How sharper than a serpent’s tooth: Why are the Energy Action Coalition and “It’s Getting Hot in Here” serving as a platform for The Breakthrough Institute’s anti-climate disinformation?

The world’s youth have every right to demand more climate action than Waxman-Markey provides — since they will suffer most from the Baby Boomers’ greed and myopia when the Ponzi scheme we’ve created at their expense collapses.

And yet as a Saturday NYT piece makes clear — “Disillusioned Environmentalists Turn on Obama as Compromiser” — youth would appear to have misdirected their anger toward true environmental leaders like Obama, Waxman, and Markey.

Worse, part of the “youth” movement — specifically the website “It’s Getting Hot in Here” and by extension the “Energy Action Coalition,” which features that blog prominently on its website — has been partly co-opted by people who are in fact anti-environmental, people who have repeatedly smeared environmental champions with false accusations, people who have consistently proposed infinitely weaker climate action than Waxman-Markey.

Why has there been no major piece of legislative action on global warming, clean energy, or air pollution in the past two decades?  Because increasingly, Republicans will only offer “no” for an answer, while many environmentalists will not take “yes” for an answer.  And that leaves precious little room in the middle.  If moderates know that voting for even moderate climate and clean energy action like the Waxman-Markey bill will unleash a torrent of criticism and attack ads funded by the right wing and fossil fuel companies, but bring only tepid support, if not outright hostility, from the left, then they are in a lose-lose situation.

Fortunately, we aren’t in that helpless and hopeless place quite yet.  The bulk of the environmental and progressive communities understand that, for all its flaws,

  1. Waxman-Markey would complete the transition to a clean energy economy begun in the stimulus bill.
  2. It’s failure would not lead to stronger climate action anytime soon — quite the reverse, it would all but doom any prospect of national and, equally important, international action for the foreseeable future, precisely the time-frame in which strong action must begin if our youth are not going to be left with a ruined climate (see here).

Still, the NYT was able to assemble an impressive array of quotes from people with mostly misdirected anger.  I’m going to focus just on one:

“He was far too quiet during the House debate,” said Jessy Tolkan, the executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, a youth group in Washington that campaigns for clean energy. “He needs to live up to the promises he made to us when we poured our heart and soul into electing him.”

I do think Obama was too quiet during the House debate, as I’ve said.  I also doubt Obama could have changed the final House bill much, given how close the vote was, and given that the biggest weakness in the bill — the 2020 target, which requires only a 17% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels — is (technically) stronger than what Obama campaigned on [I will have to do a separate post on how Obama can legitimately argue for a stronger target].  That said, Obama’s activism will be crucial to Senate passage of a serious energy and climate bill.

And that said, in his short time in office, Obama has so far vastly exceeded all reasonable expectations, particularly on “energy action.”  His stimulus bill (and budget) increased clean energy funding more than every previous president combined in the past 3 decades (see “EIA projects wind at 5% of U.S. electricity in 2012, all renewables at 14%, thanks to Obama stimulus!” and “Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy.”).  His actions in the transportation sector alone represent the single biggest push toward greenhouse gas reductions and efficent vehicles in US history (see “Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 “” The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2“).

Ms. Tolkan said that her organization was hoping to take that point home to the Democratic Party before the midterm elections. “Those who played a leadership role in weakening this bill will feel the wrath of youth political power across the country,” she said. “2010 is not that far away.”

If that is an accurate quote — that is, if that quote is in fact aimed at Democrats trying to craft a bill that would barely pass, as opposed to, say, those Members who always opposed any action — then, as I’ve said, it represents woefully misdirected anger.

Energy Action is a Coalition of 50 organizations — listed here — and I certainly hope they aren’t all going to waste their time campaigning against Members who voted for this bill.  If so, the group should change its name to “Energy Inaction,” since Waxman-Markey would generate more clean energy action than any piece of legislation passed by any country in the history of the world!

But I have another issue with Energy Action, since it is a group that in fact mostly does quite good work and thus probably is too smart to waste its time on such counterproductive activity.  On the first page of their website, they feature “Energy Action Blogs” — and the blog they feature is “It’s Getting Hot in Here.”  Now that otherwise fine blog regularly features posts trashing Waxman-Markey by staffers at The Breakthrough Institute (TBI), the home of anti-environmental, anti-climate disinformation:

Worse, one of TBI’s leading disinformers, Jesse Jenkins, is listed as the “Policy Editor” for “It’s Getting Hot in Here” — with an out-of-date bio that makes no mention whatsoever of his connection to TBI, even though he is Climate & Energy Policy Director at TBI.

Now if “It’s Getting Hot in Here” and “Energy Action” want to undermine their credibility by publishing easily debunked disinformation and bad analysis by Jenkins and TBI, that is their business.  Same if they want to be directly linked to a group who has issued brazen lies about President Obama and Waxman-Markey, like “Supporters of the legislation tout its $1 billion investment in clean energy R&D “” that’s one-fifteenth of what President Obama promised, and one-thirtieth of what energy scientists said in an open letter last year would be needed” — which I debunked here:  “The Breakthrough Institute is lying about Obama, misstating what CBO concluded about Waxman-Markey, and publishing deeply flawed analyses. They have become radioactive “” uncitable by any serious journalist or policy analyst.

But Energy Action is now publicly attacking Waxman-Markey because it is supposedly far too weak to solve the climate problem. Perhaps they are utterly unaware that TBI and Jenkins have repeatedly opposed even far weaker efforts to deal with climate.  TBI has attacked any policy that creates a serious price for carbon — whether cap-and-trade or a tax.  Indeed, S&N have written “cap and trade regulations, which would cap greenhouse gas emissions and allow companies to trade reductions, cannot work in the U.S.”   And they have attacked the possibility of using strong regulations to reduce emissions.  Nordhaus even admitted on CP, “We have argued for five years now that efforts to build the clean energy economy needed to be centrally defined around energy independence not global warming.” Climate science activists they ain’t.

