This article by Sue Sturgis was crossposted from Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies.
A bill that would have ended North Carolina's renewable energy program was voted down this week by a state House committee in a bipartisan vote by a surprisingly wide margin.
House Bill 298 was backed by more than a dozen conservative advocacy groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the John Locke Foundation -- organizations that have considerable influence in North Carolina's Republican supermajority-controlled legislature.
So how did the measure lose?
In a word: jobs.
From the moment talk of repealing the state's renewable energy standard began intensifying following last year's election among conservative groups that have long denied the reality of global warming, the state's sustainable energy industry and environmental advocates pushed back by focusing on the law's track record of creating jobs and other economic benefits.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, an industry lobby group, commissioned an economic analysis of the law, which passed in 2007 by a wide bipartisan margin and was the first of its kind in the Southeast. Released in February, the study conducted by RTI International and La Capra Associates found that North Carolina's law has been a driver of clean energy development, which in turn as been an important job creator for the state.
The researchers found that while the state's economy lost more than 100,000 jobs from 2007 to 2012, clean energy development led to a net gain in employment of 21,162 "job years" (one job that lasts one year) over the same period. It also found that tax credits used by renewable energy projects were important revenue generators for state and local governments, and that the bill would save ratepayers millions of dollars over the long term by avoiding construction of costly new power plants.
In all, the study found that North Carolina has reaped $1.7 billion in total economic benefits from the law over the past six years.
When the repeal bill came up for its first public hearing earlier this month in a House Commerce subcommittee, the only people who spoke in favor of it were from Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, another conservative advocacy group. The overwhelming majority of speakers praised the renewable energy law's positive economic impact. Besides owners of clean energy companies, they included farmers who have begun investing in systems to generate power from livestock waste methane, which counts as a renewable under North Carolina's law. They were also joined by rural economic development advocates who spoke about how clean energy generation has created jobs and expanded the tax base in struggling rural communities.
Though the repeal bill squeaked by in its first subcommittee vote by 11-10, two key Republicans voted against it. State Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford), a former Duke Energy engineer and House majority whip who was one of the bill's four primary sponsors and its most outspoken proponent, saw that his proposal was in trouble. He has made several revisions to the measure in an effort to win support.
This week the proposal was scheduled to be heard in the House Environment Committee chaired by Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte -- one of the Republicans who voted against the measure in the Commerce subcommittee. But on Monday, the measure was re-referred to the House Public Utilities Committee, which is chaired by Hager himself, for an April 24 hearing.
It was there that the repeal bill appears to have been defeated with the help of a half-dozen of Hager's fellow Republicans, including three GOP leaders. After a relatively brief half-hour debate in which lawmakers noted that the policy has brought investments and jobs to their districts, the committee voted 18-13 to kill the bill. The wide margin surprised many observers, who thought it would likely go either way by a single vote.
"This vote to defeat the REPS repeal bill was not just a good outcome, it was the right outcome," said Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. "North Carolina businesses, ratepayers, workers, and state and local economies all had a stake in this outcome, and they all won a victory today."
While the bill appears dead for now, the possibility remains that it could come back in a revised form. Hager told the Associated Press after the vote that the sponsors are "going to try and patch it up."
In the meantime, Dallas Woodhouse, director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), told The News & Observer of Raleigh that Republicans who voted against the repeal "need to be held accountable." AFP and allied opponents of North Carolina's renewable energy law portrayed it as a burdensome tax on consumers. Duke Energy's residential customers pay 22 cents a month and Progress Energy's 42 cents to subsidize renewables under the law.
AFP had joined with the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina think tank that has been a leading voice of climate science denial and an opponent of renewable energy initiatives, to launch a StopGreenEnergyTax.com website to promote the repeal bill. Following the bill's defeat, the Locke Foundation posted a statement saying the committee voted to continue a "raw deal for tax payers and rate payers."
The effort to repeal North Carolina's renewable energy law is part of a broader conservative attack against such laws in a number of states including Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Many of the groups involved in the repeal effort, including AFP, have financial ties to fossil-fuel interests.
