June 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
By S. David Freeman
We keep staring in frustration and anger at the giant flow of oil spilling into the water in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a disaster.
But what is even a greater disaster is what we would see if we looked up, rather than down, and opened our eyes to the millions of deadly toxic “spills” into the air we breathe from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, ships, oil refineries, etc. They spill deadly poisons into the air we breathe every day.
We are more endangered than the birds and the fish in the Gulf. While we are rightfully concerned about the wildlife, let’s wake up to what we are breathing every day of our lives. And there is ample scientific evidence to prove that the “spills” of pollution in the air are just as deadly to human beings.
We need to remind ourselves that what we call smog is a witch’s brew of toxic stuff far more deadly than crude oil. No matter what we burn, whether its gasoline, coal, “clean diesel,” natural gas or biodiesel, it creates tiny particles invisible to the eye that become part of the air we breathe. They go past your nasal passages into the deep recesses of your lungs and into your bloodstream.
Study after study has proven that air pollution is the cause of epidemics of asthma among kids, and heart disease and premature cancer deaths among adults. The tragedy in the Gulf should be a wakeup call to remind Americans that we need to get off oil, not just to save wildlife in the Gulf, but to save our own lives.
It is time to recognize that forms of energy that are inherently dangerous (atomic power, deepwater drilling, and burning coal and petroleum) must be phased out. The truth is that—as we have seen—technology is not perfect and humans do make errors, as the BP oil spill and Three Mile Island reveal.
Remember, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So, let’s stop going for the poisons, and commit our future to clean energy. The convenient truth is that a serious effort to bring on a renewable energy future, in addition to stopping large future oil spills, would:
- Clean the air we breathe
- Reduce the risks of climate change
- Reduce our dependence on oil imports
- Stop the flow of billions of dollars each year to foreign oil-producing nations
- Create a large number of new green jobs for Americans
I have just returned from a visit to China. The leadership in clean tech is now being captured by the Chinese. But it is not too late for America to at least be a major player. But if the tragedy in the Gulf is not a wakeup call, America will lose out. What is needed is leadership that calls for green action now.
There are vast publicly owned lands where solar and wind projects can be built by private companies if the government will grant speedy permission and financing. And the auto industry can be told by the government that, in a few short years, all your cars must be plug-in hybrids or all-electric.
We must make a firm national decision to say no to poisons: crude oil and coal and inherently dangerous radioactive atomic power. The future must be all renewable. Only then can we preserve our way of life.
Wake up, America. Stop talking, and start building green power—and no more fossil fuels or nuclear. Only then will America’s best days be ahead of us.
S. David Freeman is the former chairman of the board of Tennessee Valley Authority and headed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and other large public power agencies. He is the author of Winning Our Energy Independence and a principal in the Renewable Energy Accountability Project, a nonprofit renewable energy watchdog agency.
Read More:Stop Talking and Start Building Green Power
June 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
My environmental hero of the week is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who actually cares about the ramifications of climate change and the quality of the air we breathe.
Before the June 10 defeat of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to enforce the Clean Air Act, Leahy employed an apt “punt, pass and kick” football analogy to chastise the “drill, baby, drill” crowd.
Murkowski’s resolution, he explained, “would punt away constructive action to begin addressing the many threats that each and every American faces from climate change, and the threats we face every day to our national security. It would pass on the opportunities to foster cleaner air and water for us, and for the generations that will follow us. And it would kick away the progress already negotiated by the Obama administration and key industries, such as our automobile and truck manufacturers, to usher in new products that would pollute less while creating good American jobs—jobs that cannot be sent overseas.
“Many on the other side of the aisle have been adamant in trying to wish these problems away and to forfeit the economic opportunities at our fingertips to lead the world in these new energy technologies,” Leahy added. “Powerful corporate interests are more than glad to contribute to these efforts to stalemate any progress.”
Passage of Murkowski’s resolution would have signaled that we’re “content to keep relying on the outdated, dirty and inefficient energy technologies of the past, and to let every other industrialized nation leap in front of us in developing and selling these new technologies,” Leahy said.
