In the new National Climate Assessment, the message is clear: climate change threatens our ability to protect our communities, especially those most vulnerable, against the dangers of air pollution, increased allergens, extreme weather, and wildfire. We must meet the climate challenge now if we want to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and other lung diseases, as well as children, seniors, low income and minority communities. This Assessment comes on the heels of the American Lung Association’s most recent 2014 State of the Air report that found that nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, nearly 16 million more than in the last report. The “State of the Air” report confirms that warmer temperatures increased ozone pollution in large areas across the United States. For example, of the 25 metro areas most polluted by ozone, 22 had worse ozone problems including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Philadelphia in large part due to heat waves in 2010 and 2012. Drought and wildfires threaten communities with clouds of dust and smoke that can shorten life. Extreme weather events leave families living in damp homes, inhaling moldy debris and soot as they recover. Longer pollen seasons release allergens that can worsen asthma and other lung diseases. As we see on-going record-setting drought in the West and recent record-breaking rain in the East, we know that these changes already exist. They can get worse. As a nation, we have a very important choice to make. Placing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants is a vital step to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We cannot allow politics and pressure from polluters to slow clean-up of carbon pollution. Unless we adopt strong carbon standards, the National Climate Assessment shows that reducing air pollution and protecting our families and our neighbors will become even more challenging.

Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke:

Our leading scientists send a stark message: Climate change is already seriously disrupting our lives, hurting our health and damaging our economy,” Beinecke said. “If we don’t slam the brakes on the carbon pollution driving climate change, we’re dooming ourselves and our children to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms, and surging sea levels. Fortunately, the Obama Administration is taking action – by setting standards for cleaner more efficient cars and, within weeks, by issuing the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from our existing power plants. Cleaning up the air is a win-win: It can create thousands of jobs, expand energy efficiency and lower electric bills while improving public health. That’s the climate legacy we can, and must, leave future generations.

Natural Resources Defense Council health and environment program senior scientist Kim Knowlton, co-author of the Human Health Chapter:

This report shows how climate change’s effects are now firmly in the present, posing threats to our health—and that of our children, and their children. Rising temperatures increase the frequency and intensity of dangerous heat waves, worsen illnesses like asthma, contribute to the spread of insects that carry infectious diseases, and fuel more dangerous storms and flooding. We have important opportunities now to limit climate change’s worst effects by cutting carbon emissions. At same time, we can prepare to deal with what’s happening now, and for what’s coming, to protect communities and people.

Union of Concerned Scientists Climate and Energy Program director of government affairs Robert Cowin:

The stakes keep getting higher as emissions increase and as scientists learn more about the risks of climate change. The report clearly outlines the need to make climate resilience a national priority. We’re already feeling the impact of climate change and the costs are formidable. Ideally, we’d have a price on carbon to reduce emissions and help pay for climate resilience measures. In the meantime, Congress can do more to make infrastructure and industry less vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather.

World Resources Institute U.S. Climate Initiative director Kevin Kennedy:

The National Climate Assessment brings to light new and stronger evidence of how climate change is already having widespread impacts across the United States. The report confirms what numerous scientific authorities have been saying: climate change is fundamentally altering our nation’s environment and poses a significant threat to our health and our economy. Thankfully, there are solutions available if leaders act quickly to tackle climate change head on. Further delay will only accelerate climate change and raise the costs of addressing its impacts. Next month, the Obama administration is expected to take a critical step forward by introducing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Power plants produce one-third of U.S. emissions and represent the greatest opportunity for the U.S. to drive down its emissions. This will be a major – though not the only – step along the way to put America on course for a safer, low-carbon future.

World Wildlife Fund vice president for climate change Lou Leonard:

Often we consider climate change tomorrow’s problem, but this report reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The assessment paints the clearest picture yet that extreme weather and climate disruption are already here, impacting communities across America, and it’s not pretty. If we want to avoid the dangerous future predicted in this report, we need to start today by doing two things: use the information in the report to prepare our communities for these risks; and change the way our country chooses and uses energy. The Administration’s work to set new standards for old, dirty power plants is a key step toward a renewable energy future and puts our nation on the road to meeting President Obama’s mid-century goal of reducing emissions by 80%. This isn’t a typical climate report. Over the past several years, experts from around the country have contributed to and led its creation: local university professors, experts from state and local agriculture and water resources agencies, and leaders from the private sector. The report was created by America’s best and we need to use it to protect America’s communities and natural wonders. In addition to addressing current and future impacts to our climate and oceans, this is the first national assessment that details response strategies, including the need to avoid the most extreme impacts by rapidly driving down emissions of greenhouse gases. The next steps couldn’t be clearer. We need to use this practical report as a guidebook for preparing local communities for extreme weather and other climate impacts. At the same time, we need to transform the way we produce and use energy, leaving dirty coal, oil and gas behind. There is no time to lose. The longer we wait, the more costs and suffering we will endure.