Indeed, in the same June TBI press call notification about a “Telephone Briefing [by Jenkins and Nordhaus] on New Quantitative Analyses of Waxman Markey climate legislation” that included the brazen lie about Obama cited above, The Breakthrough Institute states:

We support a cap and trade policy that:
1) Auctions 100 percent of the pollution allowances;
2) Sets the price for carbon dioxide at between $8 – $12/ton, using safety valves;
3) Does not allow offsetting; and
4) Dedicates all the money from revenues (between $48 bi and $72 bi per year) to technology innovation.

That’s right.  TBI supports a policy that would

  1. Probably get no votes whatsoever in either House of Congress — since it raises energy prices a little across the board but doesn’t give a nickel of it back to consumers, businesses, or low income households.
  2. Does nothing whatsoever to stop new coal plants — and in fact encourages them by removing from the table a shrinking cap that renders new dirty coal plants unprofitable.
  3. Does not offer any strategy in the near-, medium, or long-term for beating the 2.5 to 3 cents a kWh cost of existing coal.  As I think is rather obvious to anybody but The Breakthrough Institute, all the “breakthroughs” in the world can’t make a new zero carbon power plant cheaper than an existing coal plant (see “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 3: The breakthrough technology illusion“).
  4. And fails to mandate targets that would allow international negotiations with other countries as part of either the UNFCCC process at Copenhagen or a bilateral agreement with China.

This proposal is a joke, an insult to genuine climate science advocates.  No one advancing it has any business criticizing Waxman-Markey.

Now Energy Action or anyone else can certainly attack Waxman-Markey as being too weak.  I do it all the time.  They can even devote their time to defeating members of Congress who voted for this bill, if that floats their boat (while sinking ours).  But to do so honestly, they have to articulate and fight for far stronger legislation than Waxman-Markey — preferably legislation that they can show has a realistic chance of becoming law anytime soon (see “The two most important questions that both critics and supporters of Waxman-Markey must answer“).

Energy Action and “It’s Getting Hot in Here” can’t do that as long as they are pimping for The Breakthrough Institute.

Supporters of the legislation tout its $1 billion investment in clean energy R&D “” that’s one-fifteenth of what President Obama promised, and one-thirtieth of what energy scientists said in an open letter last year would be needed.

42 Responses to How sharper than a serpent’s tooth: Why are the Energy Action Coalition and “It’s Getting Hot in Here” serving as a platform for The Breakthrough Institute’s anti-climate disinformation?

  1. Leland Palmer says:

    Thank you, Joe, for your tremendous and tremendously effective efforts.

    While I don’t believe every word you say, I do think that you are sincere, and amazingly energetic.

    So far as TBI is concerned, I think you have them pegged. They are astroturf. Their apparent mission is to cause trouble.

    So far as Waxman/Markey is concerned, Barbara Boxer seemed interested in the July 7th Senate hearing about the few lines of Waxman/Markey that limit EPA authority, and seemed willing to reinstall some of them.

    We couldn’t do any better than Waxman, Markey, and Boxer, IMO. The whole Obama team, including Chu and Lisa Jackson are just tremendous, and are shining examples of American enlightened leadership, I think. These people are sincerely interested in doing something about the climate for the sake of future generations. Regarding Hansen, well, sincere people can and do disagree on complex subjects. Certainly he is knowledgeable and sincere, and knowledgeable sincere people who work hard can often arrive at acceptable compromises.

    We need Waxman/Markey, plus more, IMO. We need to retain all existing EPA authority, though, whether or not it is practical to use it, just in case we need it a few years down the road, and happen to win in court. If the opposition were not afraid of the EPA, they would not have insisted on weakening its authority, IMO.

    I think that the Senate should take the best of the Democratic proposals and the Republican criticism and synthesize them into a stronger bill. I think that the Democrats should give the Republicans nuclear energy, vastly increased biomass usage from forests and agricultural waste, and accelerated “clean coal” development (with the strategy of eventually replacing coal with biochar – resulting in carbon negative power plants) in return for deleting the provisions of Waxman/Markey that deal with limiting EPA authority.

    As a “plan B”, which the Obama administration already seems to be working on regardless of Congress, we need a strengthened and expanded EPA, which seems to be happening.

    The ideal scenario, IMO, would be for Waxman/Markey to be strengthened in the Senate and have the limits on EPA authority removed or modified, giving the Republicans nuclear, expanded biomass, and accelerated “clean coal” in return.

  2. BBHY says:

    Yeah, I know it’s politics and all, but it is frustrating.

    All through the “W” years, there was no compromise at all. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

    In fact, during all that time not only was alternative energy not promoted, but climate science was suppressed and expansion of fossil fuel use was actively encouraged. Energy efficiency was actively discouraged. Does anyone remember federal tax breaks for Hummers? We work our butts off, pay taxes, and the government uses that money to subsidize Hummers? WTF?

    In 2008 the voters made their wishes very clear, but now we are compromising with the very same buttholes that we just worked so hard to vote out of office. How come they didn’t need to compromise but we do?

    It’s only natural to for people to be frustrated. If W-M is the best we can do at this time, I’ll take it, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t want a whole lot more.

  3. Robert Hemphill says:

    I agree with the argument that it is ineffective to target members that voted for a bill. I completely disagree with that and I would rather target members that did not vote for it (Republican or Democrat).

    However, It’s Getting Hot In Here is a blog with many contributors. Although there are editors, generally anyone can write for the blog. After ACES passed, there was a post shouting congratulations.

    What IGHIH does, that your blog does not, is offer a variety of opinions and remembers that each person gets to make up their own mind.

    Lastly, Climate Progess focuses on what is politically feasible. But doesn’t that mean we should push for something stronger while being willing to compromise to get anything passed. And if the compromises become to much, perhaps it is ok to scrap support for a bill, such as what Greenpeace did? That way, everyone gets to make up their own mind.

    I personally support ACES, because, like you, I believe it creates a framework to be improved in the future. But I don’t ever hold anything against groups that won’t support it because it is too weak. I only hold a grudge against groups that think is is too weak and then don’t do anything to make it stronger. That is something EAC and TBI did not do; they continued to try and make it stronger.

