“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” President Barack Obama declared today in front of the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati with the state of Kentucky. Obama’s challenge to Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to support legislation that would pay for the rebuilding of the outdated bridge echoed Reagan’s famous exhortation to Mikhail Gorbachev (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”).
In his fiery speech, Obama also challenged Republicans to choose their priorities:
Would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or do you want construction workers to have a job rebuilding our bridges?
The Brent Space Bridge is both in deteriorating condition and incapable of handling the volume of traffic in the area. United Parcel Service trucks “avoid the bridge as much as possible,” going far out of their way to avoid the bridge’s gridlock. American infrastructure is in rapid decline, falling to 16th in the world behind other industrialized countries and emerging economies. The Urban Land Institute and Ernst and Young estimate that the United States has $2 trillion in needed infrastructure repairs.
Obama’s challenge referred to the fact that his $447 billion jobs bill is partly funded by closing $40 billion in oil company subsidies.
The president is offering an alternative to the debate that conservatives want Americans to have, such as the false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
The two brothers who bankroll climate denial and the Tea Party extremists keep getting richer. Forbes estimates that pollutocrats Charles and David Koch have a fortune of $25 billion each, making them the fourth (and fifth) richest Americans.
Gates and Buffett are an interesting contrast to the Kochs. Gates and Buffett devote more and more of their money to helping the developing world deal with ever-worsening impacts of climate change (though Buffett profits from pollution, too). The Kochs work tirelessly to enrich themselves while destroying the climate. Guess which pair is going to win?
Let’s look closer at why the Kochs are poised to become the richest Americans.
By Climate Guest Blogger and Joe Romm on Sep 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm
Chris Mooney dismantles an embarrassingly bad instance of false equivalence in USA Today. I throw in my ten cents at the end.
Political conservatives in the U.S. today have overwhelming problems with science. They reject, in large numbers, mainstream and accepted knowledge on fundamental things about humans and the planet–evolution, global warming, to name a few. I also recently posted about how systematically conservatives undermine science with respect to reproductive health.
And this is still just the tip of the iceberg.
When this kind of thing gets pointed out, there is one response you can count on: Someone tries to show that liberals do the same thing. This typically involves finding a few relatively fringe things that some progressives cling to that might be labeled anti-scientific. But usually, the allegedly anti-science position is not mainstream or has relatively little political influence. Sometimes, the argument is even weaker still, because science-related policy disagreements are confused with cases of science rejection, ignoring a very basic distinction that is central to any discussion in this area.
Case in point: An oped in USA Today by one Alex Berezow arguing that
In short, for every anti-science Republican that exists, there is at least one anti-science Democrat. Neither party has a monopoly on scientific illiteracy. Indeed, ignorance has reached epidemic proportions inside the Beltway.
This is a truly mind-boggling statement. What is this numerical claim based on?
By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
At a Center for American Progress Action Fund event yesterday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sat down with CAP Distinguished Senior Fellow Carol Browner to discuss jobs created from conservation of public lands, supporting rural America, feeding the hungry, and other priorities at the Agriculture Department. He also took a moment to talk about extreme weather events related to climate change, and how it is “hard to explain” that anyone could not realize that the climate is changing:
BROWNER: It’s nice to hear someone use the word “climate change” in this current political debate we have going on about the science.
VILSACK: Can I just say something about that?
BROWNER: [Laughs] This was not in the script.
VILSACK: No it wasn’t but I think it’s important to point out what’s happening here. We have record droughts in the southern part of our country, record droughts. We have record snowfall and snowmelt in the northern part of our country which is now causing significant flooding challenges. The average, and the worst week of tornados we’ve ever experienced in this country is roughly about 150 tornados in a week; in May we had 350 tornados in one week. We had a hurricane and a tropical storm that didn’t just impact the coast areas as it normally does, but was in upstate New York—upstate New York—looking at damage resulting from the storm that basically wiped out whole fields of agricultural crops—whole fields. Folks who had never experienced flooding conditions, that were directly related to a storm that was hundreds of miles away. If people don’t understand that the climate is changing, it’s just hard to explain how anybody could not see that, given this year that we’ve had with natural disasters.
The Center for American Progress and Think Progress have been closely following extreme weather events and “global boiling.” In a report in April of this year, we looked at disasters in 2010 and early 2011 to discuss how extreme weather is the new normal, and what seems extreme now will become commonplace in the future. These events can have extraordinary impacts on Americans’ lives, as the report states:
The extreme weather of 2010 exacted a huge human and economic toll as well. More than 380 people died and 1,700 were injured due to weather events in the United States throughout the year. And the magnitude of these events forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to declare 81 disasters last year. For nearly 60 years, the annual average has been 33. In 2010, total damages exceeded a whopping $6.7 billion. As of April 2011, FEMA had dedicated more than $2 billion in financial assistance to those harmed by extreme weather in 2010.
