I don’t tend to think you can draw any broader conclusions from the acts of one demented, violent individual — as I’ve said before.
Giffords is, however, beloved of the solar energy community, who sent out a note about her Sunday, and that deserves a post. Perhaps the best thing is to reprint what the inside-the-beltway center-right mavens at Politico wrote about her today. Let’s start with their Morning Energy update:
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS – “Gabby is not only one of the strongest advocates for solar in Congress, but an excellent example of everything a public servant should be,” Solar Energy Industries Association president and chief executive Rhone Resch said in a note to the group’s members over the weekend. “The attack on Congresswoman Giffords is a mindless act of violence that defies reason and explanation. I hope that Gabby is able to make a full recovery and return to her duties in Washington, not only because she has been a tireless advocate for solar, but because she has been an excellent public servant for Arizona’s 8th District and the American people.”
Much like the rest of the nation, the D.C. energy community’s focus this morning is largely dominated by the tragic shooting in Tucson, which left six people dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The Morning Energy team suggests you check out the POLITICO home site for comprehensive coverage of this past weekend’s events and their political aftermath. But, for now, ME offers you some brief background on the Arizona Democrat and her energy positions.
FROM DAY ONE – Giffords has been a vocal supporter of the solar industry, as well as renewable energy as a whole, for her entire congressional career. She used her inaugural floor speech after she was elected for the first time in 2006 to call for the repeal of billions in tax incentives for oil companies in favor of renewable energy subsidies and the founding of a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve.
Environmentalists and clean energy advocates ME spoke to over the weekend praised Giffords for voting in favor of Waxman-Markey (a risky political decision in her competitive district) and touted her as a key supporter of a number of clean energy efforts, including the recent one-year extension of treasury grants for solar and other renewable sectors.
Giffords also introduced the Solar Technology Roadmap Act that would dedicate $2 billion to new research partnerships and demonstration projects for solar energy technologies. That bill received endorsements from the solar industry and the National Association of Manufacturing, and easily passed the House, 310-106, in October 2009. She has also launched a “Solar Power 101″ educational series back in her home state.
POLITICO’s Darren Samuelsohn has a look at the conservative backlash that occurred last June after Giffords asked Gen. David Petraeus to explain whether he had any plans to use solar panels and hydropower to increase fuel efficiency in an otherwise dangerous battle zone. http://politi.co/hNiEdw
Samuelsohn’s piece is also worth reading, mostly because it shows how disconnected the dirty energy crowd is from the actually security needs of the military in places like Afghanistan:
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords drew the wrath of conservatives last June after questioning a top U.S. official over how green the country’s military operations are in Afghanistan, with clips of the exchange prompting some of the heated rhetoric that local police officials say is to blame for the lone gunman who shot her and 19 others in Tucson on Saturday.
Glenn Beck, conservative columnists and one of Giffords’ Republican primary opponents piled on after the Arizona Democrat asked Gen. David Petraeus to explain whether he had any plans to use solar panels and hydropower to increase fuel efficiency in an otherwise dangerous battle zone.
Clips of the Giffords-Petraeus exchange during a House Armed Services Committee hearing quickly went viral during the summer, as critics questioned Giffords for bringing up the issue in the first place.
At the hearing, Giffords premised her question by highlighting the public’s attention to conservation issues following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as well as the Defense Department’s status as the largest domestic user of energy. She also cited U.S. fuel supply lines that have been under threat in Afghanistan.
“In places like Kandahar, where we have a large presence, we have been plugged into a very unsustainable and incapable grid system,” Giffords said. “We know that a major part of the upcoming Kandahar offensive will include some serious repairs and upgrades to the energy system, which will include small-scale solar and hydropower systems and also some solar-powered street lights. I’m just curious, General, whether or not there’s plans to utilize any of these same technologies at our bases around Afghanistan, and wouldn’t that greatly reduce our need for fuel?”
Petraeus’s response downplayed the supply line attacks and noted the military doesn’t have access to hydropower at its Afghanistan bases. But he acknowledged Giffords’ point that the military is trying to conserve energy, mentioning billions of dollars in savings during the Iraq war that came from pumping extra insulation into rudimentary buildings and sometimes even tents.