There’s no doubt that greenhouse gases are a “clear and present health and economic threat to the American people,” he added, noting that Murkowski’s resolution would give Congress permission to “undermine America’s ability to clean our air and our waters.”
Leahy wants the EPA to remain focused on protecting the American people, “whether it is arsenic in our drinking water, smog in the air, mercury in the fish we eat or greenhouse gases.”
He’s also calling on Congress to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation.
Read More:Vermont Senator Stands Up to Anti-Environmentalists
March 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The Hip Hop Caucus, an organization that encourages urban youth to become active in elections, policymaking and service projects, recently traveled more than 2,000 miles, through nine states, to promote clean energy.
The Hip Hop Caucus’ Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour closed on the Capitol’s steps after hosting events at churches, nightclubs, job training centers and five college campuses, including three historically black colleges and universities. Organizers distributed energy efficiency kits to attendees.
“The clean energy choices we make today will have a profound impact on the environment of our young people and communities of color—the very people this tour is bringing together and the voices we need to hear,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re going out and meeting people where they live, work and learn, to talk about how we create clean energy jobs, protect our planet and break our dependence on foreign oil.”
The tour “helped amplify and unite the voices of young people, African Americans, the hip hop community and the faith community around the critical need for clean energy jobs now and a clean energy future for our country,” said Caucus President Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. “People around this country are hurting because our economy has failed them. Comprehensive clean energy policies will help our communities create a brighter future through solutions that will fight poverty and pollution at the same time.”
Studies show comprehensive clean energy and climate policies could create up to 1.9 million new entry-level, professional and entrepreneurial jobs nationwide.
Such policies would also save households up to $1,175 per year by 2020 through investments in building insulation and other efficiency improvements, while also reducing medical bills and protecting communities from environmental threats.
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Photo: Tracy Russo/Flickr
Read More:Reaching Out to Communities of Color
February 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
After President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, the National Wildlife Federation was quick to urge Congress to enact comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
“Last year, the president showed the leadership and determination to help the House pass the energy reform legislation that is overdue for America,” said NWF Senior Vice President Jeremy Symons. “His call for action was clear. He is ready to help the Senate take on Big Oil and move a bipartisan clean energy and climate bill that creates jobs, limits pollution from energy companies and reduces our dependency on oil from hostile nations.”
Big Oil and its beneficiaries “are spending millions of dollars to block progress,” Symons said. “They are standing in the way of clean energy jobs, energy security and clean air. The Senate must deliver this year, and senators will need the president’s help to overcome the obstruction that has stalled past efforts at real energy reform.”
Symons also praised Obama for making environmental education a priority—one that prepares “America’s workforce for a clean energy economy.”
Click here for an update on what’s happening in Washington. We also encourage you to call or write to your elected representatives to express your views on the environment.
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Photo courtesy of the White House
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Read More:Supporting Obama’s Energy Agenda
February 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Wednesday, he highlighted the importance of clean energy and green jobs.
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” he said. “And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”
The president also cited the need for U.S. innovation.
“Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history—an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells, but leaves healthy ones untouched,” he said. “And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy—in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
The president called upon Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill, “with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” And while he acknowledged the costs involved in moving forward, Obama said we cannot afford to sit on our hands.
“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change,” he said. “But here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
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Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Read More:Obama Pushes for Comprehensive Energy, Climate Legislation
August 26th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and California State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) Friday cohosted a forum on climate change, which drew more than 400 attendees.
The legislators focused on California’s role as a national leader on climate policies, with emphasis on the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, which Pavley authored as chair of the Select Committee on Climate Change) and The American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454, which Waxman authored as chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce).
The event was presented by the UCLA Institute of the Environment’s Center for Climate Change Solutions, the UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, the UCLA Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and the UCLA Office of Government and Community Relations.