The report also dives into details about how each state fared in terms of weather-related disasters last year. It’s no wonder that Secretary Vilsack spoke about climate change the way that he did — his home state of Iowa saw 2,469 extreme weather events in 2010. And yet, Republican presidential candidates continue to deny the increasing links between extreme weather and climate change, and their impacts on agriculture and rural America. As Rick Perry told a crowd at the Iowa State Fair in August, “we’ll be fine.”
John Fleming (R-LA): This was paid for by you say the evil oil money…what was your point in saying it was paid for by the oil industry? I’m looking around here on the dais and I can’t find any of your data. Where is your data, sir?
Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters: It’s at the Department of Labor, the EIA [Energy Information Administration], the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey], it’s all from government studies.
The refuge, with its large herds of calving caribou and a range of other natural riches, is a particular target of Republican legislators hoping to tap it for $1.4 billion in deficit-reducing oil-lease revenues.
A review of the facts is necessary when debating drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:
With no significant job or revenue growth, what does Arctic Refuge drilling do for America? It destroys a place that millions of us have fought to protect for the past 50 years while filling the pockets of those fantastically wealthy oil companies. Luckily, there is an alternative. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) called for cutting the $43 billion in taxpayer handouts to oil companies over the next 10 years, ending royalty-free drilling on public lands offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for another $9.5 billion over the next 10 years, and repealing the royalty giveaway to Gulf states for another $1.9 billion. As he said:
All told, over the next 10 years these Democratic ideas would reduce our deficit 20 times as much as opening up the Arctic Refuge to drilling. To put it in perspective, if these Democratic ideas were the height of the Empire State Building, the Republican plan to drill in the Refuge would occupy only the first five floors.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm
New Bill Prevents Regulations on Airborne Toxics for One Year, Helps Dirty Energy Companies
by Daniel J. Weiss and Matthew Kasper
On September 12, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and 20 of her colleagues introduced the Regulatory Time-Out Act, S. 1538. This bill would establish a one-year moratorium on regulations from the executive branch and independent regulatory agencies. It also would benefit big energy companies by stopping controls on airborne toxic chemicals from major sources. Not surprisingly, these 21 senators received $20 million in campaign contributions from the energy and natural resources sector since 1989.
Sen. Collins said: “Under my bill, no ‘significant’ final rule that would have an adverse impact could go into effect during a 1-year moratorium.” It would apply to rules that cost business more than $100 million annually, which includes most major public health safeguards.
These emissions can make breathing difficult and can worsen asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis and other lung diseases. These pollutants can cause heart attacks and strokes, lung cancer and other cancers, birth defects and premature death.
The American Lung Association projects that these two pollution reduction requirements would save at least 51,000 lives and prevent over half a million asthma attacks every year.
ThinkProgress Green is reporting live from the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.
In a roundtable discussion with a diverse group of bloggers, former President Bill Clinton addressed many facets of the challenges caused by global warming pollution, and also what he believed are the opportunities for building a global green economy. Clinton spoke passionately about the challenge of climate refugees, who are growing in number as floods, storms and droughts grow more intense and frequent:
You have to assume because of climate change there will be a lot more refugees. The laws which exist are built for a different time, when you’d have a surge from a particular country because of a particular disaster or event. That’s almost certainly not going to work now. The countries who take the most refugees should try to reach an agreement on broadbased strategies.
In addition to policy changes that reflect our changing world, Clinton said that the culture of how people in developed countries perceive immigrants and refugees needs to change.
“America needs to become more pro-immigration again. I think it helps our economy. In the refugee category the United States and other countries need to create opportunities for housing and jobs, even if it increases the likelihood they want to stay.” Clinton rejected the idea that it makes sense to have policies that prevent integration of people who can’t quickly return to their homeland. “Keeping people in long-term limbo is a waste of human potential.”
Despite technology’s march toward more efficient and distributed energy production, there’s a substantial tension between the decentralized opportunity and the institutional and policy inertia generated from a century dominated by the paradigm of centralized generation. Motivated by the urgency of global climate change, many renewable energy advocates hope to transform the electricity grid by building ever-larger wind farms and solar power projects in remote regions, and sending power across the super grid to cities. These competing visions for the grid will compete for limited resources for clean energy development.