“I pause because there are a couple different components to what we’re trying to do with respect to energy reduction, if you will, and that’s really what it is about,” Petraeus said. “There’s a fairly comprehensive effort in that regard.”
On Beck’s radio program, co-host Pat Gray offered his own interpretation of Petraeus’ comments. “I pause because that’s the dumbest thing anybody’s ever asked me, you moron,” Gray said. “Are you really asking me, a four-star, a five-star general, what is Petraeus, if I’m getting solar-powered panels on our Afghanistan bases? Is that really the biggest concern I should have right now? Renewable energy on our military bases when we’re fighting a war? You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s unbelievable.”
Beck added: “That’s unsustainable. This whole system is unsustainable.”
The Red State blog posted the video and an accompanying article with the headline: “Rep. Giffords to Petraeus: You’re Fighting Two Wars? But What About Windmills?”
Greg Halvorson, a Portland-based columnist and host of the Freedom Warrior Radio program, urged readers on the blog American Thinker to “hope and pray that Gabs loses in November.”
“Fellow Americans, you have got to be kidding me. This isn’t possible. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), a sitting member of Congress, did not ask General David Petraeus, who flew half way around the world to address battle issues-she did NOT ask him about SOLAR-POWERED STREET LIGHTS! Oh, yes she did!” he wrote in a column titled, “Arizona’s Rep. Giffords goes moonbat on Petraeus.”
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the congresswoman’s question also became an issue in her reelection campaign when GOP primary candidate Jonathan Paton put out a press release that claimed Giffords wanted to know what Petraeus was doing “to reduce carbon emissions while fighting terrorists.”
“Of all the things we need to be worrying about, that’s her main focus?” Paton, an Arizona state senator, said in the statement. “Our soldiers are in harms way, and she’s worried about solar panels.”
Giffords pushed back against Paton, saying he “completely fails to understand why our nation’s top military leaders consider our dependence on fuel a strategic disadvantage, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“Even Osama bin Laden recognizes the threat posed by our military’s dependence on fuel supply, calling oil our military’s ‘umbilical cord’ and telling terrorists to ‘focus your operations on oil, especially in Iraq and the Gulf area, since this will cause the [Americans] to die off,'” Giffords said.
Two years ago, I sat on the Defense Science Board Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy, which took testimony and wrote a report, More Fight “” Less Fuel, on how energy efficiency and renewables makes sense “” and can save lives “” for the military. The findings are here.
There is no question whatsoever that Gifford was right. Indeed, the military is quite concerned about this issue. Even Joint Chiefs chair Mullen gave a long speech on “achieving energy security in a sustainable world” in which he noted “A fully burdened cost of diesel fuel approached $400 a gallon.”
Giffords also criticized Paton for issuing a hastily written press release for political gain, citing the misspelling of the word ‘soldier’ in the statement. (Paton lost in the GOP primary.)
The three-term congresswoman is one of the most vocal advocates for solar power and has championed more federal help overall for renewable energy.
But she’s been a regular target of conservatives in her district. Video from a July 2009 tea party rally in Tucson available on YouTube shows conservatives carrying signs calling Giffords a ‘cap n traitor’ for her vote on the House global warming bill.
Bill Thornton, a local Sierra Club activist in Tucson, told POLITICO that Giffords deserves credit for supporting the 2009 House climate change bill despite the political risks. “It was all risk and no reward,” he said.
Giffords, he added, also did a solid job defending herself against the attacks from conservatives critical of her question about the military’s energy use. “It’s a vital security issue,” said the 67-year old retired safety consultant. “Her opponents tried to hit her with that a couple of times, pointing the finger at her, saying she’s just another hippie tree hugger and she doesn’t know what’s going on. It really backfired.”
Let’s hope Giffords make a full recovery and join the President today in the moment of silence to honor the victims.
NOTE: Please keep the comments civil. This is NOT WattsUpWithThat.