NRDC Action Fund
This is the nineteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.
From the Scotch-Irish who settled there starting in the 1760s to today's residents, the people of southwestern Virginia are fiercely independent. The 9th Congressional District, which covers all of southern Virginia west of Roanoke, has been known as the "Fighting Ninth," because of its raucous politics. The district was first dominated by farmers, later coal miners (though the coal industry has been in decline for more than twenty years there), and now by workers in high-tech industries. Bill Clinton carried the district twice, however George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004 by wider margins than Clinton ever did, and John McCain won the district 59-40% in 2008.
Democrat Rick Boucher is in his 14th term representing the district in the U.S. House. Boucher's family is steeped in southwest Virginia politics - his mother was Washington County's Democratic Party chairwoman, and his grandfather and great-grandfather were Democratic members of the state House of Delegates. He hasn't faced a particularly close race since his first re-election bid in 1984. This fall he will be challenged by Republican Delegate and House Majority Leader, Morgan Griffith.
As President Obama prepares for his meeting tomorrow with Senators at the White House to discuss clean energy and climate change legislation, he might want to check with the White House staff on an important matter first. No, not the details of the legislation, although that’s important of course. Instead, what President Obama might want to make absolutely sure about is the non-trivial matter of whether the White House air conditioning is in tip-top shape. I say "non-trivial," but these days it’s more like "life or death." How hot is it in the Washington, DC area? As NBC Washington puts it, "We're Talking Spontaneous Combustion." (UPDATE: it's more likely this is apocryphal than literally true, but it sure feels like plants could catch on fire these days in Washington, DC!)
How hot is it? It's so hot that dead plants are spontaneously combusting in Frederick, Md.
Don't believe it? Just ask Frederick County Fire Marshal Marc McNeal, who told the Frederick News-Post that excessive heat caused a dead plant to catch fire Sunday afternoon in a hanging planter on the rear deck of a townhouse.
The hanging basket fell to the deck and burned some vinyl siding, causing about $3,000 in damages.
It has definitely been hot in the Washington region. Monday will be the 10th day in a row that we've reached 90 degrees or higher, and this will be the 17th day of the month that the thermometer has reached 90.
NBC4 meteorologist Tom Kierein said that when it's all said and done, June 2010 likely will be the hottest June on record in the District.
Dead plants catching on fire in the hottest June on record in the Washington, DC area? Sadly, this (quite possibly apocryphal story) may not be an aberration, but a frightening sign of things to come in a global warming world. True, we shouldn’t draw broad conclusions about the earth’s climate from one heat wave in one specific geographic area, as certain climate change deniers dishonestly did during last winter’s "snowpocalypse" blizzards. However, when we see month after month, decade after decade of record-setting heat globally, it starts to get a bit hard to ignore.
In fact, climate scientists are not ignoring these heat waves and other phenomena. Earlier today, for instance, The Project on Climate Science reported that the "record-breaking heat wave" we are currently experiencing in the eastern United States "is consistent with climate change." According to Tom Peterson, Chief Scientist for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, "We’re getting a dramatic taste of the kind of weather we are on course to bequeath to our grandchildren." Of course, as The Project on Climate Science points out, "individual heat waves can be driven by a number of factors." However, they conclude, "more frequent heat waves are one of the more visible impacts of climate change already underway in the United States" and "will occur more frequently in the future."
In sum, if you enjoy record-setting warmth – not to mention the stronger storms, mass extinctions and "record sea ice shrinkage" in the Arctic that go along with that warmth – you have a lot to look forward to! If not, then you should contact your Senator and let him or her know you want climate action now.
Come to think of it, perhaps we should all hope for the White House air conditioning to be broken tomorrow – or turned off on purpose - so that the Senators meeting there get a taste of what the planet will feel like everywhere if they don’t do something about it now. When you think about it, a bit of Senatorial sweat and a few stained shirts is not too high a price to pay if it results in long-overdue, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation on the President’s desk sometime this sweltering summer. Is it?
