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Posts Tagged ‘Waxman-Markey bill’

Texas is growing.  In fact, we’re one of the fastest growing areas of the country.  Growing communities and growing business usually means building more power plants, which would add to our already significant air quality problems not to mention all of the greenhouse gases we would spew.

But, rather than building Megawatts, we should be looking at Negawatts, or “creating” energy by simply using less of it, or at least so says a new study from Duke University’s Nichols Institute and Georgia Institute of Technology.

This would save us from not only pollution and global warming, but also from the cost of building new power plants.  Efficiency gives a double payback, because not only are you not paying for more oil, gas, and coal, you save money on your electric bills because you use less electricity.  And no, efficiency doesn’t mean turning off your air conditioner more in the summer so you sweat more– it means properly insulating your home to keep the cool in and the hot out, or vice versa in the winter, and it means using a better a/c unit that gives you more chills for less bills.

How much money? Well, investments in efficiency would save  $13.7 billion  in 2020 and $21.5 billion in 2030. These savings are equivalent to the amount of energy used by almost a million Texas households, or an average savings of $330 per household a year.  Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, we also get Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:  96,300 jobs by 2020, and 132,100 new jobs from efficiency in 2030.

And how do we get these magical green jobs and billions in savings? Why, through efficiency mandates, similar to the ones proposed in federal green energy bills like Waxman-Markey.  Unfortunately, those goals were too weak to really produce the type of change we need, so it’s up to the Senate to do better.  Early word of a draft bill by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman doesn’t look promising, and could even be WORSE than the anemic efficiency investments and mandates in Waxman-Markey.

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Back in the movie/musical “Oklahoma”, we got a musical lesson that the farmer and the cowman should be friends.  They seem to have bridged that divide rather well in the intervening decades, but today the question remains whether the farmers and ranchers and the climate should be friends.

Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples certainly doesn’t think so.  On his Twitter account last week, he asked “How could anybody involved in agriculture think the proposed Cap &Trade legislation is good for Texas?”

Well, we’ll tell you.  It’s a combination of solving the climate crisis which will disproportionately hurt agriculture in Texas, not using faulty studies cooked up for partisan purposes (which Staples does) and about the jobs and savings to everyday Texas families, which helps everyone  whether you’re a farmer or not.

First, no other industry is so exposed as agriculture to the impacts of climate change. Agriculture is almost completely dependent on relatively stable patterns of rainfall and temperature to get a good yield.  Climate change threatens not only how much rainfall we get, but also how we get it.  Predictions are that some areas may actually see more rain, but in fits and starts with large storms that flood and then wash away topsoil rather than absorb moisture.

Texas is still in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its history. Australian scientists have linked 37% of this drought to anthropogenic climate change. Recent drought has brought record breaking agricultural losses to Texas both this last year in 2009 and in 2006,  when billions of dollars in crops were lost and cattle had to be culled in mass numbers because feed and water was too expensive and they were dying in the field from the heat.  Some are even asking if this prolonged drought is actually just the beginning of “the new normal,” a frightening prospect for anyone with a farm or ranch in West, Central, or South Texas where drought has been the most extreme.

The USDA’s study of impacts of climate change on agriculture, as part of the consensus opinion of 13 federal agencies, is that Texas stands to lose up to 35% of its agricultural yield from just 2 degrees of warming.  And that’s not all — check out this press release from the USDA:

The report finds that climate change is already affecting U.S. water resources, agriculture, land resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so. Specific findings include: (more…)

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

During his campaign, President Obama said “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” As individuals, we need to internalize this, and act on it. This is the last blog in the Green-up Your Life! series, a series dedicated to the many ways we, as individuals, can reduce climate change.