“The fact is that climate policy creates jobs and saves consumers money,” Pavley said. “The fear tactics of carbon industry-backed lobbyists just flies in the face of what is in our best interests.
“The whole world is depending on what the U.S. does,” she added. “The dependence on foreign oil—the ability for some countries to hold our country hostage, economically speaking—is going in the wrong direction.”
“We had a president who censored the research that his scientists were doing on global warming,” Waxman said. “He and his political people denied there was global warming. We had eight years of inactivity rather than leadership.”
Ret. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn discussed the national-security dangers climate change poses, emphasizing the need for alternatives to all fossil fuels so the United States is less dependent on oil-producing countries. He said Americans use 25% of oil consumed worldwide each year, but we can produce no more than 3% of it.
”We cannot drill our way to sustained economic security,” he concluded.
Editor’s note: Click here to watch Pavley’s recent PBS interview.
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Read More:UCLA Hosts Climate Change Forum
May 26th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Reaction to committee passage of The American Clean Energy and Security Act has been swift.
“The bill represents a crucial step forward in addressing the global climate crisis, the need for millions of new green jobs to end the recession, and the national security threats that have long been linked to our growing dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels,” says former Vice President Al Gore, board chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection. “I encourage Congress to further strengthen this excellent legislation during floor consideration and move to pass this bill in both the House and the Senate this year.”
“Every day, it becomes clearer that we need to create new jobs and industries that will drive the clean-energy future, keeping energy prices low for families and businesses, all while addressing the challenge carbon emissions pose to our climate,” said Reed Hundt, cochair of Coalition for Green Bank, a consortium of leaders in energy development. “This legislation will provide reliable low-cost financing critical to a private-sector–led transition from carbon to clean energy.”
Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, applauds the bill, but he views it through a local lens.
“We’re concerned that the committee agreed on a bill that provides billions of dollars for state governments but excludes direct funding for cities, which is where the majority of climate protection actions have been taking place, as demonstrated by the 950 mayors who have signed The U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,” he said. “We’re recommending that at least 20% of the direct proceeds from auctions created by this bill that go to states instead go directly to cities to support efforts already under way by nearly 1,000 mayors.”
Ralph Izzo, chairman of PSEG, a publicly traded diversified energy company, acknowledges groups may have specific agendas.
“We cannot let the search for perfection impede real progress,” he said. “Chairmen Waxman, Markey and Boucher listened to their colleagues and worked to produce revised legislation that reflects a balanced and collaborative approach. We’ve seen real leadership in the crafting of this comprehensive bill, and I am hopeful that we’ll see something move through Congress this year.
“This bill marks a turning point in the discussion and is an indication that the country is getting serious about the need to address global warming,” he added. “The threat of climate change requires that we transform the way we produce and consume energy, and the way we live our lives. How we respond will be the defining issue of our time.”
Read More:Experts Laud Energy Bill
May 25th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved HR 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), by a vote of 33 to 25.
Sponsored by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), the bill is designed to create millions of new clean-energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, enhance America’s energy independence and cut global-warming pollution.
Specifically, ACES contains four goals:
- Promote renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission
- Increase energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation and industry
- Place limits on emissions of heat-trapping pollutants—cutting global-warming pollution by 17% (compared to 2005 levels) in 2020, by 42% in 2030 and by 83% in 2050
- Protect U.S. consumers and industry while promoting green jobs during the transition to a clean-energy economy
“This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean-energy jobs and technology, and cut global-warming pollution,” Waxman said.
“With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country, where we innovate more and pollute less,” Markey added. ”Today, we have chosen bold action to preserve good-paying jobs here in America and preserve our planet.”
Joseph Mendelson, director of global-warming policy at the National Wildlife Federation, applauded the committee’s vote.
“The House is going into Memorial Day recess with a bang,” he said. “Committee passage of comprehensive energy legislation is a shot heard around the world. It marks a historic turning point in climate politics that secures America’s role as a leader in the clean-energy revolution.”
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Read More:Committee Approves Clean Energy Act