Dirty Denier$ Day 19: Congressman Fred Upton

Fred Upton

Today’s Dirty Denier$ is Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan and Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton has used his leadership position to try to move the nation backward, and his record on clean air and climate change keeps getting worse.

Upton has been all over the map on the facts about climate change.  In 2011, he said he didn’t believe humans are contributing to global climate change. Since then, he’s been mostly silent on that basic issue, but he’s been loud in his opposition to doing anything about climate. He has used extreme rhetoric to characterize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, calling it “an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs” and a “train wreck.

And consider that one of the first bills that Upton sponsored upon assuming the chairmanship of the committee would have permanently blocked EPA from doing anything at all to address carbon pollution. Moreover, the bill would have increased America’s dependence on oil by undermining efficiency standards for motor vehicles, and cost consumers $58 billion. Upton has also given his blessing to multiple bills to undo various aspects of the Clean Air Act.

The dirty fuel interests that have given nearly $2 million in campaign contributions to Upton over the course of his career are no doubt pleased with his record. However, the same can’t be said for his constituents back home. According to recent polling from the NRDC Action Fund in key states including Michigan, overwhelming majorities of voters in that group of states support strong action to stop dangerous carbon pollution. This includes 53% of Republicans. Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said, “People may not agree about why climate change is happening, but it is certainly affecting Michigan.”

Michigan has a lot to gain from a clean energy policy. In 2013 alone, Michigan announced more than 1700 jobs in the renewable energy sector, placing it 12th in the country for new job creation. And in a signal that better days are ahead for both the economy and the environment, 380 of those jobs were in clean vehicle manufacturing.

Our advice: It’s time for Congressman Upton to once again reinvent himself. It’s time to stop being a Dirty Denier$ and start being a clean energy champion for his state.



Time for Candidates to Go on the Climate Offense

If something were threatening the economic, cultural, and natural lifeblood of your state, would you want your members of Congress to ignore it or address it? Representative Gary Peters realizes that most voters want leaders to actually solve problems. And so he has made tackling climate change one of the central issues of the Michigan Senate race.

Plenty of other candidates have talked about climate change on the campaign trail. But Peters is one of the first to go on the climate offense. And judging from recent polls, his leadership has boosted his odds of winning.

Peters has challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land to clarify her position on climate change and to acknowledge that human activity causes climate change. “This is something elected officials should be talking about—we have to be concerned about it,” Peters recently told the Washington Post. “Certainly the voters would like to know where she is. It’s a major issue.”

The National Mining Association responded recently by funding $300,000-worth of radio ads defending Land, but Peters isn’t backing down. He knows climate action is right for Michigan and for America, and he isn’t letting Land or the fossil fuel industry off the hook. He will also have the support of Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate and will be one of their top featured races in their #WinOnClimate campaign.

“I can’t imagine the Koch brothers would be supporting [Land] to the tune that they are unless she agrees with their agenda,” Peters said. “A big part of their agenda is dismantling environmental regulations. Until she says otherwise, it’s safe to assume she subscribes to it.”

Peters’ approach has the makings of a winning strategy. According to the NRDC Action Fund’s analysis of the past two election cycles, the best way to appeal to voters on climate change is to be early, loud, and local. In other words, get out front of the issue before your opponent does, talk about the issue often, and connect the dots between climate change and your home state.

Making those connections isn’t hard in Michigan. The state has already experienced more frequent and more intense heat waves, destructive floods, and droughts that destroy crops. The new National Climate Assessment said these extreme events will increase in Michigan as a result of unchecked climate change. And while this year’s long brutal winter brought dense ice coverage to the Great Lakes, most years have seen a decline in ice and water levels. That trend is expected to continue, with serious consequences for communities’ water supply and for the state’s shipping industry. Glen Nekvasil, the vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, said recently, “Since freighters typically carry as much as they possibly can and still safely navigate the shallowest sections of their route, even a small decline in long-term levels can be costly.”

Michigan is also in a good position to ramp up its clean energy investments both to address climate change and to build a new energy economy.  By continuing to accelerate deployment of wind, solar and energy efficiency resources, Michigan is reducing the pollution that causes climate change, keeping the electric system reliable and affordable, and putting more Michiganders to work in the energy industry.

Climate change has major consequences for Michiganders, and Peters is smart to call out Land out for failing to confront them head on. But the same lesson applies in countless other races. Climate change is leaving its mark on communities across the nation, and candidates who run on climate solutions will be viewed as leaders. They will be especially favored by pivotal young, women, and Latino voters who know climate change is one of the gravest threats of our time.

When Peters takes a stand against this threat and the polluters who cause it, he looks like a statesman who could lead us into a cleaner, more stable future. More candidates from both parties should take note and be early, loud, and local on climate change.

