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Gabrielle Giffords a ‘tireless advocate’ for solar energy

By Joe Romm  

"Gabrielle Giffords a ‘tireless advocate’ for solar energy"

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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.

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

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22 Responses to Gabrielle Giffords a ‘tireless advocate’ for solar energy

  1. Esop says:

    I wish all the best and a speedy recovery for Gifford.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Daniel Ives says:

    Thanks for this post Joe, particularly the opening sentence. When I first heard about this shooting tragedy, I was very tempted to lay the blame on the Tea Party or Right-wing hate speech promoters. But remembering the Discovery Channel incident, I became very angry when people attempted to use that to smear environmentalists and the clean energy campaign.

    As tempting as it may be to blame groups I disagree with, right now I’ll have to fault the shooter and only the shooter, at least until more facts are revealed. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  3. @ Joe

    You’re being talked about here:

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2010/12/10/cuffe-in-cancun/

    Richard Tol Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    @Toby
    John Gibbons’ latest (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/1209/1224285097273.html) is akin to the creationists’ God-created-fossils-to-test-our-faith. Joe Romm is another example.

    The vast majority of academics in climate research are proper scientists.

    [JR: Yes the discredited bunch does talk!]

  4. Wit's End says:

    Daniel, I have no hesitation laying part of the blame on right wing hate speech as inciting the shooter, even though he’s clearly mentally disturbed – and neither does Juan Cole:

    http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/white-terrorism.html

    I also blame the right-wing NRA for the ludicrous accessibility of firearms. The USA is unique in developed countries for the number of weapons possessed by civilians.

    There is no reason to feel obligated to make a false equivalence between blaming liberals for extremism and blaming ultra-conservatives.

    There are plenty of facts already available, and more will no doubt emerge as the investigation continues.

  5. Wit's End says:

    a funny comment and video from palingates:

    “For the benefit of most MSM reporters, who have long since forgotten, here’s how it works.
    If a democrat or liberal is shot at point blank range in the head, you can presume the gunman is a lunatic from the right side of the fence.
    If a republican or conservative is shot at point blank range in the head, by someone other than Dick Cheney, you can presume the gunman is a lunatic from the left side of the fence.
    While the gunman may be shooting at someone he supports, just to confuse you, don’t feel bad, you seemed clueless all along.
    This ends Lesson 1 of Journalism for Dummies. Thank you.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO3TJmRP4Bo

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    I agree, Gail. The press is spinning it as “don’t dare call this a political act”, just like the “don’t ever connect a weather event to climate change”. The killer is crazy, but was also pumped up by right wing demagogues, and his actions were political.

    Giffords’ opponent in Congress, Mr. Kelly, held a rally urging supporters to shoot M 16′s in the air to show their support for his election.

    There are some scary political currents out there, many of them encouraged by people like David Koch and Glenn Beck.

  7. Meghan says:

    can’t help but think of the President’s post election words:

    “There are just some terrific members of Congress who took really tough votes because they thought it was the right thing, even though they knew this could cause them political problems, and even though a lot of them came from really tough swing districts or majority-Republican districts. The amount of courage and conviction that they showed is something that I admire so much I can’t overstate it.”

  8. 350 Now says:

    DOD-DOE news conference from July 2010 makes it perfectly clear why Rep. Giffords inquiry was so important.
    In the nearly three hour presentation (available online at link below), especially pertinent info is at time stamp 1:55 by Robin Eckstein from Operation Free.

    http://blog.energy.gov/blog/2010/07/27/white-house-forum-energy-security-update

  9. Chris Winter says:

    @Wit’s End:

    On Politico, Katherine Benton-Cohen observes that “Even Tombstone had gun laws.” She notes that the historic silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons within city limits — in sharp contrast to today’s Arizona.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47366.html

  10. John Mason says:

    I think hate-speech, from whatever corner of the political boxing-ring, is in almost every case unjustifiable (I can forgive people whose neighbourhood has just been bombed for getting very hot under the collar – it’s the casual stuff that is obscene)….

    Cheers – John

  11. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    The first person who unsheathed a machete in Rwanda was probably also not of sound mind. But the rhetoric on the radio at that time was pure poison. And environmental resource problems added to the pressures. The truth is a mix of both yes, and no, my friends.

  12. Lionel A says:

    350 Now and #8 WRT Robin Eckstein’s points.

    That is spot on, except I would change ‘…it is an American issue’ to ‘…it is a world issue’.