Podesta Rebukes Environmentalists For Criticizing Obama's "All of the Above" Support For Fossil-Fuel Extraction

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 20:10:00 GMT

Obama’s new top climate adviser rebuked environmental leaders who challenged the president to dump his “all of the above” energy strategy as incompatible with needed climate action. In a letter obtained by the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin, John Podesta questioned why the climate advocates criticized the president for his support of increased fossil-fuel extraction.

Making reference to Obama’s “bold Climate Action Plan” announced in June 2013, Podesta cited “significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” despite “opposition to key components of the plan” from Republicans in the House and Senate. Podesta noted that the plan “commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change,” claiming that the “breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter.”

Podesta’s only reference to President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy of increased fossil-fuel extraction came in his criticism of the environmentalists:

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

Podesta did not reply to the environmentalists’ mention of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which he has previously criticized. Upon taking the White House job, Podesta said he would not weigh in on the decision of whether the construction of the pipeline would be in the national interest, a determination to be made by the State Department and President Obama.

Under Podesta’s direction, the Center for American Progress offered divergent views on Obama’s “all of the above” policy:
  • Center for American Progress Director of Climate Strategy Daniel Weiss testified in 2012 and in 2013 in support of Obama’s “all of the above” strategy.
  • Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress, bluntly said in 2012 that the “all-of-the-above energy strategy” is what defines Obama’s “failed presidency.” He later excoriated Obama’s “big wet kiss to oil and gas.”

The text of the letter, typos included, is below:

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON

January 17, 2014

TO:

Wm. Robert Irvin, American Rivers, President and CEO
Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action, President
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, President and CEO
Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice, President
Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition, Executive Director
Margie Alt, Environment America, Executive Director
Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund, President
Eric Pica, Friends of the Earth, President
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters, President
David Yarnold, National Audubon Society, President and CEO
Larry J. Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation, President & CEO
John Echohawk, Native American Rights Fund, Executive Director
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council, President
Andrew Sharpless, Oceana, Chief Executive Officer
Catherine Thomasson, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Executive Director
John Seager, Population Connection, President
Michael Brune, Sierra Club, Executive Director
Sandy Newman, Voices for Progress, President

I am writing in response to your January 16 letter to President Obama regarding climate change. President Obama understands that climate change poses a significant threat to our environment, to public health and to our economy. He believes it is imperative that we act to address these threats, and that doing so provides an opportunity for the United States to lead in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies needed to reduce emissions. For these reasons, the President has taken steps to address the climate change challenge throughout the last five years, including a issuing a bold Climate Action Plan in June of 2013.

The Climate Action Plan builds on major progress during the President’s first term, including: historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles that will cut 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution, cut oil consumption by 12 billion barrels of oil, and save consumer $1.7 trillion over the lifetime of the program; energy efficiency standards for appliances that will cut pollution and save consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades; historic support for renewable energy that has helped to drive down technology costs and more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar. These steps by the Obama Administration have contributed to significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; 2012 emissions of carbon dioxide were at their lowest level the lowest [sic] in nearly twenty years.

The Climate Action Plan outlined by President Obama in a historic speech at Georgetown in June of 2013 builds on these measures, and commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. The breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter, but key commitments to continue to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions include establishing the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, a multi-sector strategy to reduce methane emissions, action to limit the use of HFCs and promote the use of more climate-friendly alternatives, additional DOE energy efficiency standards, and additional fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles.

We have made significant progress in implementing the plan in the last seven months, and I attach for your review a recent report that details this work. However, significant work lies ahead in meeting the commitments outlined in the Climate Action Plan. In addition, opposition to key components of the plan remains. Last week, the White House had to fight off anti-environmental Appropriations riders, including ones that would have prevented the EPA from implementing regulations to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, and would have prevented the Administration from moving forward with Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards. On the day your letter arrived, the Senate Minority Leader filed a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn rules to regulate CO2 emissions from new power plants.

