Great Lakes Need a Senator Who will Act On Climate: Gary Peters

What comes to mind when you think of Michigan? Cars. Cherry pie. College football. Zingerman’s bakery maybe. Surely the Great Lakes. As Michiganders think about which Senate candidate will best protect these elements of the Michigan way of life, they’d be wise to look for someone who is running clean. That means looking to Rep. Gary Peters rather than his opponent Terri Lynn Land.

Why do any of those items have to do with running clean? OK, Zingerman’s and college football only have to do with climate change if you consider them to be helpful distractions from the dire news repots about global warming’s effects. But the other items are more directly connected to our warming planet.

The Great Lakes region is threatened by climate change. Changes in winter ice patterns will alter fish populations. The risk of oxygen-depleted dead zones will increase. The accumulation of mercury in fish will accelerate. Forest fires and drought are likely to increase. And the shifting of seasons could make the state less hospitable for cherry trees (and lovers of cherry pie).

Lucky for Michigan, the state’s history as the center of the American auto industry has put it in a position to be part of the solution to the problem of climate change. The state already employs 76,000 workers in the clean energy economy.

Gary Peters is the only candidate who understands how important our response to climate change and our embrace of clean energy will be for Michigan. Peters has said, “Climate change poses a real threat to our Great Lakes and agricultural producers in Michigan, but it also presents an economic opportunity for us to continue leading the nation in clean energy solutions.” He’s been steady proponent of action, voting for climate action and clean energy investment during his years in Congress.

Land, on the other hand, has waffled on the science. Most recently she claimed that “climate change is absolutely real”. She had previously questioned the “extent” to which humans are causing climate change.

While Land may no longer be outright denying the science, she does deny that we can affordably address the problem. Land has repeated the falsehood that addressing climate change costs jobs.

Land twitter

We know that reducing pollution and growing our economy have gone hand in hand for decades under the Clean Air Act. We know that failure to act is costly – perhaps costing the U.S. economy $150 billion per year. We know that the benefits of acting far outweigh any costs. For example, EPA estimates that its proposal for reducing power plant carbon pollution will provide benefits to every American household of $145 in climate benefits compared to $61 in costs. If you account for health benefits, that grows to $375.

With her opposition to climate action, it’s no surprise that the Koch Brothers are working hard to elect Land. After all, there is one sector of the economy that will suffer if we act on climate: oil billionaires and other dirty energy industry titans will lose market share to clean energy companies as we launch a new clean energy economy. That’s may be bad news to the Koch Brothers and Terri Lynn Land, but that’s good news for Michiganders…and cherry pie!

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.

Jobs

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.

 Winning

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.