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Which Way Does the Wind Blow the GOP on Wind?

At the conclusion of the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said of the president’s victories in Iowa and Colorado that the “wind energy tax credit was an issue in both of those states.” With President Obama supporting the tax credit and Mitt Romney not only opposing the wind production tax credit (PTC) but dismissing wind energy jobs as “imaginary.” Messina believed that wind energy had been a wedge issue for voters in these critically important swing states, a factor in Obama’s victory.

Wind energy will again be a wedge issue in these political and clean energy powerhouse states in 2016. In Iowa, wind energy now exceeds 25 percent of total electricity production according to the American Wind Energy Association. According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, more than $9.8 billion dollars of capital has been invested in Iowa’s wind farms and manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, Iowa currently ranks third for wind energy employment, supporting 6,000 to 7,000 jobs. With Iowa also serving as the first state to hold primary caucuses, the state’s wind energy industry could prove to be a factor in choosing the major parties’ eventual nominees.

The wind PTC, a performance-based incentive, has helped the US wind industry build more than 550 facilities and contributed to the price of wind power declining by 43% in recent years.  A recent study from the Department of Energy found that wind power could grow from supplying 5% of US electricity, as it does today, to supplying 35% by 2050. President Obama has called for a permanent extension of the PTC to make that clean energy future happen.

Despite the PTC’s success, many in the Republican field seems content to repeat Romney’s mistake of opposing clean energy and advocating to abolish the PTC – either immediately or in the near future. Here’s a rundown of where the current field of likely candidates stands on the issue.

Jeb Bush – This month in Iowa, Bush called for a short-term extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), followed by a 3 to 5 year phase out.

Chris Christie - As governor of New Jersey, Christie signed into law incentives for offshore wind energy, including tax incentives. Christie reportedly “hasn’t clarified” his position on the federal PTC. Encouragingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that he “wouldn’t repudiate the wind tax credit.”

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio - The trio of senators oppose extending the PTC. Most recently, Cruz and Paul voted against a nonbinding Sense of the Senate resolution on the topic. Rubio missed the vote.

Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas governor has “danced around whether or not he supported the wind energy tax credit…” “I think it needs to be debated,” Huckabee said, adding that no government programs should be given “unquestionable life.”

Rick Perry – While Perry’s home state of Texas is home to huge amounts of wind power, Perry “sounded somewhat contrite for supporting the wind tax credit” and opposes federal incentives.

Rick Santorum – When campaigning during the 2011 primary, Santorum called for a phase out of all tax incentives for energy.

Scott Walker – Wisconsin governor Paul Walker described the PTC as having “served the purpose.” He continued that he “would support phasing that out over a period of time.”

To win in 2016, the party’s leaders should recognize what regular people already know. Polling finds overwhelming support for the wind PTC: 73 percent of registered voters support continuing the PTC, including 63 percent of registered Republicans. It’s time for the Republican presidential field to see that swing state voters want their energy clean and they want it made at home. A climate denier can’t win in 2016 – neither can a clean energy naysayer.

A Climate Christian Reflects on the Cruz Candidacy

When Senator Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy at Liberty University this week, he spoke in phrases intended to resonate with people like me and my family: devout Christians. I come from a long line of people who put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, and I am raising my children to do the same. Cruz tried to appeal to these values in his speech, yet his claims rang hollow to me.

What I couldn’t get past in the speech was the knowledge that his words don’t match his actions in Washington where he seems to relish creating division on everything from the budget to climate change. He constantly creates fights and fails to prioritize any kind of common ground or service.

While churches across the nation are actively trying to irradiate malaria, or end human trafficking, or address climate change – my church is a proud supporter of the Imagine No Malaria campaign—Cruz is bent on grinding the government to a halt and dismantling policies that help people rather than creating them.

I don’t expect to share Cruz’s views, but I do believe a self-proclaimed Christian candidate should take positive action to improve people’s lives. Cruz seems more interested in being the troublemaker-in-chief than building the city on the hill.

Just look at his nay saying on climate change.

Cruz recently said the “snow and ice” in New Hampshire were evidence that climate change is not happening and the earth is not warming. The facts show otherwise: the 10 hottest years on record have all come since 1998.
Some conservative churches don’t recognize the climate crisis, yet many Christian groups—from the Evangelical Environmental Network to the Southern Baptist Convention to the Roman Catholic Church—understand that climate change is a threat to millions of people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

One of my heroes, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, does a great job of explaining what’s at stake. Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech in Lubbock and an evangelical. She infuses her Christian values into descriptions of the mechanics of climate change: “When I look at the information we get from the planet, I look it as God’s creation speaking to us. And this case, there is no question that God’s creation is telling us that it is running a fever,” she says.

Cruz ignores these facts. That could hurt him with the two-thirds of Americans who believe world leaders have a moral obligation to address climate change, according to a recent Reuters poll. And it could hurt him with the 50 percent of Republican voters who agree the federal government should reduce climate change pollution, according to an AP survey.

There is almost no chance Cruz can secure the GOP nomination. But he could become a folk hero. He could position himself as a more powerful Sarah Palin who rallies the base and pulls the party over to his divisive ways. This is a troubling prospect for all of us who want to serve others and protect creation. In other words, the majority of Americans.

Rick Perry, Still A Denier

Rick Perry is back and this time he’s in it to win it. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Perry left behind the bumbling Tea Party conservative of 2012 and did his best to appear a reasonable, professorial moderate on environmental issues. Yet, even this more polished Perry continued to flub the truth about environmental protection.

Remembering 2012

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Perry is attempting to shed the skin of his last presidential campaign In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you of the crowning moment of Perry’s 2012 run. During a debate, Perry intended to name three cabinet-level agencies that his administration would eliminate. There was only one problem: Perry couldn’t remember that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Oops.