Unfortunately, the environmentally-friendly changes to our daily lives is just the first step to securing a livable planet for future generations.  In addition, we must demand that our government adopt laws to protect our planet.  While the science behind climate change is well established, our leaders will not act until we make them.  The importance of government action to combat climate change was made clear in a recent Washington Post op-ed by Mike Tidwell titled To really save the planet, stop going green.  In the op-ed, Tidwell argues that “going green” is tricking many people into actually thinking that there is major change happening, when in reality, only a very small percentage of people buy compact florescent light bulbs and fuel efficient cars, have a compost pile, and eat vegetarian diets, etc.  “Going green”, in effect, is creating a false impression of change, which is actually hindering the real process of change.  If we care, we should adopt a “green” lifestyle and incorporate the above activities into our lives – but doing all of these individual things does not dismiss us from taking political action to demand large-scale change.

What does this mean for us?  It means learning the details about climate change legislation, and calling/writing/visiting our state and federal representatives to demand that they take action.  Not sure what to ask for?  Here are a few things to get you started:

•    A bill that achieves emissions cuts of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050 (right now, the Waxman-Markey Bill cuts emissions by only 4% of 1990 levels.  Unfortunately, the Waxman-Markey Bill deceptively uses 2005 levels, and thus the 17% reduction in emissions seems to be near the scientific requirements.  But, as Congress well understands, the rest of the international community and climate scientists use 1990 levels as their base.  Thus, the 17% emissions cut at 2005 levels turns out to be only 4% of 1990 levels, a number far from minimum 25% necessary to save our planet.)
•    Stopping the construction of new coal plants.
•    Increasing funding for renewable energy and creating green jobs

We all have the tools and knowledge necessary to create change on a personal and political level.  The next steps are advocacy, action, and maintenance. We are facing a huge crisis, and taking only small and popular steps are not enough. Obama said it himself – we are the change that we have been waiting for.  So let’s do it!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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UPDATE:  Greenpeace has just obtained an internal API memo detailing their astroturf plans.  You can read the memo and Greenpeace’s reply here.  Job “whale” done, Greenpeace!

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Most people have a good general conception of what a real grassroots movement looks like: citizens get outraged over some injustice or inequity and get organized and get active.  These campaigns are built from the bottom up.

Astroturfing a Texas Highway

Astroturfing a Texas Highway

And what happens when you don’t have a grassroots movement but want to make it look like you do?  Well, then you Astro-turf a movement in, paying hired guns to pretend to be “activists” who then show up to townhall meetings and other public forums. Fake grass- sent from top down, rather than something grown naturally from the ground up.  A lot of these protesters have been either astroturfed in or given specific instructions on how to disrupt these townhalls in an attempt to shout down opinions other than their own.

We in Texas know a thing about Astroturf, the name having originated as the name of the artificial turf used in the Houston Astrodome.  (Coincidentally, the first ever Super Bowl played on astroturf was also in Houston at SuperBowl VIII in 1974.)

Many have criticized recent astroturf campaigns on healthcare, climate change, and the infamous tea-baggers because of their coordination by Washington lobbyists and special interests.  In fact, Senator Dick Durbin (IL), the #2 Democrat in the Senate, Sunday told CNN’s John King,

“We have these screaming groups on either side. That isn’t helpful. Let’s be honest about this. . . this is clearly being orchestrated, and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington.”

So what’s the difference between what Public Citizen does (educate, activate and organize citizens) and what the astroturfers do (hired guns, fomenting support based on misinformation for the purpose of financial gain)?  Many groups engage in grassroots organizing, from Public Citizen to the League of Conservation Voters to the NRA, and use their membership to engage in activism, and some of this leadership comes from our paid staff in DC or Austin, etc.  However, Public Citizen has a long history of never accepting donations from corporations or government grants, meaning we can always clearly represent only the interests of our membership without any conflicts of interest.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, these atroturf campaigns are actually schilling for major corporate interests who have a financial stake in climate change, health insurance, etc.  The most glaring example is ACCCE, the coal industry group that represents 48 of the largest coal electricty utilities in the US with a combined net revenues last year of nearly $200 billion.    ACCCE’s mission is to sell their false claims of clean coal technology.  Haven’t heard of ACCCE?  Well, maybe it’s because they used to be called “Americans for Balanced Energy Choices” but decided to “rebrand” since it became obvious that “balanced” energy choices meant all coal all the time.