The Center for Media and Democracy has released a new report on the State Policy Network, a web of interconnected groups that attack climate change science and oppose support for renewable energy. The new guide details the $80 million that right-wing billionaires and corporations are spending each year to fuel Tracie Sharp's State Policy Network (SPN) and its 59 state "think tank" members.
The guide, a product of a three month investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy, has found previously unreported funding for SPN flowing directly from Koch Industries, in addition to the known contributions from the Koch family foundations. CMD also tracks SPN's connections to the Koch funded Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, known as the "Dark Money ATM" for attacks on climate science.
State Policy Network’s connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are also explored in the report. According to the guide:
"Through ALEC, SPN helps draft templates to change state laws; then ALEC's public sector and private sector members vote in secret for those bills; and then SPN supports the introduction or adoption of those bills as law, sometimes with help from David Koch's [Americans for Prosperity] AFP echo chamber in a state.”
Called the Reporters Guide to the State Policy Network, CMD’s report details how SPN works, who funds it, what the network's groups do, and looks at some of their legislative goals, including undermining workers' rights and weakening unions as well as undoing renewable energy laws and expanding ways in which tax dollars are redirected to the private sector, for example through funding so-called "virtual schools." Key resources include:
- Documentation that exposes the close funding connections between SPN, its members, and the controversial ALEC.
- Highlights of the significant and previously unknown Koch brothers' funding for SPN groups, demonstrating that prior estimates of Koch funding have been understated. (These materials were discovered by CMD and researchers in materials filed with the IRS by two of the SPN groups.)
- Entries about every SPN member think tank on CMD's SourceWatch.org.
Read CMD’s Reporter’s Guide to the “State Policy Network” here.
Written by Cassady Sharp, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
Climate change is now changing the weather. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be . The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change .
Hurricane Sandy grew to record size as it headed north eastwards along the US coast. Less than 48 hours before it was due to make landfall Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended north eastwards 520 miles from the centre. Since records of storm size began in 1988, only one tropical storm or hurricane has been larger--Tropical Storm Olga of 2001  . New York and New Jersey suffer the brunt of the damage and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has certainly noticed the pattern in his state giving the below statement in press conference today.
"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality."
September 2012 saw the second highest global ocean temperatures on record. During the same month, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast were 1.3°C above average. These unusually warm ocean temperatures have carried on into October, enabling Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane.
Hurricane Sandy could have been just some coincidental freak storm. A rare occurrence with impacts few infrastructures are prepared to handle. The same coincidence that caused the East Coast derecho this summer or the simultaneous Midwest drought. But aren't coincidences and freak storms supposed to be rare?
2012 has been packed with extreme weather, and the aftermath of these events has been devastating not only to individuals, but to the operation of our country. Although mum's been the word on climate change during this year's election overshadowed by a debate on which candidate is a better friend to coal, the issue is now at the feet of President Obama and Governor Romney. The latest reports claim Hurricane Sandy caused 16 U.S. deaths, 7 million without power and $10 billion in damages. That could make Hurricane Sandy the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. What would Hurricane Sandy be beating out for that prestigious title? Hurricane Katrina whose devastation was so grave, it nearly led to the condemning of one of America's greatest cities.
The global scientific consensus makes it clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change and its impacts. It is up to our leaders in government and business to protect us from this growing threat.
President Obama and Mitt Romney must articulate the scale of the global warming problem to the American public, and offer real plans to not only enhance US preparedness for extreme weather caused by climate change, but also to dramatically reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that are driving the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.
American citizens are paying for climate change when they're left to clean up the mess after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. President Obama and Governor Romney have indicated a willingness to address taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. Both candidates should commit to prioritizing an end to these subsidies in the first days of their administration.
And we can all take part in an energy revolution.
“A shill, plant or stooge is a person who helps a person or organization without disclosing that he or she has a close relationship with that person or organization.” wikipedia
When Robert Bryce, a “scholar” for the Manhattan Institute, says things like “I love cold beer and air conditioning, and the only things that can bring that to the American consumer are oil, coal and natural gas,"(which he said at KPMG's May 26 Global Energy conference in Houston) he expects to be taken seriously. When he calls green energy a myth or writes articles like “Let Exxon Run the Dept. of Energy,” or argues for continued subsidies for oil and gas industry, he wants to be seen as an “academic,” a “journalist,” or an “energy expert” - which is how he describes himself in his many media appearances.