Perry seems to be remaking himself this time around. Not only is his face now bespectacled, but he’s pretending he’s made an about-face on climate denial.

A Denier Can’t Win

It seems Perry has gotten the memo that a climate denier can’t win the White House in 2016. Polling shows that too many Americans are concerned about climate change to give the highest office in the land to someone who ignores this threat to our health, economy, and security.

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey, a full 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats support limiting climate change pollution from power plants. Closer to home, a Yale poll found that 70 percent of Texans believe in climate change and a majority believe government should be doing more about global warming.

Voters are looking for a leader who will confront the big challenges, not deny their existence.

During the last campaign, Perry said about climate change: “The science is – is not settled on this.”  He went on that “just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Perry’s Change of Emphasis

At CPAC, Perry de-emphasized his denial and instead “explained how Texas managed to reduce pollution during an economic boom.” He argued that Texas added people and jobs while reducing nitrous oxide, ozone and carbon pollution through “thoughtful and incentive-based regulations.” He made the similar statements about pollution reduction in his farewell speech to the Texas legislature.

The good people at Factcheck.org have already demolished the content of Perry’s claims, pointing out that he “exaggerates the Texas reduction in nitrogen oxide”, omits pollution from certain sources, and mischaracterized the policies that led to the reductions. In fact, Perry “ignores” two of the biggest drivers of recent pollution reduction in Texas: “the contribution of federal policy to wind energy and the shift away from a manufacturing-based economy.”

While Perry got his facts wrong about the reasons for and statistics behind Texas’s pollution reductions, there is at least one area where he’s got it right: a growing economy and pollution reduction absolutely do go hand in hand. This chart shows that from 1990 through 2008, U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased by more than 64 percent while the six most common air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act decreased 41 percent.

As the 2016 election season warms up, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Perry and the other candidates hoping to win the White House. A denier can’t win. A candidate who offers climate solutions will.

First 50 Days: Nothing but the Big Polluter Agenda

Around the time the new Congress marked its first 50 days, my children’s classes were celebrating the 100th day of school. Students did a hundred math problems, read books for a hundred minutes, and brought in bags of a hundred objects like dried beans and pasta.

If Republicans in Congress marked their milestone in a similar way, they would probably write up 50 ways to gut environmental safeguards or haul in 50 miniature smokestacks.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be at the top of the class.

Fifty days into the new Congress, McConnell has established himself as a champion of polluting industries. McConnell devoted much of this session to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil and trying to block the EPA from reducing climate change emissions. These efforts get a failing grade from public health experts because they would increase pollution linked to asthma attacks, respiratory illness and cancer.

Why has the GOP leadership used the first 50 days to push pollution? Perhaps it has something to do with their super-wealthy donors. Oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $721 million to support their candidates and interests in Congress over the past two years. McConnell raked in $608,000 from the fossil fuel industry for his 2014 campaign.

Yet while most Republican lawmakers stump for more pollution, Americans are calling for less.

A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that fully 70 percent of Americans say the federal government should limit the amount of climate change pollution coming from power plants. Most Americans trust the EPA more than Congress when it comes to addressing pollution, according a recent poll done by the American Lung Association. And 51 percent of Kentuckians wanted McConnell to say he recognizes that human activity causes climate change—something he refused to do in the election season.

A strong majority of Americans want leaders to confront the climate crisis, but the Republican leadership has refused. They have failed utterly to offer any plan for dealing with the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time. During his campaign, McConnell promised to handcuff the EPA and stop climate action. That attracted industry dollars. But it’s not why most people voted for him. Kentuckians want to breathe clean air and shield their children from disastrous impacts from climate change.

The NRDC Action Fund also made a promise during the midterms: We vowed to hold lawmakers accountable for backing polluters over people.

Our commitment doesn’t end with the campaign cycle. We stay on the job, tracking member votes, tallying industry lobbying dollars, and letting voters know when lawmakers try to make the air dirtier or the water less safe to drink.

So when McConnell spends 50 days pushing the Big Polluter Agenda, we spread the word in Kentucky and beyond. And when Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner votes against incentives for wind energy just months after he posed for a campaign ad in the middle of a wind farm, we let people know.

Because Washington shouldn’t be like Vegas: what happens there shouldn’t stay there. Voters should know what their lawmakers are doing. And they should expect those lawmakers to keep our kids safe from pollution.

 

Feeling the Love All Year Long

Climate Valentine

Valentine’s Day may have passed, but my kids’ haul of chocolate is still lingering. As I attempt to avoid eating just one more piece, I can’t help but think about all the love for climate action we felt over the weekend.

Our Climate Valentines: Time to Define the Relationship blog generated thousands of interactions with our followers. And many of you got in on the action and created your own #ClimateValentine poems for the planet. I was so impressed with your creativity that I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites.

And don’t let the passing of Valentine’s Day end your love for protecting our children’s health. Continue to speak out and join us on Facebook and Twitter. Now is the time to #ActOnClimate.

My favorite #ClimateValentines

@Climatelllo: Unlike our recyclables, I never want us to be separated.

Climate Valentine 2

@dahawk7834: Some folks vote red, Others vote blue, But smart folks vote NO on more CO2

@MarkeyMemo: Republicans are red, Democrats are blue, I support #climate action, And so should you

@lauraetam: Roses are brown. There’s no water here. My hope’s for some serious climate action this year.

@adriannaq: Roses are red, oceans are blue, the earth will be better, with less CO2.

@tomasczt: Love our mother, there’s only one, #climatechange is real, undo damage done.

@ConservationCo: Roses are red, fossil fuels are stupid, this Valentines Day #renewables are our Cupid!