With all that in mind, a recent national survey by Al Quinlan of Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research has potentially powerful implications for the 2010 elections, providing yet more evidence that climate legislation – despite a fallacious "mainstream media" narrative arguing otherwise – is actually good politics. The key findings are threefold (note: the document talks about strategy for the Democratic Party, but could apply to Republicans as well):
- Small businesses “are among America’s most popular entities,” with an eye-popping 44:1 favorable to unfavorable ratio (“the highest we have ever seen in our polling on any topic”)
- Generating support from small business owners, for either political party, is a key to success in the upcoming mid-term elections.
- Small business owners strongly agree “that a move to clean energy will help restart the economy and lead to job creation by small businesses.” In fact, according to Greenburg Quinlan, “One of the most surprising findings of the survey is that despite the fact that nearly two thirds of business owners believe it would increase costs for their businesses, a majority still want to move forward on clean energy and climate policy.”
As if that’s not evidence enough that there’s broad support out there for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation, how about this Benenson Survey Group survey, conducted in late May/early June 2010? The key findings of this poll are:
- 65% of “likely 2010 voters” believe that “the federal government should invest much more than it currently invests [or] somewhat more than it currently invests .”
- 63% of “likely 2010 voters” support an energy bill that would “limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas.”
- Among “undecided voters,” “62% support the bill and just 21% oppose.”
There is also strong evidence from this polling that voters – including independent voters by a 2.5:1 margin – are strongly inclined, by around a 2:1 margin, to be “more likely to re-elect” their Senator if he or she voted for a strong, comprehensive, clean energy and climate bill.
In sum, solid majorities of small businesspeople and the public at large both support comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Which is why, once again – as we pointed out yesterday – the “mainstream media” narrative, that voting for limits on carbon pollution is bad politics, is just dead wrong. To the contrary, victory this November could go to the candidates – and the party – that seizes this issue and makes it their own. Ideally, it would be great to see both Republicans and Democrats fighting to be the “greenest” candidate, and not just in terms of how much money they raise.
UPDATE: Add another poll to the list, this one by WSJ-NBC indicating that “Respondents favored comprehensive energy and carbon pollution reduction legislation by 63 percent to 31 percent – a two to one margin.”
As if the oil companies from Texas – and their allies in the corridors of power - hadn’t done enough harm to our country already (for more, see the late, great Gulf of Mexico), now they are at it once again. This time, it’s Valero and Tesoro, pouring money into a campaign this election season to undo California’s landmark, clean energy and climate law, AB 32. On Tuesday, the oil companies’ proposition was certified for the November ballot. The fight, as they say, is on!
Why should you care? Let us count the ways.
First and foremost, whether you’re a Californian or not, this campaign should concern you because if the oil companies succeed here, they will try this everywhere – in other states and at the federal level. Mark our words, that’s exactly what they’re up to here.
Second, let’s be absolutely clear about what this proposition says. As the Stop Dirty Energy website explains, "The Texas oil companies want you to believe it’s simply a "temporary" suspension. However, their deceptive proposition would repeal AB 32 until unemployment reached 5.5% for a full year – a market condition that has only occurred three times in the last 30 years." Which means that this proposition is nothing less than "an effective repeal of [California’s] clean energy and clean air laws." In sum, they want to kill this landmark law. Period. Don’t let their propaganda fool you into believing anything else
As is often the case, the "mainstream" media nowadays is pushing a "conventional wisdom" line that has only one major problem – it’s largely or completely wrong. In this case, the "wisdom" is that voting for limits on carbon pollution is bad politics. The polling indicates it’s far more complicated than that.
For instance, the latest CBS/NY Times poll indicates that nearly 90% of Americans believe U.S. energy policy needs either "fundamental changes’ or "to be completely rebuilt," while 97% of Americans are "angry" or "bothered" by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Those percentages hardly appear to indicate a status quo, "conventional wisdom" electorate on this issue, or an automatic political downside to making fundamental changes in U.S. energy policy.
Perhaps that is why, when you actually look at the 17 Democrats up for reelection this year (Bayh, Bennet, Boxer, Burris, Dodd, Dorgan, Feingold, Gillibrand, Inouye, Leahy, Lincoln, Mikulski, Murray, Reid, Schumer, Specter, Wyden) and subtract out those retiring (Bayh, Burris, Dodd, Dorgan) or defeated in a primary (Specter), you find that the vast majority – all except for Blanche Lincoln - are in favor of climate and energy legislation. Let’s take a look.