  4. BBHY says:

    I used to work at a place where people constantly complained about the temperature. Half we always too hot, and half were always too cold. The boss kept the thermostat locked up and no one was allowed to touch it but him.

    Then one day he said he was tired of all the bitching and we could change the thermostat as much as we wanted. Folks would tweak the ‘stat up or down, and a few minutes later they would say “There, that’s much better”.

    What they didn’t know was that he had disconnected that thermostat, and the temperature was actually controlled by another one behind some shelves.

    A lot of people today are starting to feel like our elections are like that false thermostat. We’re not happy, so we vote the other guy in and say “There, that’s much better”. But in reality, things haven’t changed all that much.

    I feel that way sometimes. Yeah, Obama has made some good changes, and he’s like a billion times better than “W”, but I still see that whether it’s health care, climate, energy, or finance, legislation is pretty much driven by whatever big business wants.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Although I’m not an expert on history, so I’m venturing here with a thought on a very complex matter, I’ll do it anyway:

    It was interesting to me to watch a great documentary on the late poet Allen Ginsberg. A brilliant guy in many ways, and certainly a person with a lot of care for the human condition, and very active, and so forth, he said in a very sincere interview that he (and many others) felt that many people on “the left” (in other words, with many of the same values that he shared; on his own “side”) were ultimately responsible in part for the continuation of Vietnam and thus for all of the deaths that resulted during that period, BECAUSE the left was so divided (even as they all wanted the war stopped) on the “who” of leadership, and on the “how”, that they self-destructed, so Nixon won by a slight margin, and the problem wasn’t solved.

    People on that side of the equation have self-destructed before, and keep doing it again and again and again. Win an election? Gain a majority of the Senate and House? Have a great leader? OK then, it must be time to self-destruct! Let’s find something to fight about amongst ourselves!

    You know (please realize), if people can’t find ways to solve these problems, and to support their leadership, and to capture the rare benefit of having majorities in both parts of Congress, then you know who might become the next President? Is that what you want?

    If you want a great recipe for perpetual national disillusionment, and climate destruction, and perpetual petroleum parties, then a very good way to accomplish all that would be to undermine the present leadership.

    If people really want climate change addressed, some large degree of cooperation will be needed. A very large degree. So, if one faction of one party wants the matter addressed and wants Path A, and another faction of the same party also wants the problem addressed but wants Path B, and if the other party doesn’t even seem to want the problem addressed (or at least, not enough members of that other party), AND if the Path A and Path B people get so caught up in their own Paths and infighting that they don’t support each other, then it’s quite likely (given how math works) that the people who don’t want the problem solved at all will get their way.

    You know, the way our system works, math IS important. Let’s face it.

    People who want the global warming and energy problems solved are going to need to decide whether to support Obama and the legislation presently “on the table”, and then later push for additional legislation and improvements, OR to become part of the failure of the whole thing. They should ask themselves, what plan do they have, on the table, with sufficient support, with a realistic chance to get the train moving, that is better than the present legislation and has a realistic chance of getting passed?

    I know, I know, there’s that word, “realistic”. I often don’t like that word myself. We can often do much better than “realistic”.

    But, considerations don’t always apply the same way we’d like them to apply. If you want to climb Mt. Everest, then the best and most realistic way to do it IS to prepare well, pack well, and take THE FIRST STEP. The first step won’t get you to the top, but it’s the first step that can, and will, help you get there. Yes, we’d all like to just “be” at the top, to magically fly there, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

    So, let’s not (please!) trip ourselves up. If we can’t even take the first step, together, “we’re not gonna get anywhere”.

    (Actually, in real life, it might well be stated, “we’re not gonna get nowhere”, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write the double negative in appealing to climateprogress-ers.)



  6. kai says:

    this is a poorly researched post.

    IGHIH is an open blog community, and thus, contains blogs from a number of viewpoints. If you look through the catalog, you’ll notice everything from the TBI posts to radical enviros/direct action groups to anti-MTR folks, and everything in between. If you had actually taken the chance to read IGHIH for any extended period of time, you would notice that the community has argued AT LENGTH about the role of TBI in our organization. So sorry that our “bios” are not updated every 2 weeks.

    [JR: Try “not updated every 2 years.” And sorry, your argument is a red herring. You have put Jenkins in a position of authority. Arguing at length with each other but not doing anything is, of course, the biggest problem progressives have. The blog is publishing disinformation from a source that, I thought, does not share its values. The fact that you continue to run those posts and keep Jenkins in his position says that you do share his and TBI’s values.]

    Conflating Energy Action’s agenda with TBI’s is another mistake, but I am not a part of the Energy Action team so I will let them defend themselves.

    [JR: I haven’t conflated them. As long as Energy Action touts IGHIH as its primary blog, it is endorsing its posts and its values.]

  7. Nataraj says:

    I’m with BBHY on this.

    What it comes down to is this. Democrats do not have the courage of conviction to do the neccessary. They will easily compromise because somehow they are afraid the voters will punish them otherwise.

    European experience with cap & trade shows that it can be manipulated by lobbiest to make it ineffective.

    What I’d like to know is how will this bill ensure that the temperature will not raise above 2 degrees – if it doesn’t do that we should be honest and point that out.

  8. paulm says:

    7 of the top 10 companies in the world, (6 of top 7) are petroleum refining!

    Our annual ranking of the world’s largest corporations

  9. Andy says:

    Joe: you are right on target with this post.

  10. Hmmmm…

    Joe, I disagree with 90% of what BRI puts out and have argued at length with them.

    To read something truly displaying the diversity of views at IGHIH, just read

    I find BRI’s approach to be extremely arrogant and their analysis to be very shallow and shortsighted and agree with many of your critiques of the group.

    But as far as the idea BRI has some control over IGHIH, you’re are completely off-base on that.

    I – and many other people who vehemently disagree with BRI – post there all the time and (while I see why you would think otherwise) frankly one would never even know Jesse is “Policy Editor” there; it’s a meaningless title so far as I can tell.

