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Senator Markey? Could Another Environmental Champion be Headed to the U.S Senate?

The 2012 election cycle swept many clean energy and climate champions into office. Now it looks like Representative Ed Markey could ride the same wave in Massachusetts’ special election to replace Senator John Kerry.

Senator Kerry has been an outspoken advocate for curbing climate change. His climate leadership will be missed in the Senate, but it will be put to good use as Secretary of State. Last summer, Kerry said climate change is “as dangerous as” the threat of a war over Iran’s nuclear program or the unrest in Syria. Kerry’s grasp of the crisis could elevate climate change in international negotiations and bilateral talks.

Representative Markey, meanwhile, would continue pushing for clean energy and climate action here at home.

Congressman Markey has been a champion for the environment since first taking office. He has made protecting public health and the environment his signature issue since he was elected to the House in 1976. And he’s brought passionate determination to the task of making sure America’s air is clean, our water is safe to drink, and our public lands are better preserved.

But he brings more than enthusiasm to the table. He is also an accomplished and pragmatic lawmaker who knows how to get work done. In June 2009, for instance, he was a leader in drafting and passing the first-ever bill designed to unleash clean energy opportunities, create millions of jobs, and combat global warming. Known as the Waxman-Markey bill, the legislation would have put a cap on carbon and required utilities to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable resources like wind and solar power.

Few people believed a transformative climate bill could pass in the midst of an economic meltdown. Especially since the bill threatened the fossil fuels’ near-monopoly on energy production. It was a tough fight, but Representative Markey, together with Representative Waxman and House Speaker Pelosi, skillfully brought together green groups and energy companies and members of Congress and did what no one else could: pass a climate bill.

The Senate failed to take up the bill, but Markey’s record of effective policymaking stands. His fingerprints have been on every major effort to shield people from environmental harm—from making our cars run further on a gallon of gas, to public land protection, to leading the Congressional investigation into the BP oil disaster in 2010.

Markey would bring those three decades of experience with him to the Senate if he wins Kerry’s seat. We don’t yet know who else might join the race or how Markey would fare in a statewide race. But he did win his most recent House race by more than 70 percent and his candor and unapologetic support for a more sustainable future has resonated in Massachusetts.

When he announced his decision to run, Markey said, “I will not sit back and allow oil and coal industry lobbyists to thwart our clean energy future.” Judging from Markey’s last House victory and the success of clean energy champions in 2012 Senate races, it looks like Markey has a good chance of securing Kerry’s seat.

Frances Beinecke is the President of the NRDC Action Fund.

Americans Elect a Leader on Clean Energy, Clean Air, and Climate Action

This blog is re-posted from the NRDC Switchboard.

Last night Americans reelected a president who made clean energy and environmental protection a cornerstone of his first term. They chose the one candidate who spoke seriously about climate change on the campaign trail and used his authority to reduce America’s carbon pollution. They rewarded this leadership by calling for four more years of action.

This is a victory for all Americans who want to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and protect treasured landscapes. And it is a setback for the fossil fuel companies that invested so heavily in this election and have so little to show for it.

Energy issues figured prominently in this election. Candidates mentioned it frequently on the stump and it was among the top three topics discussed in campaign ads.  Oil, gas, and coal companies tried to influence the debate by spending more than $150 million in campaign ads by mid-September. Polluters’ anti-environmental messages were reflected on the campaign trail, where Governor Mitt Romney ran on a platform of more drilling, more coal-fired power plants, more climate paralysis, and weaker pollution standards.

Yet despite the dirty ad blitzes and the anti-environmental policy proposals, voters rejected this outdated vision for our country. Poll after poll has identified people’s preference for a clean energy economy. Last month, for instance, Hart Research Associates found that nine out of 10 Americans, say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the president and Congress, and that includes 85 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Independents. A survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 80 percent of car owners want to raise fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2025,

The majority of Americans realize cars that go farther on a tank of gas, wind and solar energy, and cleaner power plants will improve our health and wellbeing far more than dirty companies can.

President Obama must tap this public support and push for health and environmental progress. And he can demonstrate bold and resolute leadership on climate change. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy— and the drought that turned nearly 1,300 counties into designated disaster areas and the wildfires that forced thousands of people from their homes this year—reveal the danger climate change poses to our families and communities.

President Obama has already taken important steps to curb climate change. His administration issued fuel economy standards that will cut carbon pollution from new cars in half. It also proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. But we must do still more. We need carbon limits on existing power plants (click here to send a message to the administration in support of carbon limits). We need to extend incentives for wind energy and spur investment in clean energy research. And we need to promote energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances.

All of these measures will generate jobs and help clean up our air. But make no mistake, plenty of polluters and lawmakers will be lined up in opposition. Oil and gas companies will continue to pour money into the political system. The Tea Party still has many stalwarts in the House of Representatives—a body that voted over 300 times to undermine public health and environmental safeguards since 2011. And the Republican leadership will still try to erode investment in clean energy innovation and technology.

It will take tremendous effort to realize the sustainable future we seek. But we will succeed with a combination of presidential leadership and citizen action. The president can’t do it alone. He must have American people behind him. The administration moved forward with its carbon limits for new power plants in part because people sent more than 3 million comments in favor of them. We must create the same momentum for similar breakthroughs.