The tension between decentralized and centralized is most clearly seen in the battles over the construction of a new high voltage transmission network. In 2005 Congress gave the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) new authority to accelerate the construction of this network. The new law allowed FERC to approve a new transmission line if the state utility commission had not done so in one year after submission of the request. FERC then asserted its authority to overrule states that disapproved of the request for a new transmission line. The federal courts twice ruled that FERC did not have this authority.
States have actively expressed their opposition to being forced to pay for a new transmission infrastructure that assumes they will be importers rather than generators of renewable energy. Ten East Coast governors signed a letter to Congress in 2009 asking them to reconsider proposed legislation pre-empting state authority over new transmission. Editorials in the Detroit Free Press in 2011 decry the cost to Michigan ratepayers of expanding high-voltage transmission that largely uses Michigan as a waypoint between windy points West and big cities to the East.
The existing electricity system – and the rules that govern it – privilege money and power, and punishes people and communities of the 21st century paradigm.
The vision of a distributed electricity system requires designing policies that can overcome a number of roadblocks.
During a Fox News interview yesterday about crumbling bridges in Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) used the opportunity to lash out against a different target: bike paths.
President Obama will visit a dilapidated bridge joining Ohio and Kentucky today, a matter that Fox host Neil Cavuto posed to Kentucky’s junior senator. Paul, who opposes the president’s jobs plan that would put thousands of construction workers back in a job fixing roads and bridges, said he would attend the event with a different proposal. Paul argued that we ought to pay for bridge repairs by cutting funding for bike paths because it was “craziness.”
CAVUTO: Could I get your take on the president’s posture on all of this and what some are calling stimulus and he’s going to be pushing a lot more in the infrastructure route beginning tomorrow and over the next few days. What do you make of that and whether this time the White House feels it has a more supporting public?
PAUL: The interesting thing is he’s coming to my state tomorrow to inspect one of the bridges in northern Kentucky and I’m going to be there. He invited me to come. I’m also going to be there with a suggestion of legislation that I will be introducing that would pay for an emergency fund to fund our bridges. Right now we set aside 10 percent for bike paths and turtle tunnels and squirrel sanctuaries and all this craziness. I’m going to say, “let’s take 10 percent of the highway fund, set it aside for emergencies, then have a national priority list and say if this bridge is closed down that’s a national emergency, let’s fix it as a priority.”
The president’s jobs plan is paid for by a number of different mechanisms, including the “Buffett Rule” which would increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires. Republicans are adamantly opposed to raising taxes on billionaires, including Paul who would rather defund bike paths and other infrastructure projects than slightly increase the marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.
Paul isn’t the first Republican to see a pernicious nature behind bicycling. Last fall, Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes declared that Denver’s bike-sharing program was a “well-disguised” effort to turn the city into a “United Nations community.”
If the House Oversight Committee wants to be consistent with its stated reason for investigating Solyndra, the committee should probe Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) clean energy loans as well.
On Tuesday, Issa explained on CSPAN that the purpose of his investigation would be to take a broader look into the very idea of clean energy loan programs. Although Solyndra’s investors include an influential Republican donor, Issa and other Republicans on his committee have singled out one Obama fundraiser who also invested in the company as evidence of crony capitalism. He called the Republican-created clean energy loan system, the one that benefitted Solyndra, an example of the government picking “winners and losers” and an “easy way to end up with corruption in government”:
ISSA: In the case of the president’s people, in the case of Henry Waxman, clearly he had people who saw a link between their campaign contributions, their ideological bent, and these companies.
As Bloomberg’s Jim Snyder reported yesterday, Issa sent letters to the Department of Energy requesting money for companies using a clean energy loan program similar to the one denounced this week as inherently corrupt. On Jan. 14, 2010, Issa sent a letter to Secretary Chu requesting an expedited loan to Aptera Motors, a start-up electric car company. Issa said the company would create jobs and “aid U.S long-term energy goals by shifting away from fossil fuels and using viable renewable energy sources like plug-in electric energy.” He also sent a letter along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the Obama administration requesting a government loan to a green tech battery company.
Issa’s spokesman says that Aptera deserved the taxpayer-subsidized loan, and that certainly may be the case. However, Issa said his investigation will probe campaign contributions and their relation to the decision to award such loans.
It turns out that a financial backer of Aptera, the company Issa assisted with a loan request, is a major Republican donor and a contributor to Issa.
According to GreenVC, one of the investors backing Aptera is the Beall Family Trust. The Beall Family Trust is controlled by Don Beall, the former CEO of Rockwell. Beall, now a board member of Aptera, happens to be a Republican donor in California. A political action committee he helped found and fund, the New Majority PAC, has contributed at least$15,000to Issa over the years.