    [JR: I didn’t say they had “some control” — just that they had a platform, which implies a tacit endorsement. Now the fact that Jesse has a leading title there implies to me explicit endorsement of their views. This is pretty easy to fix if IGHIH wants to. If they don’t, well, IGHIH will remain broken.]

    While I agree that BRI uses the space to promote their views and I have wished aloud that they posted less there, the idea that they somehow remotely control the airwaves there is completely baseless from my 3 years of time blogging there. Basically any youth climate activist can get posting rights, a fact that I’m sure anyone you ask who blogs there can attest too.

    Simply put, one can blog at IGHIH and be (like myself) a strong critic of ACES coming from a climate justice perspective (I wont even consider supporting anything with carbon offsets or permit give-a-ways) and despise BRI’s approach too.

    While I’m all for criticizing BRI (and do so regularly) this particular line of attack just isn’t accurate.

    Rising Tide North America

    [JR: Please identify the inaccurate statements in my post.]

  11. mcrr says:

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to bash empowered and engaged young people who are calling for bold change. History’s most powerful and effective movements were not realized by the folks with most at stake sitting on the sidelines accepting compromise.

    Yes, we are pissing people off. Yes, we are posing challenges to our allies. Yes, we aren’t accepting compromise. We may seem brash, naive and without nuance. But give us a little credit. We understand that many of the aspects of Waxman Markey that we take issue with will never be realized in this current governance system. But that does NOT mean we should not push for the things we stand for, that we know must be changed.

    I am not a part of the EAC or TBI. But I am fighting tooth and nail alongside these folks because even though we know compromised climate legislation is the only thing politically feasible in this moment, we also refuse to remain voiceless. I hope you all will join us.

  12. Susan says:

    I’m with Paulm. Thanks!

    As for action, yes, we need more. But shooting ourselves in the foot ignores the real problem, which is a disengaged media-gorged population who have been persuaded they don’t need to worry by Inhofe/Morano and their ilk. Don’t underestimate them.

    Let’s support Obama et al. doing what they can when they can – that’s been pretty good so far. If you want improvement, keep at it from within. Like Roosevelt, help him help us.

  13. JWilli says:

    I agree with Susan! It is impossible for one man to please everybody! He can’t help us if we don’t help him. He understands that we aren’t where we need to be on the global warming issue. He somewhat mentioned it in his remarks at the G8 summit. I do believe that he will get us to where we need to be on this global warming issue in a feasible time. No, it will not happen at “the snap of a finger,” but some progress will be made! I have faith! Though in the end, outcomes may not be what YOU expected, it will be a start, and we all know you have to start somewhere. From there, you can progress…

    Here’s what President Obama said in his remarks at the G8 Summit:

  14. DanaWV says:

    It’s Getting Hot in Here is a great blog in that it is really, genuinely grassroots driven. I go there to find out what the kids are thinking about — and more importantly the action they are taking– to stop climate change.

    Sometimes I don’t agree with what the kids are thinking about — but I think the Energy Action Coalition is doing an incredible service providing youth climate activists this huge forum to share and debate, and challenge and inspire.

    Many of the bloggers are funded or influenced by other groups — from Earth First! to Breakthrough — and that diversity of voices is probably not found many other places. I think they deserve to be commended.

  15. Brooks Bridges says:

    The deniers/delayers must be absolutely ecstatic with all the anti WM from the “it’s not good enough” people.

    “Cackling with glee”, ROTFL, spring to mind.

    The deniers/delayers want NOTHING to happen.

    If WM does not pass, they’ve won. It doesn’t get much simpler.

    So, lobby your senators, organize marches, whatever, to strengthen the bill but pass SOMETHING. It’s way past time to do SOMETHING.

  16. Mike#22 says:

    With very few exceptions, people who are not advocating for a very broad application of efficiency+renewables across every sector of our economy either have not done their homework or are working to confuse the issue (conciously or not).

    W-M redirects less than 1% of our GDP into efficiency and renewables. Yes, that is not nearly enough, but the direction is correct. In other words, the vector’s direction is correct, yet the magnitude it too small.

    Criticisms of W-M because it does not move quickly enough are constructive. We understand that the magnitude needs to increase steadily in the coming years, but we also understand we need to get moving now.

    Criticisms of W-M which start by saying the magnitude is too small, and end by concluding that the bill is the wrong direction or just no good are not only not constructive, they can be actual disinformation.

    Given the rich history of the manipulation of public perception of global warming by the oil and coal corporations, we need to fully scrutinize any efforts to portray W-M as “worse than nothing”.

    Some of will be legitimate, but based on past experience, most of it will be dirty tricks.

  17. Leland Palmer says:

    And that said, in his short time in office, Obama has so far vastly exceeded all reasonable expectations, particularly on “energy action.” His stimulus bill (and budget) increased clean energy funding more than every previous president combined in the past 3 decades (see “EIA projects wind at 5% of U.S. electricity in 2012, all renewables at 14%, thanks to Obama stimulus!“ and “Progressives, Obama keep promise to jumpstart clean energy, economy.”). His actions in the transportation sector alone represent the single biggest push toward greenhouse gas reductions and efficent vehicles in US history (see “Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2“).

    This is true. Obama “gets it”. Asked about climate change, he says “it’s happening”. And the people he has appointed, including Chu and Lisa Jackson – and in fact the heads of all of the federal agencies that testified before the Senate on July 7th “get it” as well. It’s a tremendous team. Add in Waxman, Markey, Boxer, and the rest, and it really is a world changing team.

    The opposition is tremendous as well, though, and is hugely rich and hugely stubborn. I am convinced that ExxonMobil wants the Arctic icecap to melt so that they can drill for the estimated 90 billion barrels of oil under our current Arctic icecap, for example. A series of articles, interviews with Dan Rather, and testimony before Congress by Scott Borgerson of the Wall Street dominated Council on Foreign Relations touting the economic benefits of a melting Arctic seems to confirm this.

    Without direct action against this Wall Street “elite” that stole our bailout money, fomented our wars in the Middle East, and now wants the Arctic to melt, we may lose this fight.