A Reasonable Model for Clean Energy Leadership

In a week full of crazy Republican extremism, a common-sense moderate feels like a breath of fresh air. One of those welcome breezes is blowing out of Michigan, where Governor Snyder has made it clear that threats of a Tea Party primary challenge won’t distract him from doing what is best for his state.

That includes expanding renewable energy. Snyder has long been a supporter of clean energy investment, and said on his campaign website, “Michigan needs to be a leader in the innovative movement towards alternative and cleaner energy.” He has repeatedly called for raising the standard that requires Michigan utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2015.

A new study has confirmed that Michigan can easily hit that mark and go far beyond it.  State regulators released a report last week concluding that Michigan can meet a renewable energy standard of 30 percent by 2035.

Snyder could call for raising the standards once again. After all, clean energy solutions have been good for his state. More than 38,000 Michiganders worked assembling or building parts for fuel efficient cars in 2011 and 2,500 new jobs have been added to the list since then. About 1,000 new jobs have been announced in the Michigan wind industry since late 2011, and more will follow if the state increases the renewable energy standards.

Talk of wind power and clean energy standards doesn’t sit well with most climate-denying Tea Partiers. But it makes sense to a growing number of Republican officials. Roughly 75 percent of installed wind power comes from Republican districts. Red-state stalwart South Dakota produced nearly 25 percent of its electricity from wind power last year. North Dakota got nearly 15 percent of its energy from wind.

Kansas built more wind generation than all states except for California and Texas—a push that helped generate 12,000 jobs and brought in $3 billion in investment to the state. When ALEC and other conservative leaders tried to repeal Kansas’ clean energy standard, lawmakers beat them back because they know renewable energy projects are good for the state’s economy and communities. The Republican governor of Kansas, meanwhile, joined Republican governors from Iowa and Oklahoma to call for extending a production tax credit for wind power last year.

Across the country, Republican officials are standing up for clean energy because they know it delivers real benefits. Some leaders will invite Tea Party primary challenges as a result, but hopefully they will take the path of Snyder and say: bring it on.

Snyder seems to want to take back the Republican Party from the radical fringe. Some of his positions have alienated extremists and inspired some to recruit challengers, but their influence appears limited and Snyder remains unfazed. Instead, he is betting that his brand of moderate Republican leadership will take hold. “Hopefully, I’m a reasonable model for people to look at across the country,” he said in a recent interview.

Even with his support of renewable energy, it is critical that Governor Snyder also acknowledges the huge potential for increasing Michigan’s investment in cost-effective energy efficiency. It is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to meet future energy needs, and in Synder’s words, a “no regrets” investment.

Clean energy and energy efficiency offer Snyder a way to show how reasonable he is by championing a stronger clean energy standard for his state and smart clean energy policies for the nation. After all, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency isn’t a red or blue state issue; it’s an American opportunity.


Snyder On the Right Side of Renewables in Michigan

Many times I find myself writing my blog posts about politicians who stand with dirty polluters rather than the health and well being of their constituents. Today is an exception.

In case you missed it on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook page or Twitter feed, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently told the Associate Press that he supports increasing his state’s investment in renewable energy sources.

I’m going to go ahead and just state the obvious. This is a big deal! As we fight to keep existing renewable energy portfolios in place at statehouses all across the country, Governor Snyder is choosing the road less traveled. Rather than attacking a plan already in place, he’s decided to enhance it.

In Michigan, energy suppliers must produce at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. With major energy providers on target to meet the deadline, Governor Snyder is right to advance the discussion about how Michigan can and should do more.


Michigan is a state built on a manufacturing base. That economic engine was hit especially hard during the recent economic downturn. But it’s not all doom and gloom. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Michigan already has more than 40 wind manufacturing facilities currently operating. Michigan also ranks #17 in the country as a wind resource, which is enough wind to power 160 percent of the state’s current electricity needs.

According to a report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Michigan is home to more than 120 solar supply chain businesses employing more than 6,300 people. This places Michigan #4 in the nation for total solar jobs. And, there’s still room to grow, with an estimated of 3,500 total gigawatts of solar power able to be harnessed.

Standing with Michiganders

Governor Snyder not only recognizes the economic potential of investing more heavily in renewable energy, he also sees what his constituents want for Michigan. In polling leading up to the 2012 election, the majority of Michigan voters supported increasing the state’s investment in renewable energy.

While some opponents of renewable energy may try to paint a different picture due to the defeat of past pro-renewables campaigns at the ballot box, it’s simply not the case. Evidence following the election clearly showed that it was the approach to changing the constitution that caused the issue to be defeated. Michiganders support for renewable energy remains strong. By supporting an increase in the renewable energy standards, Governor Snyder is on the right side of his constituents.


I’ve talked a lot about creating situations that result in win-wins and even win-win-wins. Increasing renewable energy investments is Michigan is one of those cases. Governor Snyder is on the right path and I would encourage the other elected officials in the state to get on board. Together they can create jobs, improve public health and protect our beloved Great Lakes. The future is bright for Michigan. Let’s see how the state’s leaders harness it.