NRDC stands for the environment, not for any party or elected official. We will do everything in our power to help President Obama deliver on his goals of clean energy and environmental protection. You can help by adding your voice to the call for clean air and clean energy. Together we can use the next four years to solidify the foundation of America’s sustainable future. 



The Only Presidential Candidate Who Calls Climate Change a Threat

In a year of sweltering heat, withering drought, some of the worst wildfires on record and catastrophic hurricanes that have ravaged our Gulf coast and Mid-Atlantic states, we have one presidential candidate who thinks climate change is a political punch line. The other rightly calls it a threat to our planet.

Climate change puts us all at risk – the 47 percent, the 99 percent and the 1 percent – whether our state is red or blue. We need a president who understands what’s happening to our world and will act – and has acted – to address this grave and gathering threat.

When it comes to our energy future, the candidates have laid out a clear choice as well.

President Obama wants to invest in energy efficiency, promote renewable power and protect our health. He’s led the country forward toward each those goals.

Mitt Romney would bet our future on the fossil fuels of the past.

This is a choice between responsibility and recklessness – and the choice is ours to make.

We can continue to move forward with a clean energy revolution that reduces the carbon pollution that is warming our planet. Or we can turn back the clock on needed change – and turn our backs on thescience and extreme weather before our very eyes.

In his first term, Obama secured a historic agreement with the automobile industry that will nearly double the gas mileage of our cars by 2025. It will save consumers $100 billion a year at the pump. It will reduce our oil consumption by 3 million barrels a day – nearly half our oil imports. And it will cut our carbon pollution from new cars in half.

Obama has proposed standards to reduce carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. In a second term, he could do the same for existing plants.

He has promoted important gains in the energy efficiency of our homes, workplaces and the appliances we use daily.

On his watch, wind turbines have grown to provide 4 percent of our nation’s electricity, with the help of a modest tax credit that is supported by Obama, along with many Republican members of Congress. Romney has pledged to end the credit.

Romney claims these important gains in renewable fuels and efficiency have come at the expense of domestic fossil fuel production. The facts, though, tell a different story.

At 6.2 million barrels a day, U.S. domestic oil production is up 24 percent since Obama was elected. Natural gas production is at an all- time high.

Part of the reason, though, is that we are drilling in shale, using an industrial technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

This dangerous and often destructive process has put our communities, ranches and farms at risk. It threatens our water, wildlife, air and lands. And it is racing ahead across the country at a rate that has outpaced the public safeguards we need. Obama has begun to put measures in place to protect our waters and land; Romney has pledged to give states control of oil and gas development on federal lands.

We’ll continue to produce oil and gas at home, no matter who sits in the White House the next four years. The question is whether we’ll insist that it be done responsibly or let the oil and gas companies do it their way.

We have a long way to go to address the challenge of climate change, embrace the opportunities of a clean energy future and ensure the health of future generations. Obama, though, has made a good start.

We never expected his work would be completed in a few years. We need to rally around the chance to advance our progress in a second term.

This election season has taken its toll – on all of us. The condescension, pandering and incessant spin. The outrageous levels of corporate spending. The disappointments, distortions, deceptions and lies. I’m as tired of it as anyone else.

Now, though, is no time to falter. This is no time to lose heart.

This election matters, and matters greatly, especially to those of us who care about what happens to our environment, who care about the kind of world we will leave to our children.

We have a choice on Tuesday between two men for president. Barack Obama is the best choice for our future. We hold within our hands, each of us, the political power to make that choice. That is the miracle of American democracy. It begins, for us all, with a single vote. Stand up this week and make it count.

Mayor Bloomberg Endorses President Obama Based on Climate Leadership

As a New Yorker whose family remains without electricity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I welcome Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama. The mayor announced his decision in an op ed titled: “A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change.”

The timing of the mayor’s endorsement is no accident.

Hurricane Sandy has given us a painful preview of what unchecked climate change could do to our communities. More than 90 people have died in this storm. Thousands have lost their homes and businesses. Countless more have found themselves stranded in sewage-laced waters or flood-ravaged buildings. And so many of us have waited with fear and anxiety to see if loved ones are out of harm’s way.

More intense storms are a hallmark of global warming, and Mayor Bloomberg recognizes the growing threat this poses to our city. He has already made strides—through PlaNYC and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group—to reduce New York’s global warming pollution and prepare the city for a changing climate. But, he writes, “We can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House.”

President Obama is clearly the candidate who offers that leadership. Not only has he presided over the largest increase in clean, renewable energy in our nation’s history, but he has also moved to reduce carbon pollution from two of America’s largest sources: cars and power plants.

Governor Romney opposes both of those efforts and equivocates on climate change. Mayor Bloomberg cites Governor Romney’s previous support for a regional program to reduce carbon pollution when he was governor of Massachusetts. “But since then,” Mayor Bloomberg notes, “he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.”

Mayor Bloomberg believes Hurricane Sandy and its destruction have brought the high stakes of this year’s election into sharp relief. Will we chose a candidate who ignores the danger of climate change and sees no harm in deepening our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. Or will we choose a leader who understands the pressing need to protect our towns and cities from global warming?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg has made his choice clear.