    Nationalizing ExxonMobil and JPMorgan/Chase would quiet them down some, IMO.

  18. Bored Tony says:


    As a neutral (and I mean NEUTRAL) party I say this:

    Both sides of this “progressive community” need to not only say what they disagree with (about the other side), but also say what they agree with [sounds like Republicans, no?]

    If not, there is no progress, consensus, or coherent communal movement,

    AND as a result those hearing the rhetoric/argument are very confused [i.e. me]

    Get your act together, stop bitching, and start working. It is called cooperation, people, not this cynical nit-picky “I am far better-paid and better-educated than you” bullshit that progressives flout.

    Get happy, get hungry, stay smart, stay active, and stay progressive.

    Don’t be a bitch.

  19. Steve says:

    Jeff makes a great point! We (as humans) seem to have little capacity for working collectively toward a shared goal. To this point we should give EAC credit for bringing together 50 orgs to promote bold climate policy! They are young and they are learning and they do not have the privilege of directly shaping federal policy. They are grassroots with only tiny arrows to poke our representatives to say hey, we need bold, energy, and climate policy! If EAC had the financial resources (like much of the private sector that shapes our federal/public policy) to lobby they would have a “real” voice in shaping the legislation. The only threat that EAC really has is to say that they will not “reelect” a representative that did not support their values. EAC is pulling the front edge of the envelope, and the fact that we are having this debate is due to their organization and commitment.

    we have the technology, what we lack is the political will to use it!

  20. Joe, perhaps you should give a little more thought as to why in general young climate activists are not willing to compromise on climate legislation. We are the ones fighting for our lives. For those of us who may still be left in 2050, it won’t matter whether civilization collapsed in the face of Dick Cheney’s big F-U to the future or in the face of Obama’s warm-hearted compromise. All that will matter is that we didn’t do enough to protect the survival of life as we know it. I have yet to hear any climate scientist claim that ACES will be sufficient to avoid catastrophe. So why would we settle for halfway to survival?

    Over the past few months of the ACES debate, I have seen an important generational difference in analyzing the bill. Grey headed greens usually compare the bill and its effects to what has been done in the past to deal with climate change. On this scale, ACES is great. But young people much more often compare the bill and its effects to what is necessary for the future. On this scale, ACES clearly fails. Unfortunately, the planet grades more like the latter. Unlike your third grade teacher, Mother Nature does not show leniency just because we’ve improved.

    I think EAC is willing to take a tougher stance on ACES because they have a much better sense of the youth of this country than you. They watched at Power Shift where 12,000 students were told how much power we had and how much Congress would listen to us. As we’ve watched Congress sell out our interests to the fossil fuel industry, those youth are getting pissed. They have given working within the system a try on the hope that the leaders we elected would act in our best interest. If a half-assed climate bill passes, many who don’t pay attention to the details would be satisfied and the movement would dissipate. But if nothing passes, the youth will revolt and the movement will erupt onto the streets.

    It is often said that ACES is the best that our current political situation can provide. I agree this is most likely true. But with our survival at stake, the political limitations are not a reason to settle, they are a reason to take more drastic action and change the political situation. Does anyone really believe that Congress couldn’t pass the McDermott bill or the Larson bill in the face of a national student strike, a national labor strike, and/or sustained civil disobedience across the country? If all those things were going on before Copenhagen, would other countries doubt America’s commitment to solving the climate crisis? We have no illusions that adequate climate legislation could happen without so much social upheaval that it could rightly be called an uprising, we just think it’s that important.

    [JR: Well, first off, people who refuse to compromise achieve very little politically, although it may make them feel better in the short term. Second, the issue is NOT whether you compromise, but whether if you don’t get all you want, you spend your time attacking your allies — or your opponents.

    If youth are seriously going to waste their time trying to defeat people who voted for this bill, then frankly, you’ll become as culpable as your parents in the planet’s ultimate failure to act.

    Third, I really don’t know how many times I need to say this, but the 1987 Montréal protocol would not have stopped CFC concentrations from rising forever, destroying the ozone layer. But it is what was possible at the time — it got strengthened over time, saving the ozone layer. The chances of averting catastrophic climate change our certainly much lower than the chances of saving the ozone layer were — but if this bill fails, the chances drop to near zero.

    Fourth, you have it completely backwards when you say that the movement dissipates after a climate bill passes. That statement is disproven by the history of every major piece of environmental legislation. I predict, however, that if the bill dies, there is NO CHANCE “the youth will revolt and the movement will erupt onto the streets.” If people cared about as much as you say they would be revolting now.

    Fifth, as long as youth websites are serving as platforms for The Breakthrough Institute, then your message is already hopelessly compromised.]

  21. Steve Bloom says:

    I just don’t see it as a problem that some number of Blue Dogs with weak to bad positions on climate action may get serious primary challenges, especially as many of them are equally shaky on health care and a range of other issues.

    Regarding Obama, the time for him to weigh in heavily is during the conference process and subsequent votes.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Well stated, Joe. I attended the EAC’s PowerShift conference earlier this year and it was truly phenomenal. A group of dedicated, passionate and highly intelligent people are leading a massive movement of young people. The work they do is crucial. But, nevertheless, I think they sometimes fall victim to what I call “Greenpeace syndrome.” It seems like they are nearly insatiable – that they cannot be pleased by any accomplishments. The passage of Waxman-Markey in the House is a tremendous accomplishment. To discredit the bills, its sponsors and its supporters shows political blindness and naivete. Don’t get me wrong, I understand where the EAC is coming from and I sympathize for it’s desire to pass a bill that is as strong as any climate change bill MUST be… But, that being said, they need to be politically realistic and savvy; after all, the bill only passed by 7 votes. If it were any stronger, it likely would not have passed. And right now, we could not afford to delay political action. EAC, your work is vital, but you need to give more thought to where your efforts should be directed.

  23. Laura Comer says:

    Mr. Romm, I think you are misinterpreting Jessy’s quote quite severely.