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

With respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts. In the meantime, we will continue to welcome your advice, based on your very long experience on how to convince the American public of the need and opportunity to transform dirty energy systems to ones that are cleaner and more efficient.

Sincerely,

John D. Podesta

Enviro Coalition Letter Calls on Obama to Drop 'All of the Above' Strategy for 'Carbon-Reducing Clean Energy' Strategy

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 04:49:00 GMT

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the leaders of the nation’s top environmental organizations aggressively criticized his “all of the above” energy strategy. The 16 groups, ranging from environmental justice organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund to the corporate-friendly Environmental Defense Fund and the progressive advocacy group Voices for Progress, praised the president’s “goal of cutting carbon pollution” but sharply rebuked the White House’s support for expanded fossil-fuel extraction:
An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

The groups made special note of Obama’s announcement in June that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be judged for the “net effects” of its “impact on climate.” The Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with the 2°ree;C warming limit to which Obama has committed the United States, but the administration may attempt to use a different, high-emissions scenario as the baseline against which to judge the pipeline’s “net effects.”

The environmentalists concluded with the recommendation that the White House’s “all of the above” strategy be replaced with a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy:
We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

The full text of the letter is below.

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice *
Energy Action Coalition * Environment America * Environmental Defense Fund *
Friends of the Earth * League of Conservation Voters * National Audubon Society *
National Wildlife Federation * Native American Rights Fund *
Natural Resources Defense Council * Oceana * Physicians for Social Responsibility *
Population Connection * Sierra Club * Voices for Progress

January 16, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We applaud the actions you have taken to reduce economy-wide carbon pollution and your commitment last June “to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution” and “lead the world in a coordinated assault on climate change.” We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve these goals.

In that speech, you referenced that in the past you had put forward an “all of the above” energy strategy, yet noted that we cannot just drill our way out of our energy and climate challenge. We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We understand that the U.S. cannot immediately end its use of fossil fuels and we also appreciate the advantages of being more energy independent. But an “all of the above” approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future. America requires an ambitious energy vision that reduces consumption of these fuels in order to meet the scale of the climate crisis.

An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

Mr. President, we were very heartened by your commitment that the climate impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be “absolutely critical” to the decision and that it would be contrary to the “national interest” to approve a project that would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

Mr. President, we applaud you for your commitment to tackle the climate crisis and to build an economy powered by energy that is clean, safe, secure, and sustainable.

Sincerely,

Wm. Robert Irvin
President and CEO
American Rivers

Robert Wendelgass
President
Clean Water Action

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President and CEO
Defenders of Wildlife

Trip Van Noppen
President
Earthjustice

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Fred Krupp
President
Environmental Defense Fund

Eric Pica
President
Friends of the Earth

John Seager
President
Population Connection
Gene Karpinski
President
League of Conservation Voters

David Yarnold
President and CEO
National Audubon Society

Larry J. Schweiger
President & CEO
National Wildlife Federation

John Echohawk
Executive Director
Native American Rights Fund

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council

Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer
Oceana

Catherine Thomasson, MD
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Sandy Newman
President
Voices for Progress

Carl Pope Stepping Down as Executive Director of Sierra Club

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 23 Jan 2009 18:30:00 GMT

Carl Pope, the 16-year executive director of the Sierra Club, has announced he plans to step down from his position when a new director is found. Pope noted the election of President Obama as “a very exciting time for the Sierra Club and the environmental movement.”

Pope released the following statement:
After 16 years I have decided to step down from my position as Executive Director of the Sierra Club. While I look forward to continuing to serve the Club in a new capacity, I am ready to turn the leadership of the organization over to someone new. Over these years I have made many wonderful friends, and experienced both joyful victories and tragic setbacks in our struggle for a sustainable future. I look forward to many more such victories as I continue this work. My decision comes at a very exciting time for the Sierra Club and the environmental movement. The election of President Barack Obama, and the increase in the number of environmental champions in the Congress, means that after eight years of bitter defense, it is time for America to resume its tradition of environmental leadership.

The Podesta, Pickens, and Pope Power Summit

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 27 Aug 2008 22:02:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

At the Big Tent in Denver, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, and oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens engaged in a discussion about our energy future. Pickens, who believes that our global oil production is at its peak and will soon inexorably decline, discussed his “Pickens Plan” for a massive increase in wind and solar electricity production and a shift for trucking fleets from diesel to natural gas. Podesta noted that the climate crisis is evident today, in the flooding in Florida and the increasing threat of powerful hurricanes. “The cost of doing nothing,” Podesta said, “is extremely substantial.”