Beall has given to the McCain campaign, the Bush campaigns, and various party and congressional campaign accounts. As Lucas O’Connor notes, Beall’s profile as a major donor makes him a “good friend to have for any California Republican looking to improve their profile, their influence, or their office.” Beall gave one direct donation to Issa, a $250 check. The donation came just two months before Issa sent a letter recommending the government loan to Beall’s company, Aptera.
Aptera isn’t the only company with campaign ties to Issa that the congressman attempted to help. In 2006, executives from the defense contractor Vertigo Inc. contributed at least $6,500 to Issa’s campaign. The next year, Issa made an earmark request specifically for the company. In 2008, the defense appropriations bill awarded the company with a $1,440,000 earmark. Issa was the only member of Congress to add his name to the request.
Crony capitalism should be investigated by Congress, from the revolving door to the undue influence of selfish special interests. For Issa to avoid the appearance of a partisan witch-hunt, the Oversight Committee investigation should consider Issa’s own involvement in clean energy loans.
Last month, ThinkProgress Green reported that dozens of Texas climate scientists disagreed with Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) argument that climate science is a corrupt cult of conspiracy. Gerald North, Texas A&M’s distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography, “puts 35 years of experience behind the view that there’s no longer any doubt that the planet is warming,” writes the San Antonio Express-News.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is leading his party’s charge against green jobs. The Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and his fellow Republicans call the reality of green jobs a “propaganda tool” that is part of a “political ideology.”
But before taking on his politically advantageous anti-green jobs crusade, Issa sought government funds from the Department of Energy for an advanced battery manufacturing plant, saying it would help create “green collar” jobs.
“Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Motors will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” Issa wrote in letters obtained yesterday.
Issa also signed a June 22, 2009, letter to Chu promoting battery maker Quallion LLC, based in Sylmar, California. An Energy Department clean-energy grant might create more than 2,300 jobs nationwide, according to the letter, which was signed by Issa and 16 members of California’s delegation.
The grant program is a “huge step forward” to improving the environment, eliminating dependence on foreign oil and creating a modern “green collar” U.S. workforce, according to the letter.
But that isn’t all. Issa also claims the loan guarantee program — a financing tool signed into law by the Bush Administration that helps leverage private capital for projects — “picks winners and losers.” However, like his Colleague Fred Upton, Issa has been a major supporter of loan guarantees in the past for nuclear projects.
Our guest blogger is Julia Nerbonne, the 350.org organizer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Here in the Twin Cities things are heating up in the grassroots climate movement. This Saturday, we’ll be joining with people in nearly 170 countries across the world to celebrate Moving Planet, a global day of action to move beyond fossil fuels.
After our event as part of last year’s 350.org Global Work Party, when we pulled over 500 people together for a rally to successfully shut down the last coal-burning plant in Minneapolis, we realized we might be on to something. Fast forward to today: after months of meetings, countless phone calls, 40,000 email blasts, a brand spanking new web page, and a handful of great radio interviews, thousands of people will come together on the grounds of the Minnesota state Capitol this weekend. Faith leaders from across the state, cyclists en masse, and great big puppets will be there all calling for bold action to address climate change.
We aren’t alone. We’ll be sending a strong message to our leaders that if they won’t stand up for a livable planet, we will! That message will be echoed through more than 2,000 events, and more than 700 of those will be in the United States. We’ll be standing with folks in Bali, Boston, London, Columbus, Auckland, San Antonio, Nairobi, Denver, carrying one message: move beyond fossil fuels.
Here in Minnesota, it’s not just our scrappy organizing team anymore. The Minneapolis movement has ballooned with the support of nearly 40 partner organizations, from churches to solar panel installers, from labor to public health officials, from farmers to human rights groups.
Whether you are in Minnesota or Mali, we hope you join us on September 24th to call for bold action on climate change. We also hope you stand with us after Sept. 24. No one else is leading the way for us. Let’s get moving.
The World Bank is calling on developed countries to cut out the roughly $50 billion in consumption and production subsidies for fossil fuels. But unlike proposals in the U.S. to use that money for domestic infrastructure projects, the World Bank thinks it should be used as climate aid for developing countries.