    “Those who played a leadership role in weakening this bill will feel the wrath of youth political power across the country,” she said. “2010 is not that far away.”

    The people she is talking about are those who threatened voting against it so that they could weaken it to the point of ineffectiveness. These were mostly Republicans on the Energy and Commerce committee as myself, and about 40 other youth witnessed as we attended each and everyone of the ACES hearings.

    We are there, we know that we are the voting block that brought change to the last elections, and we are damn sure going to react to this when it comes to the mid-term elections. We are not “going to waste [our] time trying to defeat people who voted for this bill.” I am going to push this topic into the conversation during the elections. I support this bill and understand the need to pass it. I do not support the underhanded efforts of many Blue Dogs and Republicans to offset my clean energy future.

    Additionally, many environmental groups link to IGHIH and that does not mean we support all that is posted. We just recognize that the youth climate movement is a diverse voice and provide it with the arena to share those opinions.

    [JR: I think I am quite clear that it is possible Jessy’s quote has been misused by the journalist to create the impression Jessy is among those planning to attack Democrats who voted for the bill. Jessy should clarify that.

    I understand that merely linking to IGHIH does not represent endorsing everything they post. But if you go to the Energy Action website, the way they feature IGHIH would seem to represent an endorsement.]

  24. Darryl Bone says:

    The Center for American Progress seems to support “Breakthrough” and much of their rhetoric, wholesale!

    The report:
    “Breaking Through on Technology”
    “Overcoming the Barriers to the Development and Wide Deployment of Low-Carbon Technology”

    “Technology is critical for human development and progress. The fight against climate change will not be won without a revolution in the use of existing low-carbon technology and a tidal wave of new inventions. Yet the importance of doing that, especially in healing the rifts in international climate negotiations, is not yet being recognised.”

    [JR: Who can argue that we need a revolution in the use of existing low carbon technology and a tidal wave of new inventions? Without the revolution, tho, the tidal wave is useless. Also, by new inventions, I at least mean mostly near-term technologies and improvements to existing technology. But, in any case, it isn’t the technology message that makes Breakthrough radioactive — it is their neutron bomb attacks on everyone else, their barrage of disinformation, and their misrepresentation of what leading environmentalists say in order to smear them.]

  25. Peebles says:

    Just to add, there are a view folks at the Center for American Progress or its affiliates who contribute to IGHIH, as well.

  26. Ric Merritt says:

    Joe’s reply to #20 Tim DeChristopher has it about right. Tim, for the best chance of an acceptable world in 2050 (by which time I may well be gone, my kids probably still here), accept the ACES compromise for 2009-10, in order to get a messily flawed framework instead of nothing. Then put all that youthful energy and starry-eyed idealism to work for the 2010 and 2012 elections. Just a few percent (a couple senators or several reps) one way or the other will make a huge difference to the path we are on in 2020, 2030, and so on. Replacing a few hard-right deniers with willing compromisers, and a few compromisers with energetic leaders will work way better than blowing all your ammo on the compromisers, hardening the polarization, and maybe even back-sliding on the actual voting membership.

  27. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe quoted the New York Times quoting Jessy Tolkan, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition: “Those who played a leadership role in weakening this bill will feel the wrath of youth political power across the country .. 2010 is not that far away.”

    Joe wrote: “Now Energy Action or anyone else can certainly attack Waxman-Markey as being too weak. I do it all the time. They can even devote their time to defeating members of Congress who voted for this bill …”

    Where does Ms. Tolkan or anyone else from Energy Action say that they intend to “devote their time to defeating members of Congress who voted for this bill” ?

    What she says in the statement you quoted is that Energy Action will devote their time to defeating “those who played a leadership role in weakening this bill“, which is an entirely different matter.

    [JR: You MAY be right. As I say above, Jessy should clarify the remark — that’s what blogs are for — since it is ambiguous, and thus the reporter may have changed its meaning by putting it in the context of an article in which enviros are bashing Obama and other Democrats.]

  28. Laura Comer says:

    Regardless of how that reporter took it, you are wrongly interpreting it.

    What SecularAnimist seems to be getting at, as I am, is that you are attaching the false meaning and making assumptions.

    [JR: I’m afraid that is on Jessy, right now, not me. The way the article is written, my primary interpretation remains accurate, although I have clearly stated that the quote could be out of context. So if Jessy wants to write something for Climate Progress to clarify the statement, I’d love to see it.]

  29. Jim Edelson says:

    Joe, you are 100% spot-on with your criticisms of BTI’s mode of public engagement.

    You are largely spot-on in deconstructing and neutering BTI’s substantive arguments against ACES. However, with the current formulation of offsets policy in the House bill, and with carbon emissions already down 4% and likely to fall further this year, you have not come up with a convincing counter-argument to BTI’s analysis that offsets will satisfy all, or nearly all, of the reductions needed between 2012-2020. Your only argument has been “the supply won’t be there”.

    [JR: The supply won’t be there at the price. Correct. I have gone into a lot of detail on that, if you read all the posts.]

    With the US DOA potentially in charge of granting land-use and farming practices for offsets in agriculture and forestry, where many of the ‘additionality’ criteria are purely regulatory definitions, it seems unlikely that the supply will be so constricted, especially when this is viewed as a farm-income program by those constituencies.

    [JR: Obama is President, not Vilsack.]

    It doesn’t take many hundreds of millions of tonnes of agricultural offsets to drive up the supply, and drive down the price of offsets, to where the offset option becomes cheaper than pollution controls or fuel switching.

    Many of us would like to see your analysis of why the offset titles in the bill do not obviate the need for actual emission reductions.

  30. Greg Robie says:


    In this referenced article the NYT was—again—not very forthcoming on the facts that are define the disagreements about ACES/W-M (i.e. the science). While they don’t seem to care about CP shaming them, this was a missed opportunity for doing so—again.

    If you go the the Speaker’s website and that of the the Architect of the Capitol you can see just how important following through on the conversion of the DC power plant from coal is (NOT). In a “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” dynamic it is an understatement to say leadership is lacking in DC (thought this is an outside-the-beltway perspective that those on the inside may not share).