    Paton and Beck should be sent on one of those fuel supply missions in Afghanistan and after that to Antarctica to find out what is happening to the Pine Island glacier and at Palmer Station, then on to Australia to help out in the flood aftermath and not forgetting a stay in Pakistan to see how people there have not yet recovered. A visit to Haiti could also be instructive for them. Whilst in these places they should be forced to survive as those already there are trying to.

  13. DavidCOG says:

    I think the following article might resonate with many CP readers: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/09/giffords-shooting-political-violence-polarised

    > I don’t tend to think you can draw any broader conclusions from the acts of one demented, violent individual…

    But what are the chances that one, disenfranchised, unhinged individual could be influenced by a constant barrage of violent, gun-laden rhetoric and that he believes all of his problems are a result of those “anti-American, non-patriotic, socialist, tree-hugging, elitists who want to destroy America with renewable energy”?

    Gabrielle Giffords: “The thing is, the way that she [Sarah Palin] has it depicted — the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district — when people do that, they’ve got to realise that there’s consequences for that action.”

    In a country awash with guns, using language like that and “second amendment remedies” (Sharon Angle) and “I want people armed and dangerous” (Michele Bachmann) is a sure-fire (pun intended) road to violent action.

    The right wing / Teabaggers have been *very* active in the last 48 hours pushing the “lone crazy gunman” narrative. It’s not persuasive if you examine the weight of evidence. Palin, Bachmann, Beck, Limbaugh, et al have blood on their hands. They should be called out for it – or just wait for it to happen again.

  14. peter whitehead says:

    Here in the UK most of us find the USA very strange. A country with no official religion where an athiest could not be elected to anything. A country where free health care for all is regarded as treasonable. A ‘land of the free’ where there can be ‘UnAmerican activities’. As for guns ….. most of our cops carry no more than a baton. Capital punishment? We grew up.

    Churchill was right when he said we were ‘two nations divided by a common language’.

    Still, you are a new country. We’ve been the UK for 300 years, England for 1100, and my bit was Mercia for 300 years before that.

    Sadly I fear this tragedy will divide you more, not bring you together.

  15. Michael says:

    ‘I don’t tend to think you can draw any broader conclusions from the acts of one demented, violent individual…’

    Agreed.

    Progressives should think very carefully before launching along these lines. First, the situation is still very raw, and second, they’ll only be talking to themselves, and where’s the value in that? Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot and it had been a deranged young man with a gun and a history of activism with Earth First! or even the Sierra Club. Wouldn’t the American Left be saying precisely the same thing as the Right is now? That this is just the action of a lone nut?

    That said, this sickeningly violent act does bring home the astonishing level of acrimony over something that most everybody else in the developed world takes for granted: universal health care. Here in Australia, the common feeling—even, I dare say, amongst many on the right—is that there is something strange and unhinged about America that intelligent people, including the working class folks in the Tea Party movement, should equate a decent health care system with tanks on the streets or words to that effect.

    Oh yes, and then there’s the whole gun thing… I hope—but I seriously doubt—that this will make the pro-firearm lobby think again.

    My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Giffords sounds like a first-class public servant.

  16. adelady says:

    Michael, speaking as another Australian who’s watched US gun laws, publicity, reactions for 40+ years, hoping that the pro-firearm lobby will think again is futile.

    The weirdness that is USA attitudes on this issue will have to be *defeated* by sensible US citizens getting together in a very big way and being very persistent for a very long time – to even begin to get policies anywhere near what the rest of the civilised Western nations regard as reasonable.

    People who can equate their Christianity with their “right” to wear a gun in the pocket of their apron while they cook dinner are beyond reason. There are people who make money selling such aprons.