Technically, the World Bank hasn’t called on OECD countries to do anything yet. The proposal, which will be released at UN climate talks in November, was leaked to the Guardian newspaper and printed yesterday evening. The documents paint a dark picture for the future of international climate finance, unless a fresh approach is taken to raise the needed funds:
The good news? Cuban energy officials are taking the lessons of the BP oil spill disaster very seriously, according to a group of oil drilling and environmental experts just back from Cuba, including the co-chairman of the Bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (also former EPA administrator), the head of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a former senior executive for Royal Dutch Shell, and a longtime Cuba expert with the Environmental Defense Fund.
The bad news? Less than three months before deep water drilling begins in Cuban waters in the Gulf of Mexico, neither Congress nor the Obama administration has taken the necessary steps to help prevent or respond to a similar disaster that could impact even more US coastline. Granted, it seems a bit far-fetched to imagine the present Congress sending any legislation to the president these days, so the burden of preparedness essentially rests with the administration.
That’s got CNN’s Fareed Zakaria wondering, “What in the World?”
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading. What are you?
In lobbying for a presidential permit to construct a massive tar sands pipeline stretching from Canada to the Gulf Coast, TransCanada’s Paul Elliott — a former campaign official for now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — has tried nearly every angle. [Washington Post]
Between March and August, BP’s PAC made more than $50,000 in federal-level campaign contributions, ranking it among the cycle’s more generous donors. [Politico]
Austin is in the middle of its worst smog season in five years, and Texas has seven of the smoggiest metropolitan areas in the country, according to an environmental study released Wednesday. [Austin Statesman]
Over the weekend more than 100 Shuar indigenous people, also known as Wampis, blockaded the Morona River in Peru in an effort to stop exploratory oil drilling by Canadian-owned Talisman Energy. [MongaBay]
Fearing another blow to a still-fragile housing market, real estate agents are pushing Congress to grant a long-term extension to the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire this month for the 10th time in two years. [SoMdNews]
By Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 22, 2011 at 8:56 am
by Cole Mellino
A new report released this week finds that demand for organics may create up to 42,000 jobs by 2015, up from 14,000 today.
That’s only a fraction of the 980,000 farmers in the U.S. But the organization that released the report, the Organic Farming Research Foundation, is calling on Congress to consider the growing economic impact of organic farming as it reconfigures the 2012 farm bill. Due to the rapid growth in consumer demand for organics and the labor-intensity of organic farming, OFRF says that job creation in the sector can more than double the rate of the conventional sector:
As our country has been dramatically affected by the worst economic downturn in 80 years, the organic industry has remained in positive growth territory and has come out of the recession hiring employees, adding farmers, and increasing revenue. The organic industry has grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $29 billion in 2010, with an annual growth rate of 19 percent from 1997- 2008. The organic agriculture sector grew by 8 percent in 2010.
The latest data indicate that 96 percent of organic operations nation-wide are planning to maintain or increase employment levels in 2011. Organic farms hired an average of 61 year-round employees compared with 28 year-round employees hired on conventional farms, according to a recent survey of organic and conventional farmers in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi.
In order to stimulate more jobs in organic farming, OFRF is calling on Congress to increase funding or research in the sector, create financial coverage for farms that are contaminated by neighboring genetically modified crops, extend insurance for cover crops, increase pesticide regulation, and enable the military and other government institutions to purchase more organics for food programs.
A major report released jointly this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Center for American Progress and the National Wildlife Federation finds that nearly one in two Latinos live in areas where breathing is unhealthy and even deadly.
This report comes on the heels of a shocking announcement from President Obama, blocking his own administration from adopting stronger smog standards that would have saved thousands of lives. Citing the need to reduce “regulatory burdens” as the motivation for delaying this critical rule, the administration has effectively put the profits of a few polluting industries ahead of the health and safety of the fastest growing population group in the country.
For the approximately 23 million Latinos living in unhealthy and possibly deadly air pollution, time is not a luxury. Latino children are 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than white children, and as a group Latinos are more likely to die from this disease than whites.
I love it when my passions collide. As both a life-long skier and a writer concerned about the impact of climate change, it’s nice to see that the action-sports community is trying to educate folks about climate and energy issues – particularly when the audience they’re influencing is a much younger generation.
Every fall, I go on a buying spree and collect most of the year’s ski videos that have just been released. Each year, the filming, riding and themes get better. But this fall, there’s a new video coming out that makes me particularly excited: All.I.Can.
This two-year project features stunning cinematography capturing the impact of climate change at mountains all over the world. The filmmakers blend a healthy mix of personal stories, breathtaking images of environmental change, and of course, some of the best skiing ever captured on film.
Check out the 6-minute trailer below. (And if you haven’t seen what athletes have been doing on skis in, say, the last 10 years, prepare to be blown away.)
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.