    If you listen to some of the YouTube videos about the action this article covers, you can hear some of us obese, old, farts/”farttettes” complaining about our pictures being messed up bu the banner, which gives substance to a Tweet from one of the five Breakthrough Institute employees about the Pew survey that says over 50% of American public deny AGW (see ). The one supportive comment I heard on a video was made by a young person with an accent that was “foreign.” Feeling responsible for the Ponzi scheme seems to not be a widely held view by Boomers and older; even a foreign one!

    BTW, as has been pointed out before in comments to CP, without strong criticism of ACES/W-M, how might this thing get meaningfully strengthened (in the scientific sense)? For example, what are the top 10 strengthening changes CAP is advocating/strategizing for relative to ACES/W-M?

  31. kai says:

    You’re right. Support mediocrity! How DARE the youth of this country hope for any kind of significant political change?! How stupid and young they must be, too young to be jaded by the TRUTH of what’s politically possible.

    [JR: Not sure who you are addressing that to, but it certainly isn’t addressed to anything I have said. Right now, the youth message is compromised by the involvement of people who want far, far less than the mediocrity you condemn. We got significant political change in 2008. Now we’ll see if everyone knows what to do with it.]

  32. Start Loving says:

    Keep up your brilliant, hugely important work!

  33. Ryan says:

    I’m with DeChristopher, being politically realistic means getting revolutionary! Half-measures do not help in this situation. FDR created the new deal policies we remember because of the pressure provided by nationwide strikes and the political power generated by the young CIO. I have great distaste for TBI because the are so intensely elitist, anti-participatory democracy and therefore an obstacle to the kind of popular movement necessary. I agree with much if not most of your criticisms of them but that does not make credit give-aways better than auction, or justify making a straw-man argument out of Tolkan’s quote to discredit them.

    The Montreal Protocol compromise worked in large part because the same multinationals producing the CFCs owned the patents for their replacements and could use their monopoly rights for extortion along with saving the Ozone. No parallel exists for Capital in the case of climate change.

    Contrary to “every piece of major environmental legislation,” the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 is a perfect example of a compromise bill put forward when there was still plenty of grassroots pressure building that terribly demobilized the anti-stripmining movement for decades (see Chad Montrie: To Save the Land and People; Shover, Clelland and Lynxweiler: Enforcement or Negotiation).

  34. [JR: I didn’t say they had “some control” — just that they had a platform, which implies a tacit endorsement. Now the fact that Jesse has a leading title there implies to me explicit endorsement of their views. This is pretty easy to fix if IGHIH wants to. If they don’t, well, IGHIH will remain broken.]
    [JR: Please identify the inaccurate statements in my post.]

    You say:
    “But Energy Action is now publicly attacking Waxman-Markey because it is supposedly far too weak to solve the climate problem. Perhaps they are utterly unaware that TBI and Jenkins have repeatedly opposed even far weaker efforts to deal with climate. TBI has attacked any policy that creates a serious price for carbon — whether cap-and-trade or a tax.”

    Come on Joe: This is a straightforward “guilt by association” fallacy, you are clearly stating that because IGHIH has posts from TBI members “EAC is now publicly attacking” something as evidenced by / because the fact that “TBI has attacked…”. You are clearly conflating TBI’s views and EAC views explicitly (or at least very implicitly). If not, why would TBI and EAC’s relationship be the focus of several paragraphs of your post?

    Again, the purpose of IGHIH is explicitly to provide a -/+ open forum for youth climate activists. The viewpoints there just that. BRI gets their say and 60 other parties do as well.

    To say EAC is doing “X,Y,Z” because a few bloggers on an blog whose mission is to be an open forum (not, by contrast, to express EAC’s views) is more than a bit disingenuous in the internet age.

  35. OK, Joe, here is the question I want you to answer: What is your plan for strengthening H.R. 2454, alias Waxman-Markey alias W-M? Supposing, since you have great political wisdom, that you are right and W-M is the best that we can do at the moment. When are you going to make what changes and how are you going to make them? Does H.R. 2454 provide some sort of framework that future Congresses can just plug changes into with less opposition, and will the changes be for the better? How does the process work, in detail? Are you going to wait for the bread riots of 2020 or whenever? Will civilization survive long enough for you to make the changes? Will the water shortages in Kashmir cause a big enough signal to make a change? Can you give us a schedule of changes, including dates? How many years do you think we have before the climate has gotten out of our control?

    I would really like to hear your plan for turning H.R. 2454 from a weak law into a strong law. I would even like to hear a complete history of the other laws that you tell us a little about. How did the Montreal Protocol grow to become what it is today? How did the Clean Air Act grow? How do you know that H.R. 2454 will get stronger with time rather than weaker? I was here when all of this happened, I’m older than you are, but it wasn’t in the news. I was hiding in another executive department. The writers of H.R. 2454 have assumed that we have 50 years in which all of the improvements can be made, and that we have a whole century before civilization falls. I think that the young people are telling you that Waxman’s assumption is just that: an assumption. In 1980, H.R. 2454 would have been a good, strong law. 29 years have slipped by since then.

  36. Doug P. says:

    Perhaps I am lacking the proper perspective on this argument being a very recent climate change blogophile, but I have to point out the very anti-youth feel of this blog post and comments. I got the same feeling about the comments associated with your guest blog by Kyle Gracey
    Just a thought…

    I was on Capitol Hill visiting with my rep. on the day of the vote to urge him to vote in favor (D-ID-Nay unfortunately) and witnessed the turnout of Power Shift Activists urging the passage of ACES. To say that part of the youth climate movement has been co-opted by anti-environment forces might be a bit of an overstatement. Campus Progress, a Center for American Progress program, is a member of the Energy Action Coalition. This seems a bit inconsistent on the part of CAP.

    I turn to to get my ACES news, but feel like I could use a less ra-ra-ra, a little more criticism, and a whole lot less intergenerational quibbling. We have a tremendous opportunity to improve this bill in the Senate, if this bill needs improvements, as you agree it does, let us focus on making those changes rather than praising the bill, and blaming the youth for their idealism.