This panel of three highly powerful individuals from the environmental, progressive, and conservative energy industry communities represented a remarkable confluence of priorities, in recognizing the energy crisis and the need to get off oil. As Carl Pope described:
If our politics was even vaguely functional, anything that all three of us agree on would have happened long ago. We have some very deep profound political problems. Our politics are broken.

Pickens himself, a highly influential fundraiser for right-wing politicians, described how his money has gotten him access in Washington but that he had learned that his contributions don’t translate to policy. He expressed his enthusiasm for the ability of the Pickens Plan campaign to reach millions on the Internet and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people. He argued, “I’m not doing this to make money. My entire estate will go to charity when I go. We are now importing almost 70 percent of our oil. It’s too much. We’re not talking about my generation—we can make it to the finish line.”

Pope explained what Newt Gingrich and other conservatives are really trying to do with their drill-drill-drill agenda, when they know that lifting the offshore drilling moratorium won’t deliver new oil to this country.

What is it about? It’s about distracting us from the conversation we ought to be having. As long as we’re talking about drill drill drill, it distracts Americans from the fact there’s a chasm between the two candidates. It’s a huge headfake by Karl Rove.

At the end of the conversation, Podesta and Pickens talked about their political differences. Pickens – who helped sponsor the Big Tent – admitted he is inclined to defend oil companies, who work for their shareholders and are run by his friends. When challenged by Podesta for having given significant contributions to “the gang on Capitol Hill who have been blocking the renewable production tax credit,” Pickens, with resignation apparent in his face, said, “I grind on them . . . I don’t have the time.” He argued that he is now trying to act on behalf of the American people, to avoid being partisan, to move past the old politics—the politics that he has spent millions to sustain.

Sierra Club ED Takes Strong Stand on Cap-and-Trade Legislation

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 14 Feb 2008 19:19:00 GMT

The Sierra Club, until today, has stayed on the sidelines during the contretemps over Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191) fueled by a campaign by Friends of the Earth asking Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to “fix or ditch” the bill. The 1.3 million member organization has now made its position clear.

In an essay posted to Grist’s Gristmill blog this afternoon, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope delineates clear principles for endorsing climate legislation, all of which Lieberman-Warner currently fails to satisfy:

  • Reductions in total emissions on the order of 80 percent by 2050 and 20 percent by 2020
  • All allowances should be auctioned or otherwise used to benefit the public
  • Revenue should fund “highest-value solutions”, not coal or nuclear energy
  • Ensure a just transition for workers, protect vulnerable groups, and help induce world action

He compares the current political situation to the one that led to the Clean Air Act in 1971, saying that “Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, fearing that industry would block him on other points, acceded” to the industry insistence to grandfather old plants, and that environmentalists like the 25-year-old Pope went along.

He then responds to Sen. Barbara Boxer and advocates of pushing a climate bill this year hell or high water:
Fast-forward to present day: the carbon industries are lobbying to get a deal done this year that would give away carbon permits free of charge to existing polluters – bribing the sluggish, and slowing down innovation. And politicians are telling us that while it would be better to auction these permits and make polluters pay for putting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, creating that market unfortunately gets in the way of the politics. We are being urged to compromise – to put a system in place quickly, even if it is the wrong system.

Sierra Club Takes McCain to Task for "Lie" about Clean-Energy Non-Vote

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 09 Feb 2008 21:56:00 GMT

Following the one-vote failure on Wednesday of S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140, the Senate stimulus package that contained $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing the vote.

On Thursday, the Sierra Club asked its members to call McCain’s office to ask “why he failed to show up for a vote that could have determined the future of green energy in America.”

Today, Executive Director Carl Pope blistered the office response to member calls in a blog post entitled John McCain Should Be Ashamed.

Immediately, people begin calling and emailing me, saying, “The Senator’s office says he voted for clean energy, and that your alert is wrong.” We check. He didn’t. We call his office. Stunningly, his staff has been coached to mislead callers. “That’s not true at all,” they say, “he voted for the bill yesterday.” Well, he voted, yesterday, but for a different bill. However we phrase the question, we get a lie. “No, if he had voted for the bill, it would not have passed. That was purely procedural.” But McCain’s staff knows that if cloture had been invoked, passage of the bill would then only require 51 votes, and the bill with clean energy would have passed. [Ed.- emphasis added.]