Their ads became so ridiculous they became parodied like this, in this commercial from Oscar Winners Joel and Ethan Coen:

Anyway, they’re up to their old Orwellian tricks again.

In the weeks before the House voted on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES),  ACCCE’s lobbyists forged letters to Congress, claiming to be representatives of minority and environmental justice groups such as NAACP.  (A huge tip of the hat to to Kate Sheppard at Grist who has been following this very closely- also follow Kate on Twitter for the best enviro updates this side of @ClimateHaiku)

Even more amazing was that these letters claimed that enacting climate legislation would hurt low-income communities, even though the national NAACP (and many, many other social justice groups) had come down in support of ACES.  No word yet how many fake letters they sent to members of Congress pretending to be average constituents, rather than important community members who could be easily verified, and we will probably never know the extent of the fraud they have perpetrated.

That is Astroturfing, my friends.

Another egregious example, coming soon to the theater near you, is that the American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Manufacturers along with other flat-earth anti-climate change legislation groups are teaming up to host townhall-style meetings in 20 key states to attempt to influence the passage of the climate bill in the Senate (see articles here and here).  So, the deep, deep pockets of big oil and big business are trying to buy themselves a grassroots movement.  Will they have any luck?

And then, as a corollary to astroturfing, we have the local example of Austin’s Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who has gained a lot of media attention because of the angry throngs showing up to mob him and yell “Just Say No!” to health care reform.

Depending on your view of Doggett, doggett supermanDoggett Devilyou may have shown up to his previous townhalls to lambaste, lampoon, or lavish praise on him.  I have been to these neighborhood office hours before to speak with Congressman Doggett (he is, after all, my Representative in Washington) and I have never seen anything like what happened two weeks ago.  Most people show up to politely engage the Congressman about a (more…)

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We’ve been disappointed by the process that the American Clean Energy and Security Act has gone through recently, so a few weeks ago I went to go see my Congressman during his “neighborhood office hours” (at the Randall’s at the corner of William Cannon and MoPac) and talk to him about climate change.  Then this morning  I opened up my email inbox to find a communique from Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

Needless to say, it made me happy, so I’m sharing it with all of you.  This should serve as an example– contact your leaders and tell them how you feel about issues like climate change.  They do listen!  (Or if they don’t– make them!)

I also think his ideas about the “Safe Markets Development” would be a major improvement to any climate bill.  Read on to find out that experts also think it’s a good idea!

Full text after the jump….

doggett banner

May 28, 2009

Mr. Andrew Wilson

5xxx Little Creek Trl

Austin, Texas 78744

Dear Andy:

Knowing of our shared interest in fighting global warming and creating a robust green jobs economy, I would like to update you about my work in Washington.

This is an exciting time for those of us who have long wanted to make renewable energy affordable. Never before has there been such a push from both politicians and concerned citizens like you to get something done.

We cannot allow the fossil fuel special interests to blacken our chances at achieving a strong, clean energy economy in the same way that they blacken our skies. It is critical that the climate legislation this Congress produces ensure both price stability and environmental integrity.  To this end, I have introduced the Safe Markets Development Act. I designed this act to

-Cap carbon pollution;

-Head off market manipulation;

-And incentivize renewable energy technology.

I have also introduced the Green Transit Act, which would require metropolitan planning organizations to consider greenhouse gas emissions in long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs. Transportation is an integral factor in the transition to a clean energy (more…)

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We’ve been putting a lot of effort into pressuring US Congressman Charlie Gonzalez to support a strong climate change bill, but according to an article in the Houston Chronicle this morning, Congressman Gene Green from Houston is another key swing vote on cap and trade:

A 17-year veteran of Washington politics known for his low-key style and behind-the-scenes approach to legislation, Rep. Gene Green has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent days — at least with lawmakers eager to write new climate change rules.