Michiganders for Clean Energy

Senator Carl Levin has announced he will not seek reelection in 2014 and already the succession speculation has begun. Michigan has a deep field of leaders to draw from to run for Levin’s seat. Yet whoever steps forward will have to chart their course carefully. Michigan is solidly purple, having voted for Democrats in six of the last ten presidential races, but electing a Republican governor and a Republican legislature.

How can potential Michigan candidates appeal to the broadest range of voters? By calling for clean energy and climate action.

This approach worked across the nation in the 2012 election cycle.  Energy was a central issue in races from the top to the bottom of the ticket. Given the choice between candidates who promoted clean energy and those who held polluter-friendly positions on fossil fuels, voters overwhelmingly chose clean energy champions. And that includes Independent voters. Every major swing state went for President Obama, and states from Montana to Maine to Virginia swept clean energy candidates into office up and down the ticket.

This same approach can work in Michigan in 2014. Voters will have experienced two more years of extreme weather events pummeling their communities. But they will also have seen more wind farms and solar panels become ordinary parts of everyday life, and they will know more people with jobs designing and building fuel efficient cars.

Support for clean energy and climate action will only grow. Here’s why smart Michigan candidates should tap into that support.

Voters of All Stripes Support Clean Energy

Some GOP lawmakers still believe fossil fuels are our only viable energy source, but most voters have left those outdated views behind. They want American to develop clean energy. Last fall, polluting industries and their allies spent millions in Michigan races. Yet despite all the dirty money, undecided voters said they would side with a candidate who “supports EPA standards to reduce dangerous carbon pollution” over one who does not by a wide margin (56 percent versus 20 percent). Undecided voters also said they preferred congressional candidates who, like Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, support “standards to reduce toxic mercury pollution from power plants” over those who oppose them (62 percent versus 18 percent.) Curbing subsidies for oil companies, increasing fuel economy standards, and boosting clean energy drew similar support.

Some may say clean energy suffered a setback in Michigan last fall when voters failed to pass a ballot measure that would have amended the state constitution to include policies to promote renewable energy. However, election night polling showed that voters were rejecting an attempt to alter the constitution. They strongly supported action from their elected officials to create renewable energy policies in Lansing, not in the constitution.

Now Governor Snyder is holding hearings all over the state to discuss the future of energy policy in Michigan. We are engaged and working with our partners to ensure support for clean energy job creation and energy efficiency are part of the plan moving forward.

Clean Energy Is Another Way to Talk about Jobs, Jobs, and More Jobs

Michigan is ranked eighth in the country for the number of clean energy and clean transportation jobs in the state, according to a report released earlier this month by Environmental Entrepreneurs. The state is on track to add even more: companies and communities have announced 19 new projects that will generate nearly 4,000 additional jobs in Michigan. All together, the state’s renewable energy sector has attracted $1.79 billion in investments through 2012.

Meanwhile, Michigan added 34,100 auto manufacturing jobs last September for a gain of 32.7 percent since the trough in June 2009. A recent report published by NRDC and their partners found that a considerable amount of this growth is driven by new clean car standards that will be double fuel economy for cars by 2025—and save drivers $80 billion a year at the pump in the process.

Many Michiganders have benefited from clean energy jobs; many more could in the future. The state requires 10 percent of all electricity come from wind and solar power. Nearby Iowa, in contrast, is already getting 23 percent of its electricity from renewables. If Michigan created stronger clean energy standards and incentives, the state would get more home-grown jobs. And voters would reward candidates who helped deliver those jobs.

Climate Denial Is the New Black Helicopter

A generation ago, candidates sounded out of touch if they tried to convince voters the United Nations was sending black helicopters to take over America. Today, when candidates mention sun spots as a cause of climate change the extremist alarm bells start going off in the minds of voters. In fact, a majority now say that climate change is happening and we should do something to address it. While it may not be the top issue for every voter, most feel uncomfortable with candidates who blatantly reject science and chart out extreme positions…  

This is no different in Michigan. Michiganders had their fling with extremism and now they are paying a price. Republican Representative Justin Amash’s own party found his positions so far afield that they kicked him off the budget committee—leaving his district without a voice in this critical arena. Now there are rumblings Amash may run to replace Levin. His opponents simply have to ask him what he is going to do to protect the Great Lakes from climate change or where he stands on government efforts to reduce global warming pollution, and voters will see the extremism shine through.

Clean Energy: Good Policy and Good Politics

As we wait and see who jumps into this race, one thing is for sure. Michigan is poised to be a leader in the clean energy economy and Michiganders deserve a U.S. Senator who represents those values. If we learned anything from the 2012 election cycle, it’s that candidates can run and win on investing in clean energy, protecting the environment and conserving our natural resources. The best part is these aren’t just good policies, they are good politics too.