    Again, just a thought. Props, Respect, Et. Cet…

  37. Jim Beacon says:

    I must say that this blog attracts some of the most literate, thoughtful and well-written comments I’ve seen anywhere on the internet, even when there’s serious disagreement at hand. I do have to support the idea that even if Waxman-Markey cannot be strengthened the Senate, so long as it is not weakened any further we must join together when the vote get near and all of us push for its passage because we simply have to get started on *some kind* of formal framework for the future, no matter how flawed. We’ll just have to fix it as we go along… hopefully as more elections put more true progressives in office.

    But, damn, it is great to see young people getting so fired up and feisty. You go. Keep their feet to the fire even if they are technically correct that you’re being “impractical”. It’s your job to be impractical and motivate the rest of us to reach beyond our comfort zones.

  38. Kyle says:

    * You say – “Now that otherwise fine blog regularly features posts trashing Waxman-Markey by staffers at The Breakthrough Institute (TBI)…”
    But the links you give to TBI’s publications are all from your site. Could you give some examples of TBI posts on IGHIH that you think are bad?

    [JR: You can start here. That is really a shameless piece of misinformation, as I showed here.]

    * Many (most?) Energy Action Coalition members did support ACES in the end. Still, ACES alone, or even combined with Obama’s other actions so far, will not be enough to reduce greenhouse gas pollution fast enough to avoid many costly climate tipping points. There will be plenty of youth activism in the coming years even if ACES passes. Many of us celebrated the House vote (including on IGHIH, as was noted in earlier comments), even as we prepared to push for the level of reductions necessary to secure a safe climate.

    * Joe’s point about Jessy’s quote is right on. Regardless of how she meant it, the nature of the press means it’s up to her to publicly state her meaning if she feels she was misquoted or misrepresented. Otherwise, most people will assume the quote and context are accurate.

    * The Energy Action Coalition and the youth climate movement in general owes part of its success to being open and inclusive. I don’t think censoring them on IGHIH, while letting everyone else publish, is the right response. Rather, it’s up to other posters and readers to point out in the post comments and in their own posts when someone says something that we think is bad, and ESPECIALLY if it is actually incorrect.

    * While those within the Coalition and those who post on IGHIH consider it an open blog, it’s important to realize that people outside of us don’t know this. From their perspective, it does look like EAC is endorsing all posts by promoting them on its site as they are posted. I don’t think the answer is removing the link to the blog, but maybe we could make it more clear that it is open. If you read the About box on the IGHIH page, it says it is a “Community Media Project”, but neither the About box nor the About page actually describe it as an “open forum”.

    * We also feature the IGHIH blog on our homepage, but with a note that we don’t necessarily write nor endorse the posts.

  39. Greg Robie says:

    I want to thank Ryan for correcting the misleading analogy regarding CFCs; Cascadia Brian for parsing what is disingenuous; Kyle, for making CPs point about the NYTs implication concerning Jessy’s quote of in a much more rational way (my related point about the NYT’s framing is still awaiting release from moderation as (perhaps) comment # 29. Concurring with Doug concerning the “ra-ra-ra” nature of more than a few of the recent CP blog posts, Asteroid Miner nails it. What is CAP strategy for strengthening ACES if it is not to become functionally duces? Being against something and being good at nitpicking is the deniers “strength”/ acumen. Such is not the same as having a plan to “strengthen” systemically weakened legislation.

    [JR: Well, I can’t speak for CAP — that is not the way this organization works. I have complete editorial independence from them. But I can certainly tell you from the very highest levels of CAP down to the lowest, we are working as hard as possible to strengthen this bill. Sorry if most of that must inevitably be off the record and behind the scenes. Anyone who thinks I am not working flat out to pass the strongest possible bill, preferably one far stronger than W-M, is not a regular reader of this blog. As for those numerous “ra-ra-ra” posts, I’d love to see some links rather than handwaving.]

    Anyway, is some of the contention expressed here an outside-the-beltway/inside-the-beltway perceptions of moral leadership?

  40. boris555 says:

    bbcnepalinews com,

  41. Ben W. says:

    Just want to point out Richard Graves’ newest post on IGHIH to help guide along this conversation:

  42. Jenna says:

    I’ve attended both national PowerShift conferences (put on by the Energy Action Coalition) and have been receiving their emails, communications, etc for years. Their position has clearly been primarily oppositional to this bill, nearly from the beginning. I don’t think they accurately represent their membership (50+ orgs) in this sense. It reminds me of the Chamber of Commerce position on GW versus several of their largest business members, who do support strong action on GW, and don’t deny its existence. I find these situations to be parallel because every action alert, every email I have received from Energy Action Coalition about HR 2454 has been primarily negative, choosing to position themselves as a “strengthen or don’t pass it” organization.

    At this point, EAC’s primary purpose for existing is to organize PowerShift and organize youth. As I have seen throughout my organizing career, many organizations choose to prioritize volunteer engagement and building activists OVER actually passing the bill. The idea is often that the network of activists will prove more valuable at some future point or that what’s really important is organizing people, especially youth, and not passing legislation/pushing corporate reform/etc etc.

    Jessy’s quote does not surprise me, and I am interested to hear if she will publicly say that she was misquoted or her statements were taken out of context.

    To be honest, youth in this country will not engage in large scale civil disobedience (I’m 25). As a professional organizer for environmental campaigns, I can tell you how hard it is to have anyone, even older folks who engaged in civil disobedience in the past, to engage in any actions beyond feel-good, “celebratory” actions. American youth doesn’t have the stomach for this. Moreover, I find it highly unlikely that Americans will engage in large-scale strikes, walk-outs, etc. Right now, we do NOT NEED a “revolution” along these lines. We need to fundamentally change the American mindset by putting a cap on carbon, and putting a price on carbon. This is the #1 thing we can do to change our country and our world.

    Waxman-Markey does just this – without it, our window swiftly closes, and I do NOT want to spend the next decade trying to do what we could have done this year.