The celebrity status comes courtesy of Green’s role as one of a handful of moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee. His support is crucial to advancing a sweeping energy and climate change bill.

Looks like Gene Green wants to vote for the bill, but won’t support it without some pretty significant concessions to industry.  Shocking.

The good news for Waxman, Markey and other proponents of the so-called cap-and-trade plan is that Green believes “the United States has to lead” in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The bad news? Green worries about the potential price tag for oil refiners along the Houston Ship Channel he represents.

“I’d like to vote for a bill,” Green said. “But I’m not going to vote for one unless I think it’s going to be good for the area I represent.”

Green has become the main lawmaker pushing for free allowances for refiners, as one of just four Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee representing states with big refining operations. The others are Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, and Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

In order to support the bill, Green wants to give away 5% of pollution permits to refineries for free, and hand over 40% of allowances to utilities.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, GIVING AWAY ALLOWANCES IS A TERRIBLE WAY TO WRITE THIS BILL.

As I wrote a few weeks ago in a blog post scolding Charlie Gonzalez on this same issue,

Charlie Gonzalez just doesn’t have his facts straight on this one. If you’re really concerned about consumers, giving away pollution credits for free is about the worst way you can write this bill. Giving away allowances would force customers to pay for industry and utilities’ right to pollute without even cutting carbon emissions. There is a right and a very wrong way to write a good climate change bill, and Charlie is supporting the wrong way.

EPA’s most recent analysis say that giving away pollution credits is “highly regressive”, meaning it hurts low-income families the most. At best, this is a bailout and a free ride for the polluters. At worst it will create windfall profits for huge energy companies at the expense of every lower and middle income family in Texas.

Whether Green can make this bill good for the area he represents depends on what he means by “area.”  If by “area”, Green is referring to his constituency, which is a majority-minority district made up of primarily low and middle income families, Green is going to have to think again.  Giving away pollution allowances to industry sells out working families.  It allows industry to jack up their prices without doing any real work to reduce their emissions and charge families extra for their “compliance costs”.

If this was just our opinion here at Public Citizen, you could dismiss it, but everybody agrees that giving away pollution credits for free hurts poor and working families.  Who?  Well, the Wall Street Journal, for one:

“There are a lot of things in the bill I need to have changed,” said Rep. Gene Green (D., Texas). Mr. Green, whose district is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the world, wants Mr. Waxman to give some pollution permits to oil refiners for free. “If that’s not in the bill, I can’t vote for it,” he said.

Refiners are lobbying to get for free 30% of the pollution permits, an amount that corresponds roughly to the share of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions produced by transportation fuel. Without such allowances, the industry says, it will lose out to refineries in India and the Middle East that ship their product to the U.S. and don’t operate under carbon caps at home.

“The electric utilities want 40%, and if they’re getting 40%, the refiners say ‘Why shouldn’t we get 30%?”‘ Mr. Green said. Mr. Green said he has asked Mr. Waxman to give the refining industry a smaller share of the allowances — roughly 5%.

Economists say generally that consumer prices will rise regardless of whether permits are given away for free, and that giving them away for free will divert money from other purposes in the public interest, such as tax cuts for consumers.

As we mentioned before, the EPA’s analysis showed that giving away credits was “highly regressive.” When both our government’s environmental agency and our nation’s top conservative-dominated-hard-headed-economist-driven-Australian-tycoon-run newspaper agree on something, there’s a consensus, people.

Ok– time to put on our tin foil hats for a moment– but one explanation these actions is that when Gene Green is talking about his “area”, he really means the five refineries and “more chemical plants than (he)  can count” inside his district.  Green received significant campaign contributions from both the Oil & Gas and Electric Utilities industries.  Check out the following chart from OpenSecrets.org:

genegreenchart

To put these numbers in perspective, Green spent a total of $860,643 on his last campaign.  Of that, $139, 949 came from the same folks Green is now trying to score free pollution credits.