    Open-mouthed awe is the only possible response.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Does anyone else find it a strange coincidence that the obligatory lone, deranged, assassin has a name that could be pronounced ‘Loner’? After all these assassins must always be lone killers, by definition, even when the scenario is frankly ludicrous as in the JFK murder, and even more compellingly, that of his brother.
    I think that you are in for rocky times as the system collapses. The guns business is a disaster waiting to explode. The human capacity for demented viciousness is evident in your unfortunate southern neighbour, being crucified on the cross of drug prohibition. I was amazed, but not surprised, to see the venom and vituperation of the Right in reaction to the unremarkable observations that their ranting hatemongering might have something to do with this atrocity. In this country the amount of hatred and fear that is pounded into the public by the Rightwing media, the talkback psychos and the legion of Rightist columnists in particular, is something amazing. Its effects are becoming more and more evident in lack of civility, pushiness, aggression (‘glassing’ ie smashing a glass into someone’s face while drunk or intoxicated on drugs, once a once-in-a-lifetime horror is now increasingly common)etc, although society hasn’t passed a tipping-point, yet. But I tell you I wouldn’t like to be a Moslem, an Aborigine or, increasingly, an active environmentalist, in this country.

  18. The Oracle says:

    I don’t know why Americans get so upset about these events. Ensuring your society is awash with guns will mean this type of thing happens with regular monotony – and it does. Where are all these gun-toting patriots when stuff like this happens?? Are they around to quickly shoot dead the perpetrator and save lives? Do we even want armed citizens shooting it out on the streets? Of course not.

    I don’t think Americans really understand just how bizarre they appear to the rest of the civilised world in regard to guns. If you urge the citizenry to arm yourselves in case the federal government erodes your rights then this betrays a fundamental distrust of your fellow citizens and your own system of government. Here in Australia and the UK and Europe we do not have weapons toted around freely by anyone who wants to do it, yet our countries have not been taken over by communists, forcibly socialised or turned into dictatorships for want of an armed citizenry to take on the despot.

    Charlton Heston was famous for his “from my cold, dead hands” line when defending the right to bear arms. There’s six people in an Arizona morgue with cold. dead hands that sure as hell didn’t deserve it. Pres Obama called it mindless violence, how true. When there are so many mentally disturbed people wandering the streets AND with easy access to guns, what do you honestly expect to happen, and keep happening?

  19. DavidCOG says:

    @15. Michael:

    > Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot and it had been a deranged young man with a gun and a history of activism with Earth First! or even the Sierra Club. Wouldn’t the American Left be saying precisely the same thing as the Right is now?

    Have the Sierra Club been running a campaign full of violent rhetoric with gun-laden imagery? Has any organisation or individual on the left been doing that? I’m not aware of any. In comparison, it’s just daily routine for the rightwingers – they *love* the concept of violent action… but now they’ve got it, they’re doing their best to portray this as “crazed loner”. If the sane majority in the US let that happen, the Teabaggers will just resume their vile campaign once the headlines have changed to something else.

    Man with gun at Obama rally and coded sign calling for violent action – that is not *sane*, but it’s cherished and protected by many Americans. Mix it with The Wing-Nut Code: What Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin Are Really Saying to Their Followers and the obscenity that took place in Tucson was inevitable… and will happen again.

  20. I. Snarlalot Thiesedaise says:

    I think it was CBS that earlier today reported on a poll indicating that only about a third of Americans believe that hate speech had anything to do with the shooting.

    In any case, you can certainly see that many people have an overly simplistic, monocausal view of the mind that tends to deny the complex interactions of biology, psychology, and importantly from a political perspective, the effects of social pressure. The typical view is a very elementary received moralism, just so long as it doesn’t make one feel bad about indulging in ones right to to spew the basest speech.

    Neither introspective, nor socially aware.

    Which is just to say that although you can’t necessarily connect an individual’s behavior to hate speech, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect– anymore than you can predict individual weather events from the climate.

    That said, incitement doesn’t have to be explicit to be real (dog whistle).

  21. Michael says:

    @DavidCOG: I sympathize with your sentiments but my point is not that the Tea Party, et al. are led (and to a large extent, inhabited) by drongos; they plainly are. My point is that running the line that this shooting is their fault won’t do any good whatsoever. You’re preaching to the converted. Those people won’t suddenly turn around and say ‘Gee, I was wrong all along. That Obama not such a bad guy after all.’

    And no, the Sierra Club are not advocates of violence, though Earth First! have certainly advocated a kind of violence in the past. Nutters inhabit many organizations; on the left as well as the right. My point here is that we need to be careful about the message we (progressives) send, lest it come back to haunt us.

  22. Lionel A says:

    Diabolical dialogue rumbles on as Palin attacks to defend herself:

    For Sarah Palin, best defence is attack

    Does Phil Linehan’s verse in comment #2 there under

    Sarah Palin and Jan Brewer – A Gruesome Twosome

    provide fair comment?