What Robert Bryce doesn’t say, not once in the more than 40 times he has appeared in media since October 2011, is that the Manhattan Institute has taken close to 7 million dollars from the fossil fuel industry (including $505,000 from Exxon and $1,575,00 from the oil and gas billionaire Koch brothers).
That’s why the watchdog group Checks and Balances Project asked Bryce point blank if he would disclose his ties to the oil and gas industry. Turns out that is one question he is not willing to answer.
Me thinks he doth protest too much…
Written by Kyle Ash, Crossposted from Greenpeace USA.
Today Greenpeace released a report, “Polluting Democracy,” featuring 15 members of the Dirty Money Team - Members of Congress who often work for polluters with money instead of their voters.
We live in a representative democracy. Every citizen should not need knowledge and influence with every important decision made by the government. Our representatives are supposed to learn how best to represent our interests, and it's their job to try to make the case for a vote we don't currently support. The fifteen members of Congress in "Polluting Democracy" consistently vote against cleaning up coal pollution so we can breathe clean air.
Representative Upton (R-MI) voted to restrict pollution from coal in 2009. Even if the majority of his voters were against the idea (they are not) representing their well-being means it's his job to make the case again. Unfortunately, some members of Congress are like Upton today, and appear to represent polluters that pay for campaign ads or have money to retain mercenary lawyers to lobby Capitol Hill.
Sometimes paying polluters are not even from the recipient Representative's district. As shown in "Polluting Democracy," Mike Rogers (R-MI) has no large coal plants in his district, but takes coal company cash and votes against pollution controls on coal plants in neighboring districts that kill about 454 people every year, very likely including people in his district. Other Representatives guilty of this type of fatality-friendly politics include Fred Upton (R-MI), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), and Doc Hastings (R-WA).
Politicians like to talk about creating jobs and slashing wasteful spending, but many of them forget their party's talking points when they are introducing bills and voting. The wind and solar industries have created far more growth than the coal industry in the last several years, and this is expected to continue. The growth potential by 2020 of renewable energy jobs is twice that of fossil fuels.
In the states for 14 of the 15 districts covered in “Polluting Democracy” there are more jobs in wind and solar than in coal-fired power. Representatives Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Mark Critz (D-PA) might consider joining the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus (SEEC) since in Pennsylvania there are twice as many people employed in wind and solar than in coal-fired electricity.
Like Altmire and Critz, Jerry Costello (D-IL) is a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus. Meanwhile, Illinois employs triple the number of people in wind and solar power compared with coal-fired power plants. In Missouri, there are about as many jobs in coal-fired power as in wind and solar. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) has just as many coal-fired power plants in his district as Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO). Carnahan is a member of SEEC, while Emerson is in the coal caucus.
Wind and solar energy don't release toxic mercury like burning coal does, while mercury is among the many pollutants causing a variety of costs on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Coal costs just from mercury pollution, due to cardiovascular disease, mental retardation and lost productivity, are as high as $29,312,500,000 per year.
The coal industry in the United States has unjustified pull on the levers of democracy. It is nothing new that polluters choose to invest in stopping public health policy instead of investing in pollution controls. But every year a new group of at least 34,000 people die and hundreds of thousands of other people get sick from pollution caused by burning coal in America.
Check out the L.A. Times' comparison of the business practices of Senate-hopeful Carly Fiorina, Barbara Boxer's challenger, and Koch Industries, whose PAC donated to Fiorina at a fundraiser last week. Koch, Valero and Tesoro are heavily invested in Proposition 23, the effort to suspend California's climate law, desperate to stall the transition away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy.
Fiorina has also come out in support of Proposition 23, which would freeze the state's legal power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement clean energy until the state's unemployment rate drops drastically and remains so for a full year. Such low and prolonged unemployment has only been seen three times in the last 40 years.
Perhaps if Fiorina hadn't fired 30,000 people and outsourced thousands of more jobs as the CEO of HP, the unemployment rate is California wouldn't be so high.
Be sure to also check out the video footage of Greenpeace (and a few other protestors) at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Headquarters last week, asking Fiorina if she will stop accepting campaign donations from major polluters.