If that weren’t enough, it looks like the refineries don’t even know their own business.  They claim that paying for carbon will hurt them and force refining to markets like China who aren’t regulating their environment.  Well, first, a new economic analysis shows that “Cap and Trade Won’t Push Heavy Industries Overseas”.  Second, on what planet does it make economic sense to pump oil out of Texas, ship it literally halfway around the world to China, refine it, and then ship it back?  You would need a PRETTY hefty price on carbon to make that economically feasible.  And lastly, China is beginning to implement export taxes on steel and other carbon intensive products, making it even more unlikely that refining would ever move there.

Bottom line: Green can’t have his cake and eat it too on this one.  He can either protect the families in his district by supporting a full auction of pollution credits that puts the revenue to work in renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and rebates, or he can fill the pockets of polluters by demanding free carbon giveaways.

And, I do need to give Green some props– he is sponsoring the Fair Elections Now Act, which would create a public financing system for Congressional campaigns, freeing him forever from having to raise money from the fossil fuel industries or other special interests whose views may not coincide exactly with the greater good of the people of the 29th congressional district.  We can only hope for such a world– we know Gene Green has to raise money for his campaigns, he certainly can’t get it from the working class people of his district, and we know that when special interests give it is not out of the kindess of their hearts but because they want access and influence.

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And so it begins….

We knew as soon as there was a draft climate bill that it would be falsely attacked and derided disingenuously as “an energy tax.”  But we had no idea to what extent the truth-stretchers would go to make their rhetorical points.

Did I say stretch the truth?  I meant break, beat, spit upon and then toss it into a cesspool to be feasted upon by worms and vermin, for as little as truth means to these lying liars.

Wednesday, Keith Olbermann named John Boehner his “Worst Person in the World” for his exaggeration lie about the costs of tackling carbon.  Watch this video for yourself:

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  At least some people are willing to check their facts and talk about climate in a rational manner.  Look, a Press Release! (emphasis added is mine, not in original)

‘Energy Tax’ Rhetoric Ill Serves Debate on Climate Legislation

Republican members of Congress have taken to calling cap-and-trade legislation an “energy tax” or a “light switch tax” on American families and businesses.

Most recently, congressional Republicans misrepresented a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study analyzing cap-and-trade proposals. They distorted the study’s conclusions to exaggerate the costs of cap-and-trade legislation on individual households, by making faulty calculations based on erroneous assumptions and by ignoring a basic principle of economics – the time value of money.

Conservatives, of all people, should not ignore basic principles of economics. (more…)

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President Obama has voiced that two of his top priorities will be climate change and energy.  Earlier this month he picture-5announced an energy plan that would call for 14% reduction in emissions from the 2005 levels by 2020, and an 83% reduction by 2050.

But House Democrats Henry a. Waxman (California) and Edward J. Markey (Massachussettes) want more!  They drafted a bill with even more gusto to capture greenhouse gases—a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020!

Remember that this power team was also responsible for the bill to put a moratorium on coal plants introduced a year ago.   The new Waxman-Markey bill will require every region of the country to produce 25% from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal.  This could be a huge factor to increase the demand for sustainable energy to spur wide-range development and adoption of energy technology.

Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee said regarding his bill:

This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.  Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.

However, the bill also makes some concessions to the states whose economy rests upon coal and energy-related industries, with the hope that it will smooth the transition to cleaner forms of energy.   To read more, check out this press release from Tyson Slocum at our D.C. office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This bill is a really great start.  Obama started the bid at a 14% cut, the House upped the ante to 20%, but according to the Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the real target we should be shooting for is about 35%.  Unfortunately, none of the bills in the House or Senate is shooting for this target.  The good news is, according to an analysis by McKinsey and Company, almost all of that 35% can be achieved at a net cost savings through things like energy efficiency.  And realistically, that’s only 3.5% per year for the next decade. ~~